The Fantômas Films: Jean Marais

Jean Marais as FantômasJean Marais, who played the double role of Fandor and Fantômas in Andre Hunebelle's 1960s Fantômas film series, died on Sunday, November 8, 1998. He was 84.

Marais was born in Cherbourg on December 11, 1913, and as a boy moved to Paris with his mother and brother. He wanted to become an actor, but was rejected twice by drama academies after dropping out of school at age 16. A few years later he began getting small film roles.

His life changed radically in 1937 when he met Jean Cocteau. At the time Marais was working as a photographer's assistant, while Cocteau was one of France's cultural luminaries. The two men fell in love, and remained together until Cocteau's death in 1963.

Marais' first starring role was in The Eternal Return, also known as Love Eternal, a 1943 film scripted by Cocteau. But he became internationally famous with his role as the Beast in Cocteau's own poetic masterpiece Beauty And The Beast from 1946. Marais went on to star in Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles (1948) and Orpheus (1949).

In the mid-1960s Marais played the double role of Fandor and Fantômas in André Hunebelle's three-film Fantômas series. The films tried to strike a campy, James-Bondish tone (they also starred French clown Louis de Funes as Juve), with mixed success.

After appearing in over 70 films, Marais began to concentrate on painting, sculpture and writing in his later years. However, he continued to perform: in the 1990s he appeared onstage at Les Folies Bérgères and as Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, as well as in Bernardo Bertolucci's film Stealing Beauty.

"Life is unfair," Marais said in a 1996 interview with the Journal du Dimanche. "I got nothing but the best."

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