Skip to main content

Fresnay, Pierre

FRESNAY, Pierre



Nationality: French. Born: Pierre-Jules Laudenbach in Paris, 4 April 1897. Education: Lycée Montaigne and Lycée Henri-IV, Paris; studied with George Berr at Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique, Paris. Military Service: 1916–19—service in army; 2nd lieutenant. Family: Married 1) Rachel Berendt (divorced); 2) the actress Berthe Bovy (divorced); 3) the actress Yvonne Printemps, 1934. Career: 1912—stage debut at Théâtre Réjane in L'Aigrette; 1915—debut with Comédie Française in Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard; film debut in France d'abord; 1920—first London stage role, with Comédie Française, in Le Misanthrope; 1926—resigned from Comédie Française; 1931–36—co-starred with Raimu in Marcel Pagnol film trilogy Marius, Fanny, and César; 1934—replaced Noël Coward in Conversation Piece, came to New York with show; 1937—co-manager with wife Yvonne Printemps, and lead actor of Théâtre de la Michodière, Paris; 1972—last stage play, Roussin's La Claque. Awards: Best Actor, Venice Festival, for Monsieur Vincent, 1947; Prix Féminin du Cinéma, 1949. Died: In Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, 9 January 1975.


Films as Actor:

1915

France d'abord (Pouctal)

1916

Quand même (Pouctal)

1920

L'Essor (Burguet)

1922

Les Mystères de Paris (Burguet) (as Prince Rodolphe); Le Diamant noir (Hugon); La Baîllonnée (Burguet); Les Premiéres Armes de Rocambole (Maudru and de Marsan); Le Petit Jacques

1928

La Vierge folle (Morat)

1930

Ça aussi c'est Paris (Mourne)

1931

Marius (Korda) (title role)

1932

Fanny (Allégret) (as Marius)

1933

Ame de clown (Noé and Didier) (as Jack)

1934

La Dame aux camélias (Camille) (Gance) (as Armand Duvall); The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock) (as Louis Bernard)

1935

Le Roman d'un jeune homme pauvre (Gance) (as le jeune homme pauvre)

1936

Koenigsmark (Tourneur) (as Raoul Vignerte); Sous les yeux d'occident (Razumov) (Allégret) (as Razumov); César (Pagnol) (as Marius); Mademoiselle Docteur (Salonique; Nid d'espions; Street of Shadows) (Pabst) (as Capitaine Carrière)

1937

La Grande Illusion (Grand Illusion) (Renoir) (as Capitaine de Boeldieu); La Bataille silencieuse (Billon) (as René Bordier); Le Puritain (Musso) (as Le Commissaire de police); Chéri-Bibi (Mathot) (title role)

1938

Adrienne Lecouvreur (L'Herbier) (as Maurice de Saxe); Alerte en Méditerranée (SOS Mediterranean) (Joannon) (as Le Commandant Lestailleur); Trois Valses (Three Waltzes) (Berger) (three roles)

1939

La Charrette fantôme (Duvivier) (as David Holm)

1941

Le Dernier des six (Lacombe) (as L'Inspecteur Wens); Les Inconnus dans la maison (Decoin) (as narrator); Le Briseur de chaînes (Mamouret) (Norman) (as Le Dompteur)

1942

Le Journal tombe à cing heures (Lacombe) (as Le Reporter); L'Assassin habite au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21) (Clouzot) (as Commissaire Wens); La Main du diable (Carnival of Sinners) (Tourneur) (as Le Peintre)

1943

Le Corbeau (The Raven) (Clouzot) (as Docteur Germain); Je suis avec toi (Decoin) (as François); Le Voyageur sans baggage (Anouilh) (as Gaston); L'Escalier sans fin (Lacombe) (as Le Mauvais Garçon)

1945

La Fille du diable (The Devil's Daughter) (Decoin) (as Ludovic Mercier-Saget)

1946

Le Visiteur (Tainted) (Dréville) (as M. Sauval)

1947

Monsieur Vincent (Cloche) (title role); Les Condamnés (Lacombe) (as Jean Séverac)

1948

Barry (Pottier) (as Le Moine Théotime); Combourg, visage de pierre (de Casembroot—short) (as narrator)

1949

Au grand balcon (Decoin) (as Didier Daurat); Vient de paraître (Houssin) (as L'Editor Moscat); La Valse de Paris (The Paris Waltz) (Achard) (as Offenbach); Gisants (Noël—short) (as narrator)

1950

Ce siècle a cinquante ans (Tual) (as narrator); Dieu a besoin des hommes (God Needs Men) (Delannoy) (as Thomas Gourvennec); Justice est faite (Cayatte) (as voice); Vezelay (Zimmer—short) (as narrator); Le Pèlerin de la beauce (Chuteau—short) (as narrator)

1951

Un Grand Patron (The Perfectionist) (Ciampi) (as Louis Delage); Monsieur Fabre (The Amazing Monsieur Fabre) (Diamant-Berger) (as Jean Henri Fabre); Voyage en Amérique (Voyage to America) (Lavorel) (as Gaston Fournier)

1952

Il est minuit, Docteur Schweitzer (Haguet)

1953

Le Défroqué (Joannon) (as Morand); La Route Napoléon (Delannoy) (as Édouard Martel)

