Louis de Funès

Louis de Funès
Born Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza
(1914-07-31)31 July 1914
Courbevoie, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Died 27 January 1983(1983-01-27) (aged 68)
Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, France
Cause of death stroke
Nationality French
Other names Fufu
Years active 1945–1982
Height 5 ft 4 1⁄2 in (1.64 m)
Spouse(s) Germaine Louise Élodie Carroyer (19361942)
Jeanne Augustine Barthélemy (19431983)
Awards Grand prix du rire, 1957, Comme un cheveu sur la soupe
Victoire du cinéma, 1965
Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, 1973
César d’honneur, 1980

Louis de Funès (French pronunciation: [lwi də fy.nɛs];[1] 31 July 1914 27 January 1983), born Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza, was a popular French actor of Spanish origin and one of the giants of French comedy alongside André Bourvil and Fernandel. His acting style is remembered for its high energy performance, wide range of facial expressions and engaging, snappy impatience and selfishness. A big part of his most famous work was in collaboration with director Jean Girault, and together, they wrote and directed the French classic L'avare (1980) in which he also starred.

He was a household name in several countries of Europe (Greece, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Albania, Romania, USSR, Iran and Yugoslavia in particular) for many years, yet remained almost unknown in the English-speaking world. He was seen only once in the United States in 1974 with the release of The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob, which was nominated for a Golden Globe. According to a 1968 poll, he was France's favourite actor having played over 130 roles in film and over 100 on stage.[2]


Louis de Funès was born on 31 July 1914 in Courbevoie, Hauts-de-Seine to parents from Seville, Spain. Since the couple's families opposed their marriage, they settled in France in 1904. His father, Carlos Luis de Funès de Galarza, a nobleman and his mother side from family marquesses de Galarza, had been a lawyer in Spain, but became a diamond cutter upon arriving in France. His mother, Leonor Soto Reguera, was of Galician extraction, daughter of a prominent politician from Galicia, senator Teolindo Soto Barro.

Known to friends and intimates as "Fufu", de Funès spoke French, Spanish and English well. During his youth, he was fond of drawing and piano playing. He was an alumnus of the lycée Condorcet in Paris, a distinction he shared with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Valéry, Paul Verlaine, Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Serge Gainsbourg, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, amongst others. He later dropped out, and was not successful in his early life; as a youth and young adult, de Funès held modest jobs, from which he was repeatedly fired. He became a pianist, working mostly as a jazz pianist in Pigalle, Paris, where he made his customers laugh each time he made a grimace. He studied acting for one year at the Simon acting school, where he made some useful contacts, including Daniel Gélin, among others. In 1936, he married Germaine Louise Elodie Carroyer, with whom he had one child: a son named Daniel; the couple were divorced in late 1942.

During the occupation of Paris in the Second World War, he continued his piano studies at a music school, where he fell in love with a secretary, Jeanne Barthelémy de Maupassant, a grandniece of the author Guy de Maupassant. She had fallen in love with "the young man who played jazz like god"; they married in 1943 and remained together for forty years, until de Funès' death in 1983. They had two sons: Patrick (born on 27 January 1944), who became a doctor; and Olivier (born on 11 August 1949), who became a pilot for Air France Europe and also followed his father in the acting profession. He became known for the roles he played in some of his father's films (Les Grandes Vacances, Fantômas se déchaine, Le Grand Restaurant, and Hibernatus are the most famous).

Through the early 1940s, de Funès continued playing piano in clubs, thinking there was not much call for a short, balding, skinny actor. His wife and Daniel Gélin encouraged him until he managed to overcome his fear of rejection. His wife supported him in the most difficult moments, and helped him to manage his career efficiently.

Theatrical career

Louis de Funès began his show business career in the theatre, where he enjoyed moderate success and also played small roles in films. Even after he attained the status of a movie star, he continued to play theatre roles. His stage career culminated in a magnificent performance in the play Oscar, a role which he would reprise a few years later in the film adaptation.

