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Jean-Louis Barrault

Jean-Louis Barrault

Jean-Louis Barrault was born in Le Vésinet, France, on September 8, 1910, and studied acting and mime, turning his studies into a career in film. The son of a pharmacist, Barrault decided early on to pursue a career in the arts and studied acting under Charles Dullin at the Theatre de l'Atelier. In 1931, he made his stage debut in a production of Volpone at Dullin's theater.  He also began to branch out creatively, creating his own theater adaptation (a pantomime play) of the William Faulkner novel As I Lay Dying in 1935. Around this time, Barrault appeared in his first film, Les Beaux Jours. His most famous movie role came in 1944's Les Enfants du Paradis, directed by Marcel Carné. In 1940, Barrault married actress Madeleine Renaud and joined her at the Comedie Francaise, a traditional French theater where he played a variety of roles, including Hamlet. Seeking new outlets for their creative work, Barrault and his wife founded their own theater group around 1946. Barrault took on many roles in this new theatrical group, including directing, producing and acting. When the couple's theatrical company received government support in the late 1950s, they moved it to the Theatre de l'Odeon. Renamed the Theatre de France, the troupe prospered under this new arrangement. Barrault was a master of both classic and avant-garde theater, and helped introduce such playwrights as Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett to French audiences. After his death in 1994, Barrault was praised for his artistic contributions. Jacques Toubon, France's culture minister, told the Los Angeles Times that the famed actor-director "held high the flag of theater and the flag of France in his triumphant tours abroad," adding that Barrault had a "unique mixture of subtlety and power, of intelligence and energy."


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