Showing posts with label Chuck Zigman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chuck Zigman. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Michele Morgan vs. Qatar!

Jean Gabin and Michele Morgan, as they appear in director Jean Delannoy's searing 1952 melodrama, La Minute de verite (1952).

For more than twenty years, the iconic French actress Michele Morgan, who co-starred with Jean Gabin in four great motion pictures -- Le Recif de corail (1938), Le Quai des brumes (1939), Remorques (1939/41), and La Minute de verite (1952) -- lived in the Hotel Lambert, a 17th Century mansion on the eastern tip of Paris. In 2007, a Qatarian Sheik bought the hotel, and he is now seeking to refurbish it in a way which many conservationists feel to be anachronistic with the original intent of the building. Morgan, who is today 89 years old, is working with the conservationists to try and stop this from happening.

Here is a very good article about the situation, written by Hannah Westley on September 12, 2009, for The National, the daily newspaper of the United Arab Emirates:

"Its façade may be less recognisable than the Louvre or the Sacré Coeur, but the history of the Hôtel Lambert, the 17th-century mansion at the eastern tip of Paris’ Ile Saint Louis, is in many ways no less remarkable. Currently at the heart of a polemic concerning its restoration, this hôtel particulier was once the epicentre of romantic Paris when it welcomed the likes of Voltaire, Chopin, Delacroix and George Sand. It is the mansion’s history and the way it is intertwined with the very fabric of the building’s construction that has made the Hôtel Lambert a cause célèbre for the Ile Saint Louis’s celebrity residents.

It was bought in 2007 by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother to the Emir of Qatar, from the Baron Guy de Rothschild for a sum estimated to be somewhere between €60 million (Dh321m) and €80m. The building’s restoration project was handed to Alain-Charles Perrot, the chief architect of France’s historic monuments, and whose responsibility is their safeguarding and protection. The Qatari Prince wishes to restore the Lambert, classed as a Unesco heritage site, to its original function as a family home by uniting the present three apartments into a single dwelling. While this would appear to be a relatively unproblematic undertaking, what have caused more concern among conservationists are the proposed plans for an underground car park, which critics suggest could put at risk the building’s foundations, a lift and new bathrooms. Concerns have also been raised about the proposed transformation of the mansion’s hanging garden. In a move to protect against these changes, an association for the protection of historic Paris has gone to court to try to reverse official approval of the project.

Designed by Louis le Vau, the architect responsible for enlarging the Château of Versailles and building the famous castle Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Hôtel Lambert was constructed between 1639 and 1644 for Jean-Baptiste Lambert, secretary to Louis XIII. It houses some spectacular works of art including wall paintings and murals by le Brun, who went on to paint Versaille’s world-famous Galerie des Glaces. Armed with a petition of 8,000 signatures, lawyers for historic Paris have argued that the plans should be abandoned in the interests of national pride. Members of the hallowed Académie Française have also raised their objections. “Would they drill through the beams and floorboards of the Villa Medici to make room for an elevator shaft?” the academician Jean-Marie Rouart was heard to ask.

Other voices of dissent have come from more surprising quarters and include celebrities such as the comedian Guy Bedos, the singer Georges Moustaki and the iconic film star Michèle Morgan, who lived in the Lambert for 20 years. Other support has come from abroad, including Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Italian architects Ricardo Florio and Edoardo Piccoli, the Canadian professors Myra Nan Rosenfeld and Georges Teyssot and the British art historian Mary Whiteley.

One of the problems with the architect’s original proposal was his intention to restore the mansion to its 17th-century glory, thereby suppressing the 18th-century elements as well as the 19th-century stained glass windows. Guidelines for the restoration of historic monuments, as laid out in the 1964 Venice Charter, indicate that unity of style should not be the aim of restoration, which should seek to conserve historical additions made over the centuries.

At the time of the prince’s purchase of the Lambert, many commentators remarked upon how France’s close diplomatic ties with Qatar are beginning to yield significant commercial advantages. Since the independence of Qatar in 1971, France has maintained strong links with this Francophile state, which has become a major economic force in Europe. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa was the first Arab head of state invited to the Elysée palace by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. The Sheikh is said to have a direct line to the Elysée and the two men enjoy a close working relationship. It can only be hoped that the Hôtel Lambert does not come between them."