Film career

Louis de Funès during the shooting of Le gendarme et les extra-terrestres
Wax statue at Musée Grévin, Paris.

In 1945, thanks to his contact with Daniel Gélin, de Funès made his film debut at the age of 31 with a bit part in Jean Stelli's La Tentation de Barbizon.[3] He appears on screen for less than 40 seconds in the role of the porter of the cabaret Le Paradis, welcoming the character played by Jérôme Chambon in the entrance hall and pointing him to the double doors leading to the main room, saying: "C'est par ici, Monsieur" ("This way please, Sir"). Chambon declines the invitation, pushing the door himself instead of pulling it open. De Funès then says: "Ben, il a son compte celui-là, aujourd'hui!" ("Well that one's had enough, today!").[4]

He went on to perform in 130 film roles over the next 20 years, playing minor roles in over 80 films before being offered his first leading roles. During this period, de Funès developed a daily routine of professional activities: in the morning he did dubbing for recognized artists such as Totò, an Italian comic of the time; during the afternoon he worked in film; and in the evening, he performed as a theatre actor.

From 1945 to 1955, he appeared in 50 films, usually as an extra or walk-on. In 1954, he went on to star in such films as Ah! Les belles bacchantes and Le Mouton à cinq pattes. A break came in 1956, when he appeared as the black-market pork butcher Jambier (another small role) in Claude Autant-Lara's well-known World War II comedy, La Traversée de Paris. He achieved stardom in 1963 with Jean Girault's film, Pouic-Pouic. This successful film guaranteed de Funès top billing in all of his subsequent films. At the age of 49, de Funès unexpectedly became a major star of international renown with the success of Le gendarme de Saint-Tropez. After their first successful collaboration, director Jean Girault perceived de Funès as the ideal actor to play the part of the accident prone gendarme; the first film therefore lead to a series of six.

Another collaboration with director Gérard Oury produced a memorable tandem of de Funès with Bourvilanother great comic actorin the 1964 film, Le Corniaud. The success of the de Funès-Bourvil partnership was repeated two years later in La Grande Vadrouille, one of the most successful and the largest grossing film ever made in France, drawing an audience of 17.27 million. It remains his greatest success.[5] Oury envisaged a further reunion of the two comics in his film La Folie des grandeurs, but Bourvil's death in 1970 led to the unlikely pairing of de Funès with Yves Montand in that film.

Eventually he became France's leading comic actor. Between 1964 and 1979, he topped France's box-office of the year's most successful movies seven times.

He co-starred with many of the major French actors of his time, including Jean Marais and Mylène Demongeot in the Fantomas trilogy, and also Jean Gabin, Fernandel, Coluche, Annie Girardot, and Yves Montand. He also worked with Jean Girault in the famous 'Gendarmes' series. In a departure from the Gendarme image, de Funès collaborated with Claude Zidi, who wrote for him a new character full of nuances and frankness in L'aile ou la cuisse (1976), which is arguably the best of his roles. Later, de Funès' considerable musical abilities were showcased in films such as Le Corniaud and Le Grand Restaurant. In 1964, he debuted in the first of the Fantômas series, which launched him into superstardom.

In 1975, Oury turned again to de Funès for a film entitled Le Crocodile, in which he was to play the role of a South American dictator. But in March 1975, de Funès was hospitalized for heart problems and forced to take a rest from acting, causing Le Crocodile to be cancelled. After his recovery, he appeared opposite another comic genius, Coluche, in L'Aile ou la cuisse. In 1980, de Funès realised a long-standing dream to make a film version of Molière's play, L'Avare.

Louis de Funès made his final film, Le Gendarme et les gendarmettes in 1982.


