Louis Jourdan, star of 'Octopussy' and 'Gigi,' dead at 93

Sun Feb 15, 2015 5:34pm EST
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By Bill Trott

(Reuters) - French actor Louis Jourdan, who played a suave bon vivant in the Oscar-winning film "Gigi" and had a long reign as Hollywood's top choice to play elegant international gentlemen, died on Saturday at the age of 93, his biographer said.

Jourdan, who also worked frequently on stage and television, died at home, Olivier Minne, his friend and biographer, told Reuters by telephone from Paris.

Jourdan starred in "Gigi," one of the most successful movies of the 1950s, as the dashing Gaston, who realizes he is falling for the title character, played by Leslie Caron, as she evolves from tomboy to courtesan-in-training.

"Gigi" dominated the 1959 Academy Awards with nine Oscars, a record at the time, including best picture and best director for Vincente Minnelli.

Jourdan sang the movie's title tune and it won the Oscar for best song, even though Maurice Chevalier's "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" in the film was perhaps more memorable.

Jourdan grew up as Louis Gendre in Cannes, where his father was a hotelier, and went to the prestigious Ecole Dramatique in Paris to study acting. He took his mother's last name for his movie career, which had just begun when it was interrupted by World War Two. The occupying Nazis ordered Jourdan to make propaganda films but instead he fled back to the south of France, where he joined his brothers in printing and distributing pamphlets for the French Resistance.

Jourdan's acting career resumed after the war and he soon came to the attention of American producer David O. Selznick, who brought him to Hollywood for a crucial role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1947 film "The Paradine Case," starring Gregory Peck.

The next year he stood out in "Letter from an Unknown Woman" as a concert pianist haunted by his ambivalence for a woman, played by Joan Fontaine, who had loved him for decades.   Continued...