Here's the Hotel Lambert's "new owner," Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (not to be confused with Frank Zappa's alter-ego "Sheik Yerbouti" from the 1978 double album) and, apparently, he thinks nothing of placing a glass elevator in a 17th-century building! Hopefully, thanks to Michele Morgan and her hearty team of conservationist-commandos, he will soon have a healthy sense of "buyer's remorse!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Richard Schickel: Time Magazine Critic Prefers Jean Gabin to Spencer Tracy (Yes!) and Says Goodbye to LACMA's Film Program

In October 2009, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will shutter its 37-year film program, which included a popular twelve-film 2002 tribute to Jean Gabin.

by Charles Zigman, August 5, 2009.

On July 28, 2009, Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, announced that his museum's prestigous Friday and Saturday night film screenings, a Los Angeles mainstay for more than thirty-seven years, will be shut down, in October, due to lack of financing and because it's been bleeding money: The program has lost, according to Govan, more than $1 million over the last ten years. (During a bad economy, as this author has discovered elsewhere, the arts -- especially film -- is the first thing to go.)

It's tragic, because LACMA is one of the few places left in the entire country where one can regularly go to see great old movies, projected in a theater, and the films programmed by former curator Ian Birnie were often brilliant and neglected. (How long before L.A.'s American Cinematheque and N.Y.'s Film Forum are boarded up?)

On August 1, Time Magazine's illustrious film critic Richard Schickel wrote an Opinion piece for the L.A. Times, entitled, "LACMA's Cruelest Cut," in which he decried LACMA's savage cut. In the same piece, he extolled some of the great movies and filmmakers he had witnessed at LACMA's Leo S. Bing Theater over the last many years.

Especially, in his Times piece, Schickel celebrated the great French actor Jean Gabin, the subject of this author's two-volume biography/filmography WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, which was released on July 20, 2008 ( The all-new, expanded/revised version of the book will be released on September 1, 2009.

In his L.A. Times piece, Schickel wrote:

"[At LACMA], you could have witnessed the great Jean Gabin (weary, taciturn and the kind of actor Spencer Tracy aimed to be but never quite became) in Touchez pas au Grisbi, experiencing a screen portrayal at its highest and most subtle level."

Above, Schickel has referenced the fact that American journalists have always called Jean Gabin "the French Spencer Tracy," but that, in his opinion, Gabin is superior to Tracy. (This author loves both actors, but has to agree with Schickel.)

LACMA's 2002 twelve-film tribute series to Jean Gabin was, principally, what lit the fire under me to write my book about Gabin. I had seen a number of his films before, but LACMA screened some of the actor's films which had rarely been screened in Los Angeles, in beautiful 35 millimeter prints, and I couldn't wait to write about them.

And of course, while I'm devastated to see LACMA's film series go, and while I try to stay away from editorializing on this blogsite (as well as in my life), I can also see the other side of the picture as well, in the sense that, while LACMA's Friday and Saturday night film presentations are one of my favorite things about L.A., I'm also hopelessly pragmatic; I understand that the series had lost more than $1 million over the last ten years, because of underattendance. (Usually, only 250 out of the theater's 600 seats are sold.) So while I feel horribly that LACMA's film series has to be axed, I have to say that I also agree with director Govan. Some people, on line, are "making petitions" in the hopes of restoring LACMA's film program, but if the petitioners are really interested, what they should really do is send LACMA some money, instead of some signatures. I try not to add any vitriol to this blog site, but it always infuriates me, to no end, when groovy artsy-craftsy people want something done, but they always think it should come out of somebody else's pocket, and I am guilty of this grievous sin sometimes, too. If you want LACMA to continue its series, as I do, you should be thinking, as I am thinking right now, about writing LACMA a check, because the arts don't run themselves, especially during a Recession. Just like anything else worth doing, you have to fight for it, and the way we fight, here in America, is with green paper with pictures of presidents on it, and not by signing a passive-agressive petition. And, yes, I am completely serious about this.

What I'm trying to say, most ineffectively, is that I hope LACMA can restore its Friday and Saturday night film presentations, but if it can't, it can't. Money talks. I thank the Museum for the years of pleasure its film screenings have given me and others in L.A.

And I thank Richard Schickel for pointing out, correctly, in his Los Angeles Times piece, that Jean Gabin is "the real Spencer Tracy!"

Rene Dary and Jean Gabin starred in Touchez pas au grisbi, which was screened at LACMA, in 2002, as part of the Museum's Gabin Film Festival.

The all-new 2009 edition of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO, will be available on September 1, 2009. Check this blogsite for updates!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day from Jean Gabin!