Unlike the characters he played, de Funès was said to be a very shy person in real life. Capable of an extremely rich and rapidly changing range of facial expressiveness, de Funès was nicknamed "the man with forty faces per minute". In many of his films, he played the role of a humorously excitable, cranky, middle-aged or mature man with a propensity to hyperactivity, bad faith, and uncontrolled fits of anger. Along with his short height (he measured 1.64 m (5 ft 4 12 in)) and his facial contortions, this hyperactivity produced a highly comic effect. This was particularly visible when he was paired with Bourvil, who was always given roles of calm, slightly naive, good-humoured man. In de Funès' successful lead role in a cinematic version of Molière's The Miser (L'Avare), these characteristics are greatly muted, percolating just beneath the surface.

Later years and death

In the later part of his life, de Funès achieved great prosperity and success. He became a knight of France's Légion d'honneur in 1973. He resided in the Château de Clermont, a 17th-century castle located in the commune of Le Cellier, which is situated 27 kilometers (17 mi) from Nantes in the West of France. This castle, overlooking the Loire River, was inherited by his wife, whose aunt had married a descendant of Maupassant. De Funès was an aficionado of roses. He planted a rose garden on the château grounds and a variety of rose has been named for him (the Louis de Funès rose). A monument honoring him was erected in the rose garden of his wife's castle.

The tomb of Louis de Funès

In his later years, he suffered from a heart condition after having suffered a heart attack caused by straining himself too much with his stage antics. Louis de Funès died of a massive stroke on 27 January 1983, a few months after making his final film. He was laid to rest in the Cimetière du Cellier, the cemetery situated in the grounds of the château.

De Funès' legacy

Louis de Funès was portrayed on a postage stamp issued on 3 October 1998 by the French post office. He was portrayed as a gambler in the "The One-Armed Bandit" issue of the cult comic book series Lucky Luke. The character "Skinner" in Ratatouille (2007) was loosely based on him. In 2013, a museum dedicated to de Funès was created in Château de Clermont.


