Throughout his lengthy screen and stage career, French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont served as the very essence of sophistication, adding a touch of grace and class to even the least noteworthy production. Born Jean Pierre-Salomon in Paris on January 5, 1909, he was the product of a wealthy family, and his mother was an actress. At the age of 16, he began studying drama at the Paris Conservatory and made his professional debut on-stage in 1930. A year later, Aumont appeared in his first film, Jean de la Lune, but he did not shoot to fame prior to starring in Jean Cocteau's play La Machine Infernal in 1934. That same year, he co-starred with Jean Gabin in the Julien Duvivier feature Maria Chapdelaine, followed in 1936 by the Marcel Carné comedy Drôle de Drame. In 1938, Aumont reunited with Carné for Hotel du Nord, but his film career was to come to a five-year halt when he joined the Free French forces in Tunisia, Italy, and France, ultimately winning the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre for his bravery in battle. Fleeing the Nazis' occupation of France, he relocated to California in 1942, landing a contract with MGM.
The studio made the most of Aumont's background by assigning him a pair of 1943 war dramas, The Cross of Lorraine and Assignment in Brittany, both detailing the efforts of the French Resistance forces. The following year, Aumont starred in the war romance Three Hours, and in 1946 appeared in Heartbeat. Many of his postwar films, like 1947's Song of Scheherazade and 1948's Siren of Atlantis, lacked distinction, and by the early '50s he was primarily working in Europe, appearing in productions originating in Italy (Revenge of the Pirates), Britain (1953's The Gay Adventure), and, of course, France (Life Begins Tomorrow, made in 1949 but released internationally in 1952). However, because he enjoyed a fan following in America, Aumont occasionally returned to the U.S. to appear in films, on-stage, and on television, and in 1953, he co-starred in the acclaimed musical Lili. Never a major star, Aumont rarely appeared in films of consequence, although he did co-star in Francois Truffaut's 1973 Oscar-winner La Nuit Américaine. In the mid-'90s, he also appeared in Jefferson in Paris and The Proprietor, a pair of films from the well-regarded Merchant-Ivory team.