Happy Bastille Day from

Today is July 14th. It's the perfect day to celebrate a great French holiday, Bastille Day... and it's also a perfect day to buy a copy of a book about a great French movie star:

From Wikipedia:

Bastille Day is the French national holiday, celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is called Fête Nationale ("National Celebration") in official parlance, or more commonly le quatorze juillet ("14 July"). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution.

Festivities are held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic.

The parade opens with many cadets from the École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale, and so forth, then other infantry troops, then motorised troops; aviation of the Patrouille de France flies above. In recent times, it has become customary to invite units from France's allies to the parade; in 2004 during the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, British troops (the band of the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Grenadier Guards and King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery) led the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead.[1]

Traditionally, the students of the École Polytechnique set up some form of joke.[citation needed]

The president used to give an interview to members of the press, discussing the situation of the country, recent events and projects for the future. Nicolas Sarkozy, elected president in 2007, has chosen not to give it. The President also holds a garden party at the Palais de l'Elysée.

Article 17 of the Constitution of France gives the President the authority to pardon offenders, and since 1991 the President has pardoned many petty offenders (mainly traffic offences) on 14 July. In 2007, President Sarkozy declined to continue the practice[2].

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jean Gabin in GRAND ILLUSION: Watch It Right Here/Right Now



I'm hard at work on the all-new, expanded/revised 2009 edition of my book, which should be available around September 1st (keep checking back at this blogsite for the exact date), and this is why I haven't been posting blog entries regularly.

In the meantime, how would you like to watch a Jean Gabin movie right now?

Here you go:

Director Jean Renoir's 1937 classic, La Grande illusion, is perhaps the best known of all of Gabin's ninety-five feature films and, of course, it's considered to be one of the Top 100 Movies of All Time by almost every serious film critic on earth.

Grand Illusion is, primarily, the story of three World War One fighter pilots -- an aristocrat (Pierre Fresnay), a member of the working-class (Jean Gabin), and an 'eternally wandering Jew' who fits in with neither of those two classes (Marcel Dalio) -- and how their friendship will overcome their differences, especially when they are captured and placed in various POW camps. Their 'foil,' who turns out to be good-hearted, is the German colonel Von Rauffenstein, who's played by Eric von Stroheim (his is an iconic role; even if you've never seen Grand Illusion, you've probably, at some point in your life, seen an image of Stroheim from this film -- bald-headed, monocle, standing collar, etc.).

I hope you enjoy Grand Illusion. The film has been uploaded in 15 chapters, but don't worry, you don't have to do anything; at the end of each chapter, the film will automatically proceed to the following chapter.

To read more about Jean Gabin and Grand Illusion, buy a copy of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO. The New/Expanded/Revised 2009 Edition should be available on September 1, 2009.

Thank you! Hope you're having a nice summer.

Charles Zigman,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jean Gabin: Plumber?

I was having lunch yesterday at a great L.A. diner, the Good Neighbor Restaurant on Cahuenga Blvd., when I happened to notice this van in the parking lot.

Apparently, Jean Gabin -- besides being THE WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR (per the title of my book) -- is now, also, a plumber!

The all-new Second Edition (aka, 'The First 2009 Edition') of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR will be available later this summer. Keep your eyes on this blogsite for more information.

Chuck Zigman,
World's Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, Volumes One and Two.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Parisians See Bracelet Given by Jean Gabin to Marlene Dietrich

Here's an article I found recently on AFP: Between now and July 2009, visitors to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris can see art deco jewelry designed by Jean Despres -- including a bracelet which Jean Gabin presented to Marlene Dietrich, when the two dated in the 1940s:

Art Deco's life in the fast lane
Mar 21, 2009

PARIS (AFP) — Art Deco was so ahead of its time that its practitioners were accused of being "too modern" and their work looks contemporary today, even though it is more than 80 years old.

The Musee des Art Decoratifs in Paris has mounted a major retrospective to celebrate Jean Despres, one of the fathers of modern jewellery, and other leading "modernist" jewellers working in the Roaring Twenties and Thirties.

"Life was going faster. Cars, planes, trains, everything was going faster. They wanted things to be monumental, so they could be seen from a distance," explains Laurence Mouillefarine, associate curator of the show, picking out some big, showy brooches to illustrate the point.

"They also wanted their work to be more affordable, so they used silver or silver plating instead of gold, and semi-precious stones like citrine, onyx, moonstones and rock crystal, much cheaper than diamonds."

Lacquer, which the Chinese brought to Europe during the war, when it was used as glue on aircraft propellers, was also popular.

The new style was known as "sports jewellery" or "travel jewellery" and still tended to be worn only by an elite, avant-garde set.

