Biography

French actor Jean-Louis Barrault studied acting with Charles Dullin and pantomime with Etienne Decroux while supporting himself as a bookkeeper and flower salesman. Under the direction of Dullin, Barrault made his stage bow in 1931 in Volpone. Never content with mere performing, Barrault became a director with the stage production Autour d'une mere in 1935, the same year that he made his first film, Les Beaux Jours. Five years later, Barrault joined the Comedie Francaise as actor/director. With many of his Comedie Francaise associates -- including several who'd been marked for arrest by the occupying Nazi troops -- Barrault appeared in his most celebrated film, Les Enfants du Paradis (1945). As mime-actor Deburau, whose unrequited love for enigmatic femme fatale Arletty shapes the destiny of his life, Jean-Louis Barrault delivers a matchless performance that is still being studied in acting and mime schools today. In 1959, Barrault organized his own acting company with his wife, actress Madeleine Renaud; as a result, he all but pulled out of filmmaking, except for cameos in such films as The Longest Day (1962). And in 1968, still the rebel he'd been in the days when he hid French Underground members on the set of Les Enfants du Paradis, Jean-Louis Barrault was removed as director of the Theatre de France when he sided with students and strikers during the May Riots. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi