Best French Actor in a Leading Role 1940-1949

The seven best performances by year (1940-1949), French and foreign players playing in films produced mainly in France.
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1.
Claude Dauphin
Actor, The Tenant
In 1930, Claude, who was a stage-struck set designer at the Oden Theater, a repertory house in Paris, learned an ailing actor's part in two hours and took it over without a rehearsal. Tristan Bernard, the famous French playwright and producer took notice of this feat. He engaged Dauphin for the leading role of his next play "La fortune" was was also made into a film the next year...
“ 1940 Battement de cœur de Henri Decoin ” - guillaume836076
 
2.
Fernandel
The apocryphal biography of Fernand Contadin tells the invention of his artistic name Fernandel by his sister-in-law ("Voici le Fernand d'elles"). At the beginning of the thirties he became a typical actor of the comedy genre: popular, common, likable and with a concealed grain of drama. Marc Allégret was the director of his first successful film La meilleure bobonne...
“ 1940 La Fille du puisatier de Marcel Pagnol
Best French Actor 1940 ” - guillaume836076
 
3.
“ 1940 L'entraîneuse d'Albert Valentin ” - guillaume836076
 
4.
Fernand Gravey
One of director Alfred Machin's favorite actresses was Fernande Dépernay of the Théâtre des Galeries. Dépernay was married to Georges Mertens, another of Machin's regular actors. Their son, Fernand Mertens, born in 1904. He made his acting debut in 'Saïda Makes Off with Manneken Pis' and in 1914 played the role of little Kef in 'A Tragedy in the Clouds' alongside his parents...
“ 1940 Paradis perdus d'Abel Gance ” - guillaume836076
 
5.
Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet was a living glory of the French theatre where he debuted in 1910. In his life he has worked as pharmacist, manager of a theatre, actor and theatre teacher. He debuted at the movies in 1932 and his best films were of the Golden Age of French cinema called the "poetical realism", e.g. "Hotel du Nord (1938)" or "La fin du jour"...
“ 1940 La Charrette fantôme de Julien Duvivier ” - guillaume836076
 
6.
“ 1940 Les Musiciens du ciel de Georges Lacombe ” - guillaume836076
 
7.
Raimu
Orson Welles once called beloved, down-to-earth French character star Raimu (born Jules Auguste Cesar Muraire) "the greatest actor who ever lived." It is hard to argue the compliment of one genius to another. Raimu was born in Toulon, France on December 17, 1883 of very humble means. He began his career at age 16 as a music hall extra by imitating famous French comic idols...
“ 1940 La Fille du puisatier de Marcel Pagnol ” - guillaume836076
 
8.
“ 1941 Moulin Rouge d'André Hugon ” - guillaume836076
 
9.
“ 1941 Volpone de Maurice Tourneur ” - guillaume836076
 
10.
“ 1941 L'empreinte du Dieu de Léonide Moguy ” - guillaume836076
 
11.
“ 1941 Le Dernier des six de Georges Lacombe ” - guillaume836076
 
12.
Jean Gabin
Jean-Alexis Moncorge started his career with 15 years at the theatre and debuted at the "Moulin Rouge" in Paris in 1929. Despite of his rude aspect he knew to be the gentleman of the French cinema in the time between the two World Wars. One of his most popular personalities was inspector Maigret. But he was also able to play all other kind of people: aristocrats...
“ 1941 Remorques de Jean Grémillon ” - guillaume836076
 
13.
Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet was a living glory of the French theatre where he debuted in 1910. In his life he has worked as pharmacist, manager of a theatre, actor and theatre teacher. He debuted at the movies in 1932 and his best films were of the Golden Age of French cinema called the "poetical realism", e.g. "Hotel du Nord (1938)" or "La fin du jour"...
“ 1941 Volpone de Maurice Tourneur
Best French Actor 1941 ” - guillaume836076
 
14.
“ 1941 Le Diamant noir de Jean Delannoy ” - guillaume836076
 
15.
Jean-Louis Barrault
Celebrated French stage actor/director/producer Jean-Louis Barrault was born on September 8, 1910. A superlative tragedian and mime, his dedication to both avant-garde and classical plays helped revive the French theatre after World War II, while presenting world premières of works by such playwrights as Samuel Beckett...
“ 1942 La Symphonie fantastique de Christian-Jaque ” - guillaume836076
 
16.
“ 1942 Les Visiteurs du soir de Marcel Carné ” - guillaume836076
 
17.
“ 1942 Pontcarral, colonel d'empire de Jean Delannoy ” - guillaume836076
 
18.
“ 1942 L'assassin habite au 21 de Henri-Georges Clouzot ” - guillaume836076
 
19.
Fernand Gravey
One of director Alfred Machin's favorite actresses was Fernande Dépernay of the Théâtre des Galeries. Dépernay was married to Georges Mertens, another of Machin's regular actors. Their son, Fernand Mertens, born in 1904. He made his acting debut in 'Saïda Makes Off with Manneken Pis' and in 1914 played the role of little Kef in 'A Tragedy in the Clouds' alongside his parents...
“ 1942 La Nuit fantastique de Marcel L'herbier ” - guillaume836076
 
