Friday, July 17, 2009
Some great news!
This past week, on July 14, the great and luminiscent French actress Michele Morgan, who is 89 years old, was one of six recipients of the Legion of Honor award in France, a prize which she shares with actress Bernadette Lafont, directors Jerome Deschamps and Macha Makeieff, former Minister of Justice Albin Chalandion, and academician Jean-Marie Rouart.
Morgan, for Anglophone movie fans who might not familiar with her, is one of France's leading movie stars of the Golden Age, as popular in her native country as Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis are in the United States.
Of course, she is probably also Jean Gabin's greatest co-star; in fact, in director Michele Carne's 1938 classic of French Poetic Realism, Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows), Gabin tells Morgan, "T'as de beaux yeux, tu sais" (translation: "You have the most beautiful eyes, you know"). (In terms of its paramount importance, this line of dialogue is right up there with "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," from Gone with the Wind, where French film scholars and film fans are concerned.) In real-life, Gabin and Morgan were an item for awhile, in the late '30s and early '40s, as well.
Very literally, this is the most famous line in the history of French cinema:
"T'as de beaux yeux, tu sais." (It's not 'what' Gabin says swooningly to Morgan, but how he says it.)
Right before she co-starred with Gabin in 1939's Le Quai des brumes, Morgan, who was then only 17, first appeared alongside the actor in 1938's Le Recif de corail (The Coral Reef), and she and Gabin also co-starred together in 1941's Remorques (Tugboats/Misty Wharves) and 1952's La Minute de verite (The Moment of Truth). Additionally, Gabin and Morgan appeared separately in director Sacha Guitry's undernourished 1952 epic, Napoleon,which might be the only 'bad' film associated with either actor.
Michele Morgan, who was born Simone Roussel on February 29, 1920 (a leap year), first came to the attention of the French moviegoing public with her starring role in director Marc Allegret's 1937 Gribouille, a sort of pre-cursor to Lumet's Twelve Angry Men, and she appeared in more than seventy movies and television roles up until the time she retired from the screen, in 1999. During the Second World War, when Germany invaded France, many French film notables, including both Gabin and Morgan, temporarily moved to Hollywood where they appeared in a number of American-made English-language films.
Morgan has been married three times -- to the American actor William Marshall, to the French actor Henri Vidal, and to the director Gerard Oury, and her son by William Marshall, Mike Marshall, who passed away in 2005, was a film actor as well.
Today, retired from performing, the multifaceted Michele Morgan continues to be a painter of great repute, with occasional gallery exhibitions in France. Here she is on June 11, 2008, still beautiful and engaging at the age of 88:
And of course, Morgan has also contributed an original foreword to my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN (www.jeangabinbook.com). The First Edition of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR was released on July 20, 2008, and the all-new revised/updated/expanded Second Edition should be released around September 1, 2009. Keep your eyes on this blogsite for more details as they become available.
Congratulations to Michele Morgan on her great honor!