1954

Les Évadés (Le Chanois) (as Le Lieutenant Pierre)

1955

Les Aristocrates (de la Patellière) (as Marquis de Maubrun)

1956

L'Homme aux clefs d'or (Joannon) (title role); Fleuve Dieu (Jallaud—short) (as narrator)

1957

Les Fanatiques (A Bomb for a Dictator) (Joffé) (as Luis); Les Oeufs de l'autruche (The Ostrich Has Two Eggs) (de la Patelliére) (as Hippolyte Barjus)

1958

Et ta soeur? (Delbez); Tant d'amour perdu (Joannon) (as le père faible)

1959

La Millième Fenêtre (Menegoz) (as Armand Vallin); Les Affreux (Allégret) (as César); Sont morts les bâtisseurs (Berne—short) (as narrator)

1960

Les Vieux de la vieille (Grangier) (as Baptiste Talon)

1963

Malmaison (de Casembroot—short) (as narrator)

1966

La Vallée aux loups (de Casembroot—short) (as narrator); Ecce homo (Saury—short) (as narrator)

1968

Le Neveu de Rameau (Lucot—for TV); L'Idée fixe (Hubert—for TV)

1969

Tête d'horloge (Sassy—for TV); Mon Faust (Georgot—for TV)

1971

Père (Hubert—for TV)

1973

Le Jardinier (Léonard—for TV)

1974

Le Savant (Olivier—for TV); Le K (Buzzati—for TV)



Film as Director:

1939

Le Duel (+ ro as l'abbé Daniel)



Publications


By FRESNAY: books—

Je suis comédien, interviews with Albert Dubeux, Paris, 1954.

Pierre Fresnay, with François Possot, Paris, 1976.


On FRESNAY: books—

Dubeux, Albert, Pierre Fresnay, Paris, 1950.

Ford, Charles, Pierre Fresnay: Gentilhomme de l'ecran, Paris, 1981.


On FRESNAY: articles—

Beylie, C., "Pierre Fresnay," in Ecran (Paris), March 1975.

Passek, J.-L., "Nécrologie: Pierre Fresnay," in Cinéma (Paris), April 1975.

Ford, Charles, "Pierre Fresnay (1897–1975)," in Anthologie du Cinéma (Paris), October 1976.

Ecran (Paris), May 1978.

Malaparte, Curzio, "Cinema, dall'anti teatro al teatro nuovo," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), January-February 1988.

Hällström, Raoul af, "Pierre Fresnay: Elokuvan elegantein näyttelijä," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 2, 1995.

Stars (Mariembourg), Winter 1995.


* * *

Pierre Fresnay was interested in being an actor from an early age, and was helped in his ambitions by his uncle, the actor Jules Dietz, a member of the Comédie Française (and a film actor under the name of Claude Garry). Fresnay made recitations on family occasions from the age of five, performed in a vaudeville of Jean Cocteau, and made his stage debut at 14 in a small part with the actress Réjane at her own theater. With his uncle's help, and because of the mobilization of several actors during the war, Fresnay was able to make his debut at the Comédie Française at the age of 18, and to keep his position there after the war was over. Though he resigned from the Comédie Française in 1926 over its preferential treatment practices, and was fined for breaching his contract, his years there had confirmed his interest in stage acting. He continued to act on the stage, and from 1937 to co-manage his own company, until the end of his life.

Fresnay's 60-year-long film acting career began with small parts in the 1910s and 1920s. His film "break" came with the arrival of sound, and his being cast in the title role of Marius. He had played the role in the stage version, though his co-star, Raimu, and even the author, Maurice Pagnol, had expressed doubts concerning Fresnay's temperament and his over-distinguished theatrical demeanor. Yet the apprehensions proved unfounded, the play was a popular and critical success (reaching a record number of performances), and the film was also highly acclaimed. The sequels, Fanny and César (directed by Pagnol himself), were equally well-received.

Fresnay's versatility was proved by the different roles he played in Ame de Clown, The Man Who Knew Too Much (a French spy), Sous les yeux d'occident (the counter-revolutionary Rasputin), and Cheri-Bibi (a convict). But what really solidified his film career was his role as a French officer in Renoir's La Grande Illusion. He and von Stroheim represent two mutually antagonistic countries at war, yet they find mutual sympathy for one another on the basis of a common social class. In another group of films, Fresnay portrayed detectives: Puritain, Dernier des six, and L'Assassin habite au 21 (in the last two of which he played Inspector Wens, created by Georges Simenon). Another group of films, in which he was cast in historical biographies, began with Monsieur Vincent, in which he played Saint Vincent de Paul; he played the pioneer flyer Didier Daurat in Au grand balcon, the composer Offenbach in La Valse de Paris, Schweitzer in Il est minuit, Docteur Schweitzer, and the scientist Henri Fabre in Monsieur Fabre.

His film work in the 1950s and after is generally thought to be outdated, but he made such interesting films as Le Défroqué and Les Évadés, and continued to work on television until his death.


—Karel Tabery

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fresnay, Pierre." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fresnay, Pierre." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fresnay-pierre

"Fresnay, Pierre." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved September 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fresnay-pierre

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.