Jean Marais – Swashbuckling Icon

Day 218 of Colourisation Project – December 11

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day, December 11, 1913, Jean Marais was a popular French cinema actor and director who played over 100 roles in film and on television, and was also a respected writer, painter and sculptor.

Jean Marais

Photographer: Carl Van Vechten – Jean Marais 1949 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Throughout the 1940s and ’50s he was one of the most popular leading men in French films, starring in several movies by the renowned French director, Jean Cocteau, most famously Beauty and the Beast (1946) which made him an overnight star and Orphée (1949).  Admired for his athleticism and brooding good looks, Marais who performed his own stunts, starred in a series of swashbuckling pictures, such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Le Capitain Fracasse, films which enjoyed great box office popularity in France. His last screen appearance was in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty in 1995.

Marais was also the muse and lover of  Jean Cocteau for 25 years up until Cocteau’s death in 1963. Cocteau was 48 years old and Marais, 24 when they met. It wasn’t unusual to find gay couples in post-war Paris however it was unusual to find a gay couple unapologetically and openly living together as life partners. Not something you would have seen in Hollywood at the time. It could be argued that they were the first modern gay couple!

After 1970, Marais’s on-screen performances were few as he preferred to focus on his stage work. He kept performing on stage until his eighties, whilst also enjoying working as a sculptor.  The popular sculpture and tourist attraction, Le Passe Muraille (The Man Passing Through the Wall), at Place Marcel-Aymé, Montmartre, Paris created in 1989, is the work of Jean Marais.

Marais wrote his autobiography in 1975, L’Histoire de Ma Vie. And in 1993, 30 years after the death of his partner, Marais wrote a memoir of Cocteau, L’Inconcevable Jean Cocteau.

Marais died from cardiovascular disease in 1998, at the age of 85.

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“What has always attracted me in life is poetry. Any genre can have poetry. For me, poetry contains truth.”   –   Jean Marais

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