20.
Raimu
Orson Welles once called beloved, down-to-earth French character star Raimu (born Jules Auguste Cesar Muraire) "the greatest actor who ever lived." It is hard to argue the compliment of one genius to another. Raimu was born in Toulon, France on December 17, 1883 of very humble means. He began his career at age 16 as a music hall extra by imitating famous French comic idols...
“ 1942 Les Inconnus dans la maison de Henri Decoin
Best French Actor 1942 ” - guillaume836076
 
21.
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
“ 1942 Macao, l'enfer du jeu de Jean Delannoy ” - guillaume836076
 
22.
“ 1943 Lumière d'été de Jean Grémillon ” - guillaume836076
 
23.
“ 1943 Le Corbeau de Henri-Georges Clouzot
Best French Actor 1943 ” - guillaume836076
 
24.
Gabriel Gabrio
The youngest of no less than sixteen children, Gabriel Gabrio was born in Reims in 1887. His father worked for the Pommeray Champagne cellars but his son was soon more attracted to the theater than to the bubbles of the famous French sparkling white wine. Puppet theater was his first passion. He was only seven...
“ 1943 Le Val d'enfer de Maurice Tourneur ” - guillaume836076
 
25.
“ 1943 Goupi mains rouges de Jacques Becker ” - guillaume836076
 
26.
Jean Marais
Jean Marais was a popular French cinema actor and director who played over 100 roles in film and on television, and was also known for his many talents as a writer, painter and sculptor. He was born Jean Alfred Villain-Marais on December 11, 1913, in Cherbourg, France. His father practiced veterinarian medicine...
“ 1943 L'éternel retour de Jean Delannoy ” - guillaume836076
 
27.
Raimu
Orson Welles once called beloved, down-to-earth French character star Raimu (born Jules Auguste Cesar Muraire) "the greatest actor who ever lived." It is hard to argue the compliment of one genius to another. Raimu was born in Toulon, France on December 17, 1883 of very humble means. He began his career at age 16 as a music hall extra by imitating famous French comic idols...
“ 1943 Le Colonel Chabert de René Le Hénaff ” - guillaume836076
 
28.
“ 1943 Le Comte de Monte-Cristo de Robert Vernay ” - guillaume836076
 
29.
“ 1944 Le Bossu de Jean Delannoy ” - guillaume836076
 
30.
“ 1944 Le Carrefour des enfants perdus de Léo Joannon ” - guillaume836076
 
31.
Fernand Gravey
One of director Alfred Machin's favorite actresses was Fernande Dépernay of the Théâtre des Galeries. Dépernay was married to Georges Mertens, another of Machin's regular actors. Their son, Fernand Mertens, born in 1904. He made his acting debut in 'Saïda Makes Off with Manneken Pis' and in 1914 played the role of little Kef in 'A Tragedy in the Clouds' alongside his parents...
“ 1944 La Rabouilleuse de Fernand Rivers ” - guillaume836076
 
32.
André Lefaur
André Lefaur is undeniably part of the pantheon of French actors. One of those "eccentrics of the French Cinema" as Raymond Chirat and Olivier Barrot quite rightly dubbed them. One of these wonderful personalities of the stage and screen who alongside Michel Simon, Louis Jouvet, Saturnin Fabre, Raimu and several others have such a strong personality...
“ 1944 Les Petites du Quai aux Fleurs de Marc Allégret ” - guillaume836076
 
33.
“ 1944 La Vie de plaisir d'Albert Valentin ” - guillaume836076
 
34.
“ 1944 L'aventure est au coin de la rue de Jacques-Daniel Norman ” - guillaume836076
 
35.
“ 1944 Le Ciel est à vous de Jean Grémillon
Best French Actor 1944 ” - guillaume836076
 
36.
Jean-Louis Barrault
Celebrated French stage actor/director/producer Jean-Louis Barrault was born on September 8, 1910. A superlative tragedian and mime, his dedication to both avant-garde and classical plays helped revive the French theatre after World War II, while presenting world premières of works by such playwrights as Samuel Beckett...
“ 1945 Les Enfants du paradis de Marcel Carné
Best French Actor 1945 ” - guillaume836076
 
37.
“ 1945 Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne de Robert Bresson ” - guillaume836076
 
38.
“ 1945 Les Enfants du paradis de Marcel Carné ” - guillaume836076
 
39.
Claude Dauphin
Actor, The Tenant
In 1930, Claude, who was a stage-struck set designer at the Oden Theater, a