Louis Jourdan, Star of 'Gigi' and 'Octopussy,' Dies at 93

Louis Jourdan - H 2015

The dashing French actor, most widely recognized as a continental lover in films, also starred in 'Letters From an Unknown Woman,' 'The Swan' and 'Three Coins in the Fountain.'

Louis Jourdan, the debonair leading man who romanced Leslie Caron in Gigi and played a wealthy Afghan prince in the James Bond film Octopussy, has died. He was 93.

The French actor, who brought his smooth, continental charm to such films as Letters From an Unknown Woman (1948), The Happy Time (1952) and Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), died Saturday in his Beverly Hills home, according to French publication Le Point.

After World War II, Jourdan attracted the attention of famed producer David O. Selznick and was cast in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), which starred Gregory Peck and Ethel Barrymore.

The late 1940s and '50s were Jourdan's most fertile period, a time of lavish romantic features perfect for his cultivated persona. During this period, he starred in Vincente Minnelli's version of Madame Bovary (1949) opposite Jennifer Jones; in Bird of Paradise (1951) with Debra Paget; and as a pirate in Anne of the Indies (1951) with Jean Peters and Paget again.
He portrayed an effervescent French ­Canadian in The Happy Time and showed his versatility by playing four roles in Decameron Nights (1953), starring with Joan Fontaine.
He was born Louis Gendre on July 19, 1921, in Marseille. He studied acting at Ecole d'art Dramatique, and his first movie role came in Le Corsaire (1939), a French film that was never completed because of World War II. After his father was arrested by the Gestapo, Jourdan joined the French Underground.
He paired with Fontaine for the first time in Max Ophuls' Letters From an Unknown Woman, playing a Viennese concert pianist who receives a letter from a woman he once had a love affair with but no longer remembers.
Jourdan played the suave lead as a predatory prince in Three Coins in the Fountain, and in 1956, he portrayed a commoner who falls in love with a princess (Grace Kelly) in The Swan.
With his cosmopolitan currency at its peak, Jourdan was cast by Minnelli to star in the MGM big-­budget musical Gigi (1958) as a wealthy bon vivant in love with a beautiful courtesan-in-training (Caron). The film won the best picture Oscar and eight other Academy Awards.
After the huge success of Gigi, Jourdan brought his dashing elan to a number of films, including The Best of Everything (1959), opposite Joan Crawford; the musical Can­-Can (1960), with Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and his Gigi co-star Maurice Chevalier; The V.I.P.s (1962), opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; and the Gallic romp Made in Paris (1966), with Ann-Margret.
The late 1960s and '70s, with a changing sensibility toward romance in moviemaking, did not serve up the kinds of roles that Jourdan was known for. He did, however, bring his polished presence to the role of the prince and smuggler Kamal Khan in Octopussy (1983).
Jourdan played eccentric villains in Counterforce (1988) and The Return of the Swamp Thing (1989), and his last credit came in Peter Yates' Year of the Comet (1992).

The actor has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received the Legion of Honour award in 2010.

Jourdan was married for more than six decades to Berthe Frederique, who died in 2014. Their son, Louis Henry Jourdan, died from a drug overdose in 1981.