Year Title Role Director
1945 La Tentation de Barbizon a man who opens a door (uncredited) Jean Stelli
1946 Six heures à perdre the driver Alex Joffé and Jean Lévitte
Dernier refuge the driver Alex Joffé
1947 Antoine et Antoinette uncredited Jacques Becker
Croisière pour l'inconnu uncredited Pierre Montazel
1948 Du Guesclin the astrologist Bernard de Latour
1949 Vient de paraître uncredited Jacques Houssin
Mon ami Sainfoin the guide Paul-Adrien Schaye
Mission à Tanger uncredited André Hunebelle
Millionnaires d'un jour Philippe's solicitor
Au revoir M. Grock a spectator Pierre Billon
Rendez-vous avec la chance the waiter Emil-Edwin Reinert
Pas de week-end pour notre amour the baron's butler Pierre Montazel
Un certain monsieur Thomas Boudeboeuf Yves Ciampi
Je n'aime que toi the orchestra's pianist Pierre Montazel
Le jugement de Dieu an employee Raymond Bernard
La rue sans loi Hippolyte Marcel Gibaud
1950 Adémaï au poteau-frontière uncredited Paul Colline
1951 Dr. Knock uncredited Guy Lefranc
Les joueurs Piotr Petrovitch Spotniev Claude Barma
Un amour de parapluie uncredited Jean Laviron
Bibi Fricotin uncredited Marcel Blistène
Boniface somnambule Anatole Maurice Labro
Boîte à vendre ? Claude André Lalande
Without Leaving an Address a father-to-be in the hospital Jean-Paul Le Chanois
La rose rouge Manito Marcello Pagliero
Champions Juniors ? Pierre Blondy
Le roi du bla bla bla Gino Maurice Labro
The Passerby the lockmaster Henri Calef
La poison André Chevillard Sacha Guitry
Pas de vacances pour Monsieur le Maire the adviser Maurice Labro
Le Dindon the manager Claude Barma
L'amant de paille Bruno Gilles Grangier
Folie douce ? Jean-Paul Paulin
Ma femme est formidable a skier André Hunebelle
Le Voyage en Amérique un employee of Air France Henri Lavorel
1952 Ils étaient cinq Albert Jack Pinoteau
Les Dents longues an employee Daniel Gélin
Agence matrimoniale Charles Jean-Paul Le Chanois
La Fugue de Monsieur Perle a madman Pierre Gaspard-Huit
Innocents in Paris Célestin Gordon Parry
She and Me the waiter Guy Lefranc
Je l'ai été trois fois the sultan's interpreter Sacha Guitry
Monsieur Taxi uncredited André Hunebelle
Monsieur Leguignon Lampiste uncredited Maurice Labro
Le Huitième Art et la Manière the husband Maurice Regamey
Moineaux de Paris the doctor Maurice Cloche
Love Is Not a Sin Monsieur Cottin Claude Cariven
La Putain respectueuse the night club visitor Charles Brabant
Les loups chassent la nuit the waiter Bernard Borderie
1953 Les Compagnes de la nuit the client Ralph Habib
La Vie d'un honnête homme Émile Sacha Guitry
Le rire as himself Maurice Regamey
L'Étrange Désir de monsieur Bard Monsieur Chanteau Géza von Radványi
Dortoir des grandes Monsieur Triboudot Henri Decoin
Au diable la vertu Monsieur Lorette Jean Laviron
Légère et court vêtue Paul Duvernois
Capitaine Pantoufle Monsieur Rachoux Guy Lefranc
Le Secret d'Hélène Marimon the gardener Henri Calef
Faites-moi confiance Tumlatum Gilles Grangier
Mon frangin du Sénégal the doctor Guy Lacourt
1954 Poisson d'avril the fishery warden Gilles Grangier
Ah! Les belles bacchantes Michel Lebœuf Jean Loubignac
Le Blé en herbe the carney Claude Autant-Lara
Le Chevalier de la nuit Adrien Péréduray Robert Darène
Les corsaires du Bois de Boulogne uncredited Norbert Carbonnaux
Escalier de service Cesare Grimaldi Carlo Rim
Les hommes ne pensent qu'à ça Monsieur Célosso Yves Robert
Huis clos uncredited Jacqueline Audry
Les Intrigantes Monsieur Marcange Henri Decoin
Mam'zelle Nitouche the field marshal Yves Allégret
The Sheep Has Five Legs Pilate Henri Verneuil
Papa, maman, la bonne et moi Monsieur Calomel Jean-Paul Le Chanois
Les pépées font la loi Jeannot la Bonne Affaire Raoul André
La Reine Margot René Bianchi (uncredited) Jean Dréville
Scènes de ménage Monsieur Boulingrin André Berthomieu
Tourments Eddy Gorlier Jacques Daniel-Norman
1955 Napoléon uncredited Sacha Guitry
Ingrid - Die Geschichte eines Fotomodells D'Arrigio Géza von Radványi