"It's hard to appreciate how very daring this was at the time. Costume jewellery didn't exist," says Mouillefarine.

Despres had 80 of his pieces rejected by the jury for the Salon D'Autumne trade show in 1928 for being "too modern," says Melissa Gabardi, who wrote the first monograph on Despres 10 years ago.

Despres was very influenced by Cubism: the painter Georges Braques was his best friend.

During World War I he worked on aircraft engines and his early jewellery was openly inspired by machinery and engine parts, like his camshaft ring.

He initially used silver, because he didn't have the money for more expensive materials, together with coral, onyx, enamel and lapis lazuli.

The ring remained his favourite. "What I enjoy mostly and that I can do in a different way from the others," he told the engraver Etienne Cournault, with whom he collaborated.

The exhibition has a showcase with a chronological display of rings from the 1920s to 1970s and a small room wallpapered with his designs, which "are very easy to wear even today," says Gabardi.

"He was very successful in his lifetime. His work was collected by stars, like Josephine Baker and Andy Warhol," says Gabardi.

But because he didn't have children to carry on the business, he had largely been forgotten by his death in 1980.

Art Deco had already fallen out of fashion by the 1940s. In fact, it wasn't until 1969 that the term "Art Deco" was coined by the British historian and journalist Bevis Hillier to refer to the geometric style of the 20s and 30s.

Apart from the Despres pieces which the artist himself donated to the museum, 80 percent of the exhibits come from private collections, more than half abroad. One of the major contributions is from the American model and face of Victoria's Secret, Stephanie Seymour.

Highlights include a 1930 Cartier bracelet of ballbearings set in gold which actor Jean Gabin gave Marlene Dietrich and a 1932 rock crystal bracelet owned by Gloria Swanson.

A silver pendant with green and black lacquer by Jean Fouquet was acquired in the 1970s by Chanel's chief designer Karl Lagerfeld, a notoriously avid art collector.

A bracelet by Suzanne Belperron was worn by the style icon, American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.

Apart from jewellery, exhibits include exquisite objets d'art -- ultra-slim cigarette cases, rendered obsolete by today's no-smoking laws, with such symbols of modernity as a racing car or a typewriter.

There is even a sleek little vanity case. Once only prostitutes wore make-up, but by the 1920s free-spirited women even dared to make themselves up in public.

It took the curators a full year to track down the items they wanted for the exhibition, as most are in private hands. And even then, sometimes they were frustrated.

"An old lady with a bracelet said she couldn't bear to lend it to the exhibition because she didn't have that much more time left to wear it. I didn't insist," says Mouillefarine.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

Thursday, April 2, 2009

MC Jean Gab'1 Takes Over America

Several months ago on this blogsite, I mentioned MC Jean Gab'1 (pronounced: MC Jean Gabin), the popular French/Senagalese rapper who's taken over France.

Now, MC Jean is poised to take over America! This year, he starred in his first feature, director Pierre Lafargue's BLACK. The film had its U.S. premiere on March 14th at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, and is presently awaiting North American distribution.

It is "this author's" dream that American movie studios will take notice and star MC Jean Gab'1 in his first U.S.-made action movie, and this will be doubly good news, because when the publicity machine gears up to introduce Americans to the rapper, they'll have to, by necessity, call people's attention to the legendary French movie star Jean Gabin (1904-1976) from whom MC Jean Gabin'1 got his name.

For more on both MC Jean Gab'1 and "the original" Jean Gabin, go to, and read about (and buy) WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO, BY CHARLES ZIGMAN.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009 Begins With Three (3) New Jean Gabin DVD Releases, First Time With English Subtitles!

2009 starts out with an embarrassment of riches for Jean Gabin fans.

Not one, not two, but three (3) Jean Gabin movies are being released on DVD. And none of these titles has ever been released on home video with English subtitles. When I originally watched these three films to research them for my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, I was relying on French language DVDs with no English subtitles at all, and watching them with 'human translators' who provided simultaneous French-to-English translations for me (me, with my limited -- or, should I say, non-existent -- French), so these three releases are really unexpected treats.

