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.'


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Well, here it is, everybody:

On Saturday September 6th and Sunday September 7th, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater, at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, is celebrating the great French movie star/icon Jean Gabin with a two-evening tribute, featuring four great movies, and a book-signing with Charles Zigman (me!), the author of WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO ( One of the films, the outstanding noir "Le Port du desir," a kind of 'waterfront Casablanca,' hasn't even been screened in the U.S., anywhere, since its initial release in 1959 -- almost fifty years ago.

Here's a link to the schedule for this event:

If you know anybody who loves Jean Gabin, or anybody who loves having a great night out at the movies, please let them know about the event.

The phone number for the American Cinematheque is (323)461-2020.

If you can't click on the above link for the program schedule, I've pasted it here:

September 6 & 7 at the American Cinematheque (Egyptian Theatre)
Program Notes by Chris D. (Director of Programming)

What can one say about French superstar Jean Gabin? If he’s not the “world’s coolest movie star” as proclaimed by the title of Charles Zigman’s entertaining and endlessly illuminating new biography of the actor (in two mammoth volumes!), he has to be up there in at least the Top 5. Gabin’s appeal, like that of Bogart, his American counterpart, relies on a quiet, unpretentious toughness, an unassailable integrity, a cynical -but not nasty - sense of humor and a classy, non-judgmental wisdom about people and the ways of the world. He projects his persona effortlessly, but forcefully, from the screen, the world-weariness and resigned, wisecracking fatalism of a wide-ranging array of characters, from tragic drifter to insightful patriarch. Join us for these Gabin gems, including the hard-to-see THE SICILIAN CLAN (in a new 35mm print!), the long-unavailable MOONTIDE, the ultra-rare HOUSE ON THE WATERFRONT and the French crime classic GRISBI. Author Charles Zigman will be signing and selling his new biography, "World’s Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin" each night preceding the screenings.

Series compiled by Chris D., with the assistance of Charles Zigman.
Special Thanks: Caitlin Robertson/20TH CENTURY FOX; Eric Di Bernardo/RIALTO PICTURES.

Saturday, September 6 - 7:30 PM
Jean Gabin Double Feature:
THE SICILIAN CLAN (LE CLAN DES SICILIENS), 1969, 20th Century Fox, 118 min. Expatriate Sicilian mobster Jean Gabin and his family shelter homicidal, lone wolf jewel thief Alain Delon after his daring escape from a prison van. Delon proposes a multi-million dollar jewel heist to Gabin that is fraught with danger, but the semi-retired patriarch signs on when he decides it will allow him to retire home to Sicily all the faster. But no one counts on dogged police inspector Lino Ventura (CLASSE TOUS RISQUES, SECOND BREATH) on Delon’s trail. Ventura is extra-surly from trying to kick cigarettes and channels all his frustrations into nabbing Delon and his accomplices. Director Henri Verneuil collaborated with Gabin and Delon on another earlier heist picture ANY NUMBER CAN WIN (MELODIE EN SOUS-SOL) in 1963. Ennio Morricone provides another memorable score. Dubbed-in-English version. NOT ON DVD

MOONTIDE¸ 1942, 20th Century Fox, 94 min. In the mythical California port of San Pablo (standing-in for San Pedro), hard-drinking longshoreman Bobo (Jean Gabin) becomes convinced by blackmailing comrade Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) that he has killed a man in an alcoholic black-out. Despairing Bobo simultaneously falls-in-love when he saves suicidal waitress Anna (Ida Lupino) from trying to drown herself. Gabin and Lupino are electric together, generating transcendental romantic chemistry, and Claude Rains as a barroom philosopher prefigures his chivalrous Frenchman in CASABLANCA.This was one of two films that Gabin made in America. Director Archie Mayo took over when original director Fritz Lang quit a few days into production. Charles G. Clarke’s luminous black-and-white cinematography was Oscar-nominated. Original English language version. Booksigning preceding the screening at 6:30 PM with Charles Zigman, author of The World's Coolest Movie Star: The
Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin Vol. 1 & 2.

