Discover Louis De Funès, Bourvil, Jean Marais: The Icons of French Cinema You Should Know

Louis de Funès as police commisioner Juve in Fantomas © Atelier de l'image
Louis de Funès as police commisioner Juve in Fantomas © Atelier de l'image
Louis de Funès as police commisioner Juve in Fantomas © Atelier de l'image

The names Louis de Funès, Bourvil, and Jean Marais are a few significant icons that dominated the golden era of French cinema.  This article is a deep dive exploring some of their best collaborations on set.

Don't miss a special Louis de Funès tribute playing through January on TV5MONDE Cinema On Demand with these films: La Folie des Grandeurs (1971), L'Homme Orchestre (1970), Hibernatus (1969), Le P'tit Baigneur (1968), Oscar (1967), Pouic-Pouic (1963), Les Grandes Vacances (1967), Le Grand Restaurant (1966), and La Zizanie (1978).

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Louis de Funès as police commissioner Juve in Fantomas © Atelier de l'image

The French cinema has a shining history in producing some of the world's finest cinematic contributions including Louis de Funès' Rabbi Jacob. French cinema's golden era showcased a unique flavor of comedy, successfully overcoming language barriers through the brilliance of its actors and storytelling. The names Louis de Funès, Bourvil, and Jean Marais are a few significant icons that dominated the golden era of French cinema.


Where can I stream Louis de Funès, Bourvil and Jean Marais movies?

TV5MONDE is the go-to place for French films in America. The 24-hour French network offers the largest selection of French movies and French series with English subtitles. Classic French movies, recent French films, slapstick comedies or New Wave cult dramas, it's all on TV5MONDE. Plus, in November, TV5MONDE Cinema on Demand will stream 10 French movies with Louis de Funès including some of the best Louis de Funès movies such as "Le Grand restaurant", "La folie des grandeurs", "Oscar", "Les grandes vacances" and "Hibernatus".

Louis de Funès - A Comic Genius

Louis de Funès was undoubtedly one of the most significant icons of French cinema, with a career spanning over four decades. Born in 1914, De Funes, with his outrageous faces and gestures, captured the hearts of French and global audiences alike. De Funes' unique and unmatched comedic style influenced modern French cinema and made him a legend in French comedy.

De Funès began his career in French cinema after World War II, and his iconic performances in "Pouic-Pouic" (1963), "Les Grandes Vacances" (1967), and "La Folie des grandeurs" (1971) made him a household name. These movies had a long-lasting impact on the French cinema, transforming it into a more subtle and less verbal language, transcending any language barriers.

De Funès' comedic style was unique as it involved self-deprecation and hilariously exaggerated facial expressions and body language. He was always able to make the viewer laugh, regardless of the role or script he was playing. His performances in movies such as "Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez" (1964), "Hélène et le Gentilhomme" (1972), and "Le Gendarme et les Extra-terrestres" (1979) established him as one of the most influential comedic actors in French cinema history.

Learn more about Louis de Funès' career in the documentary available on the French streaming platformTV5MONDEPlus, "Louis de Funès, champion du box office". You can also enjoy the documentary in French with English subtitles "Funès, le rire éternel" available on TV5MONDEplus to learn more about the fascinating career and legacy of France's most beloved comedic actor.

Louis de Funès in the 'Fantômas' trilogy

Louis de Funès' most significant role can be traced to the 'Fantomas' film series, which consolidated his reputation as an iconic French actor. 'Fantomas' is a series of five films directed by André Hunebelle between 1964 and 1967, based on the novels by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. These films featured a star-studded cast, including Jean Marais, Louis de Funés, Mylène Demongeot, and others.

De Funès' role in 'Fantomas' was pivotal, considered one of the best Louis de Funès roles. He played the character of Commissioner Juve, who, with the journalist Fandor, is pursuing the master criminal named Fantômas. De Funès' performance was exceptional as he blended comedy and thriller elements seamlessly. His unique performance helped transform the Fantomas series into an iconic franchise, influencing many crime-comedies in French cinema.

Bourvil - The Gentleman of French Cinema

André Bourvil was another icon of French cinema, specializing in less clownish, subtler, and more emotive roles. Born as André Robert Raimbourg in 1917, he worked as a truck driver during World War II and began acting to earn an extra living. His career skyrocketed after World War II, and he went on to become a towering figure in French cinema.

Bourvil's acting style was subtle and emotive, compared to that of Louis De Funès'. Bourvil usually played the role of a kindly, jovial, or even daft character, but he could also deliver complex and nuanced performances in movies such as "Le Jour le plus long" (1962) and "Le Cercle rouge" (1970).

Bourvil's most notable movies included "La Traversée de Paris" (1956) and "La Grande vadrouille" (1966). With his remarkable sensitivity and charm, Bourvil represented the perfect model of a French gentleman in films, epitomizing class, elegance, and lovable characters.

Bourvil with Louis de Funès

When Bourvil and Louis de Funès appeared together on screen, the outcome was exceptional. They worked together on several films, including "Le Corniaud" in 1965 and "La Grande Vadrouille" in 1966. Both films were huge successes in France and around the world, and the duo's on-screen chemistry was a major part of their appeal.

In "Le Corniaud," Bourvil played a naive car dealer who unwittingly becomes involved with a criminal gang. De Funès played the leader of the gang, and the two actors played off each other brilliantly. Bourvil's simple, honest character was the perfect foil for de Funès' over-the-top villain, and their interactions were both hilarious and touching. Despite their very different backgrounds and personalities, the two actors formed a natural and convincing bond on screen.

"La Grande Vadrouille" was an even bigger success, becoming one of the highest-grossing French films of all time. The two are thrown together when they become stranded in occupied Paris and must work together to eva      de the German occupiers and help the British Royal Air Force. Once again, Bourvil and de Funès' chemistry was the key to the film's success. Bourvil's humanity and humor balanced de Funès' uptightness and pretentiousness perfectly, creating a dynamic that was both hilarious and heartwarming.

Jean Marais - The Suave Hero

Jean Marais was one of the most striking icons of French cinema, with a career spanning from the 1930s to the mid-1990s. He was not only a famous actor but also a screenwriter, director  , and producer. Known for his suave, poised, and charismatic persona, he was the perfect hero in French cinema.

Marais' career milestones include Jean Cocteau's "Orpheus" (1950), "Beauty and the Beast" (1946), and "Testament of Orpheus" (1960).

Marais was known to command an intense screen presence no matter the role. French cinema heavily relied on his brooding gaze, magnetic persona, and natural talent to transport viewers into an enchanting world of imagination.

Jean Marais in 'Fantômas'

Jean Marais appeared on the iconic 'Fantômas' movie franchise as the titular villain "Fantomas." His commanding screen presence and heroic acting were the perfect foil to de Funes' comedic antics. Jean Marais' performance in 'Fantômas' added an edge and depth of sophisticated humor to the story, making it one of the best cinema pieces to have been created in that era.

These three icons of French cinema have left an everlasting impact on the industry and the audiences. Louis de Funès' frenzied comedy, Bourvil's gentle and subtle style, and Jean Marais' suave heroism are still a source of inspiration for generations of French filmmakers and actors.

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