Gérard Philipe

Active - 1947 - 1959  |   Born - Dec 4, 1922   |   Died - Nov 27, 1959   |   Genres - Drama, Adventure, Comedy Drama, Romance

Share on

Biography by Hal Erickson

If it is true that Gerard Philipe entertained thoughts of becoming a physician, he'd purged himself of such notions before his teen years were over. After studying acting in his native Cannes with Jean Wall and Jean Huet, Philipe was discovered for the stage by veteran performer Claude Dauphin. Philipe's first theatrical success, at age 20, was the title role in Camus' Caligula. In 1947, after a few negligible movie roles, he exploded upon the European film scene in Autant-Lara's Le Diable a Corps, playing Francois Jaubert, a callow youth in love with much-older and very married Micheline Presle. Superstardom followed almost immediately: female filmgoers doted upon Philipe's sensitive, handsome features and strapping physique, while men identified with his soulfulness and introspection. Far more versatile than your average romantic lead ("Whenever you thought he had reached his limit, there was still more," enthused director Rene Clair), Philipe contributed a wealth of highly varied film characterizations: Faust in Beauty and the Devil (1950), the tongue-in-cheek titular swashbuckler in Fanfan the Tulip (1952), the artist Modigliani in Montparnasse 19 (1957), and so on. And let us not overlook Philipe's inspired performances as the hedonistically ambitious antiheroes in the Stendhal adaptations La Chartreuse de Parme (1947) and The Red and the Black (1954). In 1956, Phillipe both directed and starred in a filmization of the old folk tale Till Eulenspiegel. While working on Bunuel's Le Fievre Monte a El Pao (1959), Philipe either succumbed to cancer or was stricken by a fatal heart attack; he was one week shy of his 37th birthday. Like Rudolph Valentino, Jean Harlow and James Dean before him, Phillipe passed from the scene at the peak of his popularity and with his legend intact. In 1961, his image was used on a French commemorative stamp--an honor hitherto bestowed upon only one other actor, the immortal Raimu. Gerard Philipe's widow Anne has written two memoirs of her husband's life: Souvenirs (1960), No Longer Than a Sigh (1964).

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography