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communiqué de presse Jean GABIN de Joseph HARRISS

Jean Gabin:  The Actor Who Was France
The first biography in English of the iconic Frenchfilm actor whose career andlife mirrored both 20th-century France and the earlyevolution of modern film.

In Fall 2018, Joseph Harriss, the Paris-based author of the acclaimed The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoqueand two other books on France,will publish Jean GabinThe Actor Who Was France (McFarland).Illustrated with more than 40photographs, the book portraysin graphic detail Gabin’s films and personal life, including his unhappy years in Hollywood and his largely unknown wartimeservice as a tank commanderwith the Free French.

This full-length biography, the first in English, shows how Jean Gabin, whom Harriss sees as “a French Everyman,” embodied the spirit of the French people, much as John Wayne embodied American values. Gabin's “tragic drifter” character in his great classics of the late 1930’s was tough yet fated to lose, mirroring a France facing the German invasion of 1940. Later, Gabin’s film character was often dismayed by postwar cultural change, as France's unique character was progressively homogenized by the European Union and globalization. His persona as “patriarch” in the 1960smarked the culmination of a 45-year, 95-film career that made him a worldwide screen idol—it is calculated that his post-WW II films alone attracted some 161million movie goers. At his death in 1976 The New York Times called him “the craggy and sardonic hero-victim of a hundred French films. . . one of the great men of cinema.”
Jean-Alexis Moncorgé entered show business as a song-and-dance man at the Folies-Bergère in the 1920s. He went on to do operetta and then talkies in the 1930s, rising to stardom as Jean Gabin just before World War II.  Refusing Nazi pressure to act in German films, he fled occupied France to Hollywood, where Darryl Zanuck eagerly signed him for Twentieth Century Fox.  But, notoriously cantankerous and independent, he detested the town’s rigid, autocratic studio system. He did only two films there before returning to join Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces to fight for the liberation of France.
It's a dramatic personal and professional trajectory as Gabin grew, matured and evolved, thanks in part to his three marriages and often-painful love affairs ranging from the 1930s French beauty Mistinguett to Ginger Rogers, Michèle Morgan and Marlene Dietrich. But there was much more to him than his massive presence and the captivating pale eyes so admired by Jean Renoir. The emotional depth of his internationally renowned1930's classics, like Grand IllusionPépé Le Moko, and La Bête Humaine, directed by filmmakers such as Renoir and Marcel Carné, led the great French film critic André Bazin to call him “the tragic hero of contemporary cinema.”Bosley Crowther of the Times saw Gabin then as “the Spencer Tracey of French films . . .  obviously one of the best slap-‘em-and-kiss-‘em actors in the game.”
Harriss shows that Gabin's success was due not only to the instinctive naturalism of his acting, but also to his habit of revising screenplays to improve the film and sculpt his role to his advantage. This while working with legendary screenwriters like Jacques Prévert and Michel Audiard. His dogged insistence that only a good story can make a good film later resulted in his beings corned by 1960s Nouvelle Vague auteurs such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France is a penetrating, serious but not solemn portrait of a complex personality, the actor whom the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York once called  “Everybody's Star."It is a book to be savored not only by Gabin fans, but also students of cinema history and lovers of France itself.
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“This beautifully written, fast-moving book is immaculately researched.  One of the best film bios I have ever read, it will be a useful work of scholarship for many years to come.”–Charles Zigman, Los Angeles-based screenwriter and teacher of film studies.
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Bibliographic details:  Format 7 x 10, ca. 300 pp., 45 photos, notes, bibliography, index.  Copyright 2018.  p ISBN: 978-1-4766-7627-2;  e ISBN: 978-1-4766-3460-9.  Imprint: McFarland.  Price: $45.

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