Nationality: French. Born: René Xavier Marie in Saint-Malo, 12 July 1908. Education: Attended Insitut Libre de Saint-Lô and the Collège Locroy-Saint-León; studied architecture at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris; studied drama with Charles Dullin. Family: Married Marie-Blanche Guidicelli, 1962. Career: Began career in film as costume and set designer for Cavalcanti, Feyder, and Renoir; late 1930s—began acting on stage; 1941—film debut in Jean Grémillon's Remorques; early 1950s—began starring in Italian in addition to French films; 1960—international recognition for role of Steiner in Fellini's La dolce vita. Died: In Paris, 16 May 1994.
Films as Actor:
Remorques (Stormy Waters) (Grémillon)
Les Visiteurs du soir (The Devil's Envoys; The Devil's Own Envoy) (Carné) (as Giles)
Le Baron fantôme (The Phantom Baron) (de Poligny); Madame Sans-Gêne (Richebé)
Solita de Cordoue (Koster)
Il Cristo proibito (Forbidden Christ; Strange Deception) (Malaparte) (as Mastro Antonio); Camicie rosse (Anita Garibaldi; Red Shirts) (Rosi and Alessandrini) (as Bueno)
Les Conquérants solitaires (Vermoral); "Minna de Vanghel" ep. of Le Rideau carmoisi (Les Crimes de l'amour; The Crimson Curtain) (Astruc)
La signora senza camelie (The Lady without Camelias) (Antonioni—released in U.S. in 1981) (as Lodi)
Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) (Delannoy) (as Claude Frollo)
Les Amants (The Lovers) (Malle) (as Henri Tournier)
La dolce vita (Fellini) (as Steiner)
Scano boa (Dall'Ar) (as Cavarazan)
La Croix de vivants (Cross of the Living) (Govar) (as Count)
La corruzione (Corruption) (Bolognini) (as Leonardo)
Peau de banane (Banana Peel) (Marcel Ophüls) (as Bontemps)
Le Festin des mots (Dansereau)
La Voie lactée (The Milky Way; La Via Lattea) (Buñuel) (as man with cape); Fellini Satyricon (Satyricon) (Fellini) (as Lichas)
Uomini contro (Rosi) (as General Leone)
Valparaiso, Valparaiso (Aubier)
L'udienza (Ferreri); La grande scrofa nera (Ottoni); Il maestro i Margarita (Petrovic)
La rosa rossa (Giraldi)
Emmanuelle (Jaeckin) (as Marco); Touche pas la femme blanche (Don't Touch White Women) (Ferreri)
El recurso del metedo (Littin); Il contesto (Rosi); I prosseneti (Rondi)
Cadaveri eccellenti (Illustrious Corpses) (Rosi); Irene, Irene (Del Monte)
La Chanson de Roland (Cassenti)
Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli) (Rosi) (as Baron Rotundo)
Les Jeux de la comtesse; Semmelweis (Bettettini)
Basileus Quartet (Carpi) (as Finkel)
Détective (Godard) (as Old Mafioso)
Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) (Rosi) (as Widower)
Camille Claudel (Nuytten) (as Louis-Prosper Claudel)
Uova di Garofano (Farewell Sweet War) (Agosti) (as Crimen); Le Retour de Casanova (Casanova's Return) (Niermans) (as Marquis)
Film as Director:
L'announce faite a Mariei
By CUNY: articles—
Interview in Ciné Revue (Paris), 4 December 1975.
"La photographie nous aveugle," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1991.
Interview with A. Eichenberger, in Ciné & Media (Brussels), no. 1/2, 1992.
"La bellezza salvera il mondo," in Rivista del Cinemotografo (Rome), April 1992.
Interview with M. Bernink and P. Pisters, in Skrien (Amsterdam), February/March 1993.
"Alain Cuny Is de Naam," interview in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), April 1993.
On CUNY: book—
Agora: "les aventuriers de l'esprit," Besancon, France, 1991.
Fabre, Bernard, Une amitié : à la mémoire d'Alain Cuny, Paris, 1999.
On CUNY: articles—
Ciné Revue (Paris), 10 March 1977.
Lauwaert, D., "De Gekwelde commandeur," in Skrien (Amsterdam), February/March 1993.
Obituary in New York Times, 19 May 1994.
* * *
After working as an assistant director to Alberto Cavalcanti, and as set and costume designer for Cavalcanti, Feyder, and Renoir, Alain Cuny made his film acting debut in an insignificant role in Grémillon's Remorques in 1941. During the war, he was active in the theater, but he first received serious attention in two film roles that made him instantly famous.
The first was a lively performance as the strolling minstrel and Devil's assistant, Gilles, in Marcel Carné's Les Visiteurs du soir, and the second the role of Hervé in Serge de Poligny's Le Baron fantôme, for which Cuny also collaborated on the script. Opposite Jean Cocteau, as the Baron, Cuny, the Baron's son and heir, created an unusual version of the romantic hero, reflecting the film's fantastic and legendary quality.
Thereafter, Cuny played increasingly realistic roles, and his performances became deeper and more psychologically complex. This gradual change was probably due to the influence of his theatrical work, especially after he began to appear at the Théâtre National Populaire under Jean Vilar. Cuny's first major stage success came at the 1947 Avignon Festival in Paul Claudel's L'Histoire de Tobie et de Sarah, and he also appeared in Vilar's subsequent production of Macbeth. In the mid-1950s he became a member of Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault's company; his appearance in their production of Tête d'or confirmed Cuny's standing as a great tragedian.
In the early 1950s he pursued a film career mainly in Italy, notably in an early Antonioni film, La signora senza camelie. Delannoy's Notre Dame de Paris, with Cuny opposite Gina Lollobrigida, was an Italian co-production. The emerging New Wave made good use of his capabilities, through his appearance in Louis Malle's Les Amants, but Cuny continued to make his most significant impact in Italian films.
His remarkable performance as the philosophizing author Steiner in Fellini's La dolce vita presented a seemingly quiet and even-tempered man, living happily with a beautiful and intelligent wife, who yields to a sudden, mysterious attack of folly and commits suicide. Cuny subsequently worked with Fellini in Satyricon. Equally important was the beginning of his collaboration with Francesco Rosi in Uomini contro, as General Leone, followed by performances in Rosi's Cadaveri eccellenti, Cristo si è fermato a Eboli, and Cronaca di una morte annunciata, which continued to demonstrate Cuny's skill and dramatic sophistication.