1. RAZZIA SUR LA CHNOUF (1955), directed by Henri Decoin is, for me, the best of the many film noir thrillers in which Jean Gabin starred in the 1950s, and in my personal opinion, it even edges out Gabin's noir film which is universally acknowledged as being "the important one" -- director Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi (1954). In Razzia, as in the previous year's Grisbi, Gabin portrays a gentleman-gangster who's uncovering corruption within his own crime organization, and both films share the same tone. Razzia, though, is more 'trippy' and experimental than Grisbi, and features a few scenes (particularly one set in a bar) which I would characterize as being 'pre-psychedelic,' and kind of anticipative of some of the wilder moments in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, which would come two years later. IMPORTANT NOTE: The English subtitled DVD of Razzia sur la chnouf is not an 'official' release, which is to say that it's a high-end bootleg, but the transfer and the electronic subtitles are very high quality. You can only buy the subtitled version from this on-line merchant -- -- and this is important to remember, because there are legitimate DVDs of Razzia available on (US) and Amazon. fr (France), but they do NOT have subtitles. The DVD comes in a plain envelope -- there's no cover-art or extras, but at $12.50 ($10 + 2.50 postage), it's a great buy, and ships fast. This DVD is a February 2009 release.

2. GAS-OIL (1955): Another brand new Jean Gabin DVD release, also 'unofficial' and available with English subtitles ONLY from one on-line seller, is director Gilles Grangier's Gas-Oil, a terrific picture which also happen to be the only movie to co-star Jean Gabin with another French icon, Jeanne Moreau, although Moreau did have a small, supporting role in the previous year's Touchez pas au grisbi. In this picture (which was almost entitled Hi-Jack Highway) as in the following year's Des gens sans importance, Gabin is a trucker (he even drives the truck himself, according to the credits!)who's on the lam from the mob, because they think he's stolen their cache of cash. In the 1950s, American 'car culture' spread to the world, so you get movies like Rebel Without a Cause and Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road in the US, and Gas-Oil in France. If you want to see this DVD with English subtitles, you get it from this excellent online seller, 'Senor Noir,' who also happens to sell a lot of other great international noirs on DVD, and the best news is that it's only $9, including postage. This is a February 2009 release.

3. L'AIR DE PARIS (1954): In March 2009, we get an "official" release, L'Air de Paris , and this movie now has English subtitles for the very first time, as well. This is the picture which reunited Jean Gabin with director and co-star from 1939's Le Jour se leve, Marcel Carne and Arletty, to which it is a worthy follow-up. In this movie, Gabin is a former boxer who takes a young protege (actor Roland Lesaffre, who passed away on February 3, 2009) and trains him to be France's new champion, much to the chagrin of Gabin's wife (Arletty) who feels that Gabin is spending more time with the protege than with her -- so it's kind of a love-triangle, and it's also just as worthy a film about boxing as Raging Bull, Body and Soul, and Champion. Optimum Home Video is releasing this title on March 16, 2009, and you can pre-order it from (British; note that this is a Region 2/'PAL'-system DVD, which means that while it won't play on conventional American 'NTSC' DVD players, you CAN play it on your computer's DVD drive, OR you can buy an international DVD player for less than $200 from various on-line sellers (just Google "codeless DVD player"); it's a good idea to have an international DVD player anyway, if you're a serious movie buff, because there a lot of great movies available on DVD in Europe which aren't available on DVD in the US. (Of course, you can order from British if you live anywhere in the world, and Amazon converts the 'pounds sterling' to 'dollars' on your credit card statement.)

BREAKING NEWS! POST-SCRIPT: It's now March 2nd, and I have just learned that an eBay seller based in Korea is selling a "Region Free" DVD of "L'Air de Paris" with English subtitles, which you can play on any DVD player in the world -- including ALL American DVD players. It's only $11.99 + $2.99 for shipment to the US. I bought one for myself and the quality is excellent, and the seller's turnaround time is fast. Here's the info for this eBay seller:

So: How about that?! Not one, not two, but three great Jean Gabin movies, available on DVD with English subtitles for the first time!

To learn more about Razzia sur la chnouf, Gas-Oil, and L'Air de Paris, read my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Email from France's Minister of Culture

Every once in awhile, I receive a nice note or email from somebody who has read WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, my book about Jean Gabin (

Today, I was delighted to receive this unexpected email from the office of France's Minister of Culture, the Honorable Christine Albanel.

Monsieur Charles ZIGMAN

Nos réf. : CC/19396/MAC


Vous avez bien voulu adresser à Christine Albanel, ministre de la Culture et de la Communication, vos deux livres consacrés à Jean Gabin.

La ministre a pris connaissance avec beaucoup de plaisir de ces deux ouvrages et m’a chargé de vous remercier pour votre contribution de grande qualité à la mémoire d’une étoile du cinéma français.

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes sentiments les meilleurs.

Le Chef de cabinet




Christine Albanel, Minister of Culture and Communication, has received your two books devoted to Jean Gabin.

