Jean Marais (1913 - 1998) :: Biography

Header Photo: Soleil ou Lion. Coll. Galerie Jean - Marais

Essential Reading: Jean Marais : Une histoire vraie

Jean Marais
Jean Marais Signature

Jean Marais (real name: Jean Villain-Marais), or "Jeannot" as Cocteau soon began calling him, was twenty-four when the two men met. Marais had been stage-struck since he was a boy in Cherbourg, but had received no encouragement from his family. Childhood had been one disaster after another. When he was born, on the eve of World War 1, his mother refused to see him. Her only daugher had died a few days befoe. When Marais' father returned from the army, five-year-old, who didn't remember him, asked his mother: "Who is this dumbbell that keeps pestering me?" His father slapped him, his mother promptly packed her three children off to their grandmother's, and Jean grew up fatherless.

Jean Marais - Autoportrait a vingt ans, 1923, huile sur toile.
Jean Marais - Autoportrait a vingt ans, 1923, huile sur toile

According to Marais, his mother, whom he idolized and whom he nicknamed "Rosalie," was elegant and beautiful, stern but just, by turns tender and gruff. Together they enjoyed dressing up to see Pearl White's films, with little Jean's ears still singed by the curling iron Madame Marais used to beautify her son's reddish hair.

A poor student, Jean was dismissed from highschool when, to amuse his classmates, he masqueraded as a girl and encouraged a teacher to flirt with him. At fourteen, a distraught adolescent seeking attention, Jean Marais came close to killing himself when he discharged a loaded revolver near his temple. His mother, he discovered, was a shoplifter, and to keep her from being caught, he acted for a time as her lookout in the shops she pilfered.

Jean Marais in his prime

Jean Marais in his prime

After leaving school, he went to work as a photographer's helper and finally enrolled in dramatic classes with the great metteur-en-scene Charles Dullin. To pay the fees, he did bit parts with Dullin and Marcel l'Herbier, the film director, for ten francs a day. It was bone-wearying work, but the young man was happy to be at last in the world of his choice.

Marais' career began when Jean Cocteau placed the actor in Oedipe-Roi in 1937, and the next year cast him as Galahad in Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde . Cocteau became his surrogate father, and he was Cocteau's surrogate son. For the next twenty-five years, love and hard work created an indissoluble bond between these two men for whom the theater was life itself. Cocteau had high expectations for his protege, and he was not disappointed. For full half a century, ever since Cocteau gave him his first chance, Jean Marais was one of France's best-known actors, a star on stage, screen, and television.

Jean Marais - In later life.
Jean Marais - In later life

Then, suddenly, on the 8th November 1998, the angels of death stole Jean Marais from us. In Cannes, France, Marais died of a heart attack at the age of 85.

And so this world has lost forever the last link with the world of Jean Cocteau, Maria Casares, Josette Day, Madeline Sologne: all summoned by Cocteau to rest with him in the company of the angels of the other world.

But Jean Marais will live on in the hearts of all who knew of him. Actor, painter, poet, sculptor...we can only hope that we will be able to follow Jeannot and his footsteps into the land of the eternal.

jean marais star


Jean Marais: Site Map
01/ Biography (English)
02/ Marais @ 100 - Magazine Covers Smartphone Page (English)
03/ Rarities (English)
04/ Filmography (English, French)
05/ Le Potier (English, French)
06/ Ruy Blas (English, French)
07/ Jean Marais par Jean Cocteau (English, French)
08/ Dalida & Jean Marais (English, French)
09/ Jean Genet & Jean Marais (English, French)
10/ Bacchus de Jean Cocteau (English, French)
11/ L'appenti Fakir (English, French)
12/ La Maison du Bailli (English)
13/ Mila Parely (English, French)
14/ Georges Reich (English, French)
15/ Les Yeux (English, French)
16/ La Belle et la Bete UK Dvd
17/ Orphee UK Dvd
18/ Jean Marais Shop
19/ The Paintings of Jean Marais
20/ Gallery of Prints & Posters
21/ La Belle et la Bete Film Review
22/ La Belle et la Bete Gallery
23/ Orphee Film Review
24/ Orphee Gallery
25/ Eternal Return Film Review
26/ Les Parents Terribles Film Review
27/ Le Testament d'Orphee Film Review
28/ L'Ecrivain - Illustrateur
29/ Lithographies
30/ Bronzes
31/ Les Contes
32/ Lee Miller
33/ Interview de Jean Marais Sur Sa Peinture
34/ Television Appearances
35/ Photographs
36/ Expositions de Jean Marais
37/ Les Arbres du Piquey
38/ Je Suis Peintre
39/ Valse 1900
40/ Cocteau - Marais
41/ Pygmalion, Bernard Shaw
42/ Le Disciple du Diable, Bernard Shaw
40/ Oepide - Roi, Jean Cocteau
41/ Maria Casares
42/ Josette Day
43/ Madeleine Sologne
44/ Georges Auric
45/ Erik Satie
46/ Raymond Radiguet
47/ Pablo Picasso & Jean Cocteau
48/ Pablo Picasso
49/ Jean Cocteau
50/ Search Site
51/ Jean Marais autographs @
52/ Advertise here

jean marais star

Top of Page