Sunday, September 7 - 7:30 PM
Jean Gabin Double Feature:
HOUSE ON THE WATERFRONT (PORT DU DÉSIR), 1955, 94 min. Dir. Edmund T. Gréville (PRINCESS TAM-TAM). Jean Gabin is a disillusioned tugboat captain with a wayward daughter. He becomes embroiled in a plot to cover up a murder when tough young diver Henri Vidal is bribed by a gangster (Jean-Roger Caussimon) to retrieve a dead woman’s body from his sunken ship that is about to be salvaged. Co-starring Andrée Debar, Edith Georges. In French with English subtitles. NOT ON DVD

GRISBI (TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI), 1954, Rialto Pictutres, 88 min. Dir. Jacques Becker (CASQUE D’OR, LE TROU) Aging gangster Jean Gabin is sitting on a fortune in gold from a perfect heist - but sleazeball Lino Ventura decides he wants in on the action, with the help of a double-crossing chorus girl, Jeanne Moreau. This exquisite noir was passed over by the Cannes Film Festival because "it gave the wrong idea of French cinema" - it went on to become a huge hit and inspired a wave of crack crime films like BOB LE FLAMBEUR and RIFIFI. Booksigning preceding the screening at 6:30 PM with Charles Zigman, author of The World's Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin Vol. 1 & 2

Also: If you're not already a member of the American Cinematheque, please consider it. Not only is a membership tax deductible, but you get to see great movies where they're supposed to be -- on the big screen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Eastbound and Down: Jean Gabin Played a Trucker in Two Movies!

When you think about the great French movie star Jean Gabin, you think about the tragic drifter characters he used to play when he was La Bete humaine, or the smooth, white-haired patriarchs and gentleman-gangsters he often played when young, in movies like Quai des brumes, Le jour se leve, and La bete humaine, and he was older (in movies like Touchez pas au grisbi).

But did you know that Jean Gabin played a steely TRUCKER in two movies that were made in 1955 and 1956? If you're American, you don't, because neither of these two great movies were ever released in the United States, but if you're French, you know both of the films very well.

In 1956's Gas-Oil, Gabin plays trucker Jean Chape. When he accidentally runs over a man who's already dead, it turns out that the corpse was actually worth millions, and that a team of surly gangsters think, erroneously, that Chape has stolen the money off of the body. So they're after him. It's a really great movie, and it's the second and final time in which Gabin would appear opposite Jeanne Moreau, who appeared with him, the year before, in director Jacques Becker's Touches pas au grisbi. (In Grisbi, Moreau has a supporting role, but she's the female lead in Gas-Oil.)

In 1956's Des gens sans importance, Gabin is another fifty year old trucker; this time, we get a very smart movie about ageism, in which trucker Gabin falls in love with a woman thirty years his junior -- much to the detriment of his long (and unhappy) marriage. Henri Verneuil directed this great movie, which features a sublime harmonica score by Jean Weiner.

Maybe one of these days The Criterion Collection (or somebody!) will subtitle these two seminal Gabin works into English and releae them on DVD as a Trucker Gabin double feature. Until the day that happens, I'll continue to report to you, when I can, on other great Jean Gabin movies which were never subtitled into English, nor released in the United States.

Read about all of Jean Gabin's 95 movies in my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO, which may be ordered from

Saturday, August 2, 2008


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Jean Gabin exhibits sartorial splendor, in "Touchez pas au grisbi" (1954)

If you happen to live in New York City, and you love French crime movies -- and Jean Gabin movies -- then the place for you to be this summer is Film Forum, @ 209 W. Houston St., NYC.

Between August and September, Film Forum is presenting thirty-eight French crime movies, three of which star Jean Gabin!

The Jean Gabin titles which Film Forum will be screening are TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (August 17 and 18), THE SICILIAN CLAN (August 28), and the enduring classic PEPE LE MOKO (September 3 and 4). SICILIAN CLAN, in particular, is being presented in a brand new, color/Cinemascope 35mm print!

As part of the same series, Film Forum will also be screening some great "non-Gabin" crime films, such as "Le Doulos," "Coup de torchon," "Bob le flambeur," "Police Python .357," "Les Tontons flingueurs," "Classe tous risques," "La Piscine," "Plein Soleil," and the list goes on an on! Some of the great stars who appear in the films are: Yves Montand, Alain Delon, Philippe Noiret, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Servais, and Jean Gabin's real-life good friend, Lino Ventura.

Here is the complete schedule for this event:

If you're a Los Angeles-area Jean Gabin fan, and you want to see The World's Coolest Movie Star on the big screen in four (4) movies, you don't have to feel neglected: Pay attention to this blogsite, because I've got some exciting news for you, coming up over the next couple of weeks. The only hint I'll give at this point, is: Don't make any plans for the evenings of Saturday September 6th and Sunday September 7th...

It's been awhile since I put in a plug for my new, two-volume book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, so don't forget to order your copy now! Head over to for details.