The Minister noted these two books with great pleasure, and has asked me to thank you for your contribution of high-quality memory of a star of French cinema.

Please accept the assurances of my best.

The Chief of Staff,
PS: Some Gabin "Dribs and Drabs" for a December Morning:

-- reader Brian D. Scott emailed and told me that he remembers Telly Savalas playing Pepe Le Moko on the old CBS "Carol Burnett Show;"
-- Lawrence Peck tells me that there is (or was, a few years ago) a karaoke bar in Seoul, Korea called "The Jean Gabin Club," and he's trying to find his old matchbook with the silhouette of Gabin on it... I'll post it here, if it ever turns up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jean Gabin's Favorite Foods!

It's 5:30pm and, per Gabby Hayes in some western I saw once, I'm a mite peckish... and so, being the author of a (giant/two-volume) book about Jean Gabin, I started to wonder: What were Jean Gabin's favorite foods?

I asked Corinne Marchal, webmaster of the Gabin Musee (Gabin Museum) in Meriel, France. Ms. Marchal visited Los Angeles in July, and she told me that Jean Gabin's favorite foods were:

-- beans prepared with mutton (apparently, this was his favorite dish);
-- pot-au-feu, which, for lowbrow people like me who aren't chefs, is a French boiled beef-and-vegetable plate, similar to America's favorite hearty gustable "stew," although unlike stew, the beef and vegetables (carrots, celery, turnips, leeks)are usually placed separately on the plate. When Gabin lived with Marlene Dietrich, in France and in the U.S., they apparently used to have a lot of fun preparing pot-au-feu together;
-- fish (he liked it a lot);
-- roquefort cheese, spread with butter and served with Worcester sauce (!);
-- gruyère cheese dipped in mustard (!!);
-- also, Jean Gabin liked to add red wine into his soup, which people of his generation sometimes did. In French, the act of adding wine into one's soup, to increase the flavor, is called "do chabrot."

But 'man' (aka, Gabin) doesn't live on bread (and mutton, and roquefort cheese, and wine-soup) alone. One has to be able to wash it all down with something, and the World's Coolest Movie Star was a big-time connoisseur of whiskey, annisette (a sweet liqueur), and a very dry/acidic white wine called 'gros plant;' not only did he love to consume this wine, which comes from Nantes, in western France's Loire River Valley, but he liked the name of it, because 'gros plant' reminded him of the cinematic term 'gros plan' which means 'close-up.'


Monday, July 21, 2008



Today's UCLA Daily Bruin features a profile of the book by reporter Josh Wasbin. Here's the link:

Jean Gabin and UCLA: World's Coolest Movie Star. World's Coolest University!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Josephine Baker, the legendary American performer who starred opposite Jean Gabin in a great French film, 1934's "Zou-zou," was honored in her home country yesterday with her very own postage stamp!


New US postage stamps honor early black cinema
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Josephine Baker looks straight at you with bright eyes and shining smile, fearless and demanding attention.
The time is 1935, and the St. Louis native who transfixed France and much of Europe with song and dance stares out from a poster advertising the film "Princess Tam-Tam." Baker starred as a simple African woman presented to Paris society as royalty.

Baker's movie is one of five recalled on a set of U.S. postage stamps being released Wednesday to honor vintage black cinema. Ceremonies marking the sale of the stamps will be held at the Newark Museum in New Jersey, which is holding a black film festival.
"So many things happened in her life that she had never expected," her son Jean-Claude Baker said Tuesday.

"I guess that if she was with us today she would be very honored. At her death she was a French citizen, but she never forgot she was born in America," he said in a telephone interview. "She would be delighted and very moved."
"Despite all the difficulty of colored people in her time, she triumphed over all the adversity that she and her people had to endure," he added.
Another poster, for a 1921 release, provides a taste of the racial divide that sent the young Baker to Europe to pursue her career.

"The Sport of the Gods," the poster proclaims, is based on a book by Paul Laurence Dunbar, "America's greatest race poet," and it adds that the film has "an all-star cast of colored artists."
Other posters in the set of 42-cent stamps are:
_ "Black and Tan," a 19-minute film released in 1929 featuring Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra.
_ "Caldonia," another short at 18 minutes, which was released in 1945. It showcased singer, saxophonist and bandleader Louis Jordan.
_ "Hallelujah," a 1929 movie released by MGM. It was one of the first films from a major studio to feature an all-black cast. Producer-director King Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for his attempt to portray rural African-American life, especially religious experience.
In addition to Jean-Claude Baker and his brother, Jarry, the ceremony was scheduled to include Louis Jordan's widow, Martha Jordan; Paul Ellington, grandson of Duke Ellington; Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker; and Gloria Hopkins Buck, chairwoman of the film festival.

