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Jean-Louis Barrault

Jean-Louis Barrault, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1952.
Born 8 September 1910(1910-09-08)
Le Vésinet, Yvelines, Île-de-France, France
Died 22 January 1994 (aged 83)
Paris, France
Spouse(s) Madeleine Renaud (1940-1994)

Jean-Louis Barrault (8 September 1910, Le V√©sinet, Yvelines ‚Äď 22 January 1994) was a French actor, director and mime artist, training that served him well when he portrayed the 19th-century mime Jean-Gaspard Deburau (Baptiste Debureau) in Marcel Carn√©'s 1945 film Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise).

Jean-Louis Barrault studied with Charles Dullin in whose troop he acted from 1933 to 1935. At 25 years of age, he met and studied with the mime √Čtienne Decroux. From 1940 to 1946 he was a member of the Com√©die-Fran√ßaise where he directed productions of Paul Claudel's Le Soulier de satin and Jean Racine's Ph√®dre, two plays that made his reputation.

Over his career, he acted in nearly 50 movies including Les beaux jours, Jenny, L'Or dans la Montagne and Sous les Yeux d'occident.[1]

In 1940, he married the actress Madeleine Renaud. They founded a number of theatres together and toured extensively, including in South America.

He was the uncle of actress Marie-Christine Barrault and sometime sponsor of Peter Brook. He died from a heart attack in Paris at the age of 83. Jean-Louis Barrault is buried with his wife Madeleine Renaud in the Passy Cemetery in Paris.

Jean-Louis Barrault, Reflections on the Theatre:

"In fact it is the simplest things that are the most tricky to do well. To read, for example. To be able to read exactly what is written without omitting anything that is written and at the same time without adding anything of one's own. To be able to capture the exact context of the words one is reading. To be able to read!"[2]

Dr. Cordelier and M. Opale

Perhaps the greatest display of his skill as a mime is in the 1959 made-for-TV movie directed by Jean Renoir, Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier[3] (The Testament of Doctor Cordelier, a.k.a. Experiment in Evil), based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which Barrault, unaided by any additional make-up, editing or camera tricks, completely transforms himself, entirely on-screen, in an unbroken sequential shoot, from the noble Dr. Cordelier into the evil and wicked M. Opale.


  1. ^ IMDb list of film appearances
  2. ^ Jean-Louis Barrault, Reflections on the Theatre. London: Rockcliff, 1951
  3. ^ IMDb entry for Cordelier

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