Les Impures the conductor Pierre Chevalier
L'impossible Monsieur Pipelet Uncle Robert André Hunebelle
Les Hussards Luigi Alex Joffé
La Bande à papa Victor Eugène Merlerin Guy Lefranc
Bonjour sourire Monsieur Bonoeil Claude Sautet
Si Paris nous était conté Antoine Allègre Sacha Guitry
Frou-Frou Colonel Cousinet-Duval Augusto Genina
Mädchen ohne Grenzen uncredited Géza von Radványi
1956 La Traversée de Paris Jambier Claude Autant-Lara
Papa, maman, ma femme et moi Monsieur Calomel Jean-Paul Le Chanois
Bébés à gogo Monsieur Célestin Ratier Paul Mesnier
La Loi des rues Paulo Ralph Habib
Courte tête father Graziani Norbert Carbonnaux
1957 Comme un cheveu sur la soupe Pierre Cousin Maurice Regamey
1958 Taxi, Roulotte et Corrida Maurice Berger André Hunebelle
Neither Seen Nor Recognized Léon Blaireau Yves Robert
La Vie à deux stéphane Clément Duhour
1959 I Tartassati Hector "Ettore" Curto Stefano Vanzina
Totò, Eva e il pennello proibito Francisco Montiel
Certains l'aiment froide Ange Galopin Jean Bastia
Mon pote le gitan Monsieur Védrines François Gir
1960 Dans l'eau qui fait des bulles Paul Ernzer Maurice Delbez
Captain Fracasse Scapin Pierre Gaspard-Huit
Les Tortillards Emile Durand Jean Bastia
Candide ou l'optimisme au XXe siècle Gestapo officer Norbert Carbonnaux
1961 Le Crime ne paie pas a barkeeper Gérard Oury
La Belle Américaine Viralot Robert Dhéry
1962 Les Sept péchés capitaux ? (several)
La Vendetta Valentino Amoretti Jean Chérasse
Un clair de lune à Maubeuge uncredited Jean Chérasse
Le Gentleman d'Epsom Gaspard Ripeux Gilles Grangier
Les Veinards Antoine Beaurepaire Philippe de Broca and Jean Girault
We Will Go to Deauville Ludovic Lambersac Francis Rigaud
Le Diable et les Dix Commandements Antoine Vaillant Julien Duvivier
1963 Des pissenlits par la racine Jack Georges Lautner
Pouic-Pouic Léonard Monestier Jean Girault
Carambolages Norbert Charolais Marcel Bluwal
Faites sauter la banque! Victor Garnier Jean Girault
1964 Une souris chez les hommes Marcel Ravelais Jacques Poitrenaud
Le gendarme de Saint-Tropez Ludovic Cruchot Jean Girault
Fantômas Commissioner Juve André Hunebelle
1965 Le Corniaud Léopold Saroyan Gérard Oury
Les Bons Vivants Léon Haudepin Gilles Grangier and Georges Lautner
Le gendarme à New York Ludovic Cruchot Jean Girault
Fantômas se déchaîne Commissioner Juve André Hunebelle
1966 Le Grand Restaurant Monsieur Septime Jacques Besnard
La Grande Vadrouille Stanislas Lefort Gérard Oury
Fantômas contre Scotland Yard Commissioner Juve André Hunebelle
1967 Les grandes vacances Charles Bosquier Jean Girault
Oscar Bertrand Barnier Édouard Molinaro
1968 Le Petit Baigneur Louis-Philippe Fourchaume Robert Dhéry
Le tatoué Félicien Mézeray Denys de La Patellière
Le gendarme se marie Ludovic Cruchot Jean Girault
1969 Hibernatus Hubert Barrère de Tartas Édouard Molinaro
1970 L'homme orchestre Monsieur Edouard Serge Korber
Le gendarme en balade Ludovic Cruchot Jean Girault
1971 Sur un arbre perché Henri Roubier Serge Korber
Jo Antoine Brisebard Jean Girault
La folie des grandeurs Don Salluste de Bazan Gérard Oury
1973 Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob Victor Pivert
1976 L'aile ou la cuisse Charles Duchemin Claude Zidi
1978 La Zizanie Guillaume Daubray-Lacaze
1979 Le gendarme et les extra-terrestres Ludovic Cruchot Jean Girault
1980 L'avare Harpagon Louis de Funès and Jean Girault
1981 La Soupe aux choux Claude Ratinier Jean Girault
1982 Le gendarme et les gendarmettes Ludovic Cruchot


  1. http://www.forvo.com/word/louis_de_fun%C3%A8s/
  2. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000086/bio
  3. Louis de Funès called Stelli Ma Chance ("My Luck") whenever they were together (Louis de Funès : Jusqu’au bout du rire, p. 43.).
  4. "La Tentation de Barbizon". Le cinema de Louis. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  5. Mémoires d'éléphant (Paris 1988), p. 250.
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