Josephine Baker may be best remembered in the United States for her singing and dancing in Europe, but she also earned military honors as an undercover agent for the French resistance in World War II. Later, she was active in civil rights work and appeared with Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Jean Gabin made ninety-five movies during a career which spanned forty-six years -- between 1930 and 1976.

93 of his movies were filmed in Europe (France, mostly; a few in Italy), and in these movies, Gabin always spoke his dialogue in his native French.

But during World War II, when the Nazis invaded France, many French film professionals moved to the U.S. in order to continue their film careers -- including Jean Gabin.

Gabin starred in two great movies in America, neither of which have ever been released on American home video. The second of the two films, Universal's Impostor, is an up-to-the minute look at the Free French Army battling in the Belgian Congo (with the San Fernando Valley's Toluca Lake doubling for the Congo)!

Gabin's first American film though, Moontide, is an incredible Film Noir that's credited to director Archie Mayo, but which was also partially directed by Fritz Lang -- and additionally, it features a hypnotic "drunk" sequence that was actually helmed by Salvador Dali.

This film, alone, is really the reason that I first decided to write my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN. When I was a kid, family members gushed about how great this movie was -- and when I saw it for myself, I found out why. It's a great Lost American Classic, and one which, without any exaggeration, most definitely belongs in that great pantheon of Great American 1940's films which include Casablanca, Gilda, Grapes of Wrath, etc. Not a big hit in its own time, the vastly entertaining Moontide is a film which really begs to be rediscovered. And now it will:

On September 2, 2008, Moontide comes to DVD, here in the U.S., for the very first time. It's being offered in a beautifully restored version via Fox Video, and it's a must have for any Gabin Fan, or for any Film Noir lover.

The DVD features commentary by the sharp-eyed Film Noir historian Eddie Muller, and apparently, it also contains a newly-discovered original featurette about the film, which was produced in conjunction with with the film's initial 1942 release.

Jean Gabin's co-star in the film is Ida Lupino, and Fox Video will also be issuing a second Lupino thriller, the seminal Noir Roadhouse, in which she co-stars with Richard Widmark, on September 2nd, as well.

You can pre-order Moontide now, from


Sunday, July 13, 2008


Here's Jean Gabin signing an autograph in Santa Monica, California, August 1942.

In other news:
WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN was written about this month on Turner Classic

Thursday, May 22, 2008


By Charles Zigman

Just like the French and the Americans, the Japanese, too, have always made great movies about Iconic Loners, which is why the Japanese continue to respond to Jean Gabin, even today.

In Japan, of course, ‘The Loner’ usually appears in the form of the silent, world-weary samurai, a guy who, just like Gabin’s ‘tragic drifters’ of the 1930s, is forever traversing the eternal plains, battling enemies who seem to pop-up out of the dunes like so many psychotic whack-a-moles, while occasionally ‘scoring with the hot geisha chicks!’ (Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman, Hanzo the Razor, the Baby Cart Series, and Seven Samurai are all great Japanese Samurai Movies which feature mega-cool loners at their (soft)-centers.

On-screen movie Samurai-characters, just like Jean Gabin’s on-screen characters, concern themselves neither with victory nor defeat, but only with their own survival, as they walk the arid landscapes, plunging both inevitably and irrevocably toward their own Cruel Fates (which consist, usually, of imprisonment, death, or [even worse], ‘walking away, alone,’ a phenomenon which, in a Gabin movie, is even worse than death)! Indeed, when you read the Samurai (or, ‘Bushido’) Code, as it was articulated in the 9th-century, what you’re pretty much reading, is an encapsulation of Jean Gabin’s world’s famous ‘1934-to-‘41/tragic-drifter’ movie persona, and yet it was written eight centuries before Jean Gabin was even born!


I have no parents; I make the Heavens and the Earth my parents.
I have no home; I make the Tan T'ien my home.
I have no divine power; I make honesty my Divine Power.
I have no means; I make Docility my means.
I have no magic power; I make personality my Magic Power.
I have neither life nor death; I make my Life and Death.
I have no body; I make Stoicism my Body.
I have no eyes; I make The Flash of Lightning my eyes.
I have no ears; I make Sensibility my Ears.
I have no limbs; I make Promptitude my Limbs.
I have no laws; I make Self-Protection my Laws.
I have no strategy; I make the Right to Kill and the Right to Restore Life my Strategy.
I have no designs; I make Seizing the Opportunity by the Forelock my Designs.
I have no miracles; I make Righteous Laws my Miracle.
I have no principles; I make Adaptability to all circumstances my Principle.
I have no tactics; I make Emptiness and Fullness my Tactics.
I have no talent; I make Ready Wit my Talent.
I have no friends; I make my Mind my Friend.
I have no enemy; I make Incautiousness my Enemy.
I have no armour; I make Benevolence my Armour.
I have no castle; I make Immovable Mind my Castle.
I have no sword; I make No Mind my Sword.


By Charles Zigman

France. Germany. Italy. Russia. Poland. Czech Republic. Romania. Mexico. Japan. Iran. All over the world -- everywhere except in the U.S. -- the legendary Jean Gabin continues to be considered one of the greatest movie stars of all time.

In the U.S., Gabin is definitely considered to be a cult figure (in 2002, twin Gabin festivals were presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and at the Walter Reade Theatres in New York), but for the vast moviegoing public, and just like a lot of the greats, he's fallen off of the radar.

That's about to change, however, because on July 20, 2008, Allenwood Press presents the very first English-language (and two-volume) book about Jean Gabin, ever. (There's not even an old, out-of-print book about Gabin in English, if you can believe that!) It's WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN by CHARLES ZIGMAN.

VOLUME ONE (ISBN #978-0-9799722-0-1) which has been subtitled "Tragic Drifter," takes us through Gabin's first forty-six films, including the internationally renowned "Grand Illusion," "Pepe Le Moko," "Le Quai des brumes," and "Le Jour se leve," a period spanning the years 1930 to 1953, during which time he played movie history's most famous tragic drifter. During the 1930s and 1940s, Gabin's popularity in the U.S. nearly eclipsed that of Bogart, James Cagney, and Bette Davis. (Ever heard anybody say, "Come with me to the Casbah. We will make ze beautiful muzeek togezaire?" It was famously attributed to the character Jean Gabin portrayed in the 1937 gangster classic "Pepe Le Moko," even though he never actually uttered those words. In fact Gabin's 'Pepe' character even inspired Warner Bros. to create its legendary cartoon skunk, Pepe Le Pew, whose looks and voice were modeled on the actor.)

VOLUME TWO (ISBN #978-0-9799722-1-8) which has been subtitled "Comeback/Patriarch," covers Films 47 through 95, which Gabin made between 1954 and 1976. During this period of his career, instead of playing his famous tragic drifter character, he played a series of mega-cool gentleman-criminals, and world-weary (yet life-loving) patriarchs, and he even turned out some hilarious comedies during this period, which are criminally unknown in the U.S. The tone of the book is "fun," as opposed to "academic" and "pretentious," and its goal, is to introduce as many people as possible to the films of Gabin; to that end, this book is loaded with rare photographs, many of which have never appeared even in previously published French-language books about Gabin.

The tone of the book is "fun," as opposed to "academic" and "pretentious," and its goal is to introduce as many people as possible to the films of Gabin; to that end, it's loaded with rare photographs, many of which have never appeared even in previously published French-language books about Gabin. This is a book for Jean Gabin 'newbies' and 'completists' both: For the uninitiated, there are some biography and 'intro' chapters, which place Gabin, and his famous big-screen persona into perspective. For the completists, author Charles Zigman has unpacked every single one of Jean Gabin's ninety-five theatrical feature films -- even the more than fifty pictures which have never been subtitled into English before -- so that one can feel, by poring through the chapters, that one is actually 'seeing' the films, firsthand. Excerpts from newspapers written 'back in the day,' both in the U.S. and in Europe, demonstrate how prominent movie critics received Gabin's pictures the day they were first released, in the 1930s through the 1970s.

In short this two-volume book is for everybody. Besides being the first books about Jean Gabin in the English language ever, WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR is also a first because it is the very first 'filmography book' related to Gabin, in any language: Even in France, where there have been many published biographies of Jean Gabin, there has never been a book concentrating, in great detail on each of the actor's ninety-five films. The legendary actress Michele Morgan, who appeared with Gabin in five feature films, has written the foreword to Volume One. Brigitte Bardot, who considered Gabin to be her mentor, has supplied the original foreword to Volume Two.

If you know anybody who likes old movies, or if you want to give a couple of great "gift books," tell them that WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN is on the way!

Each volume is sold separately.

Pre-order now in the US from, Barnes and, and

Pre-order internationally from (France), (UK), (Germany),, and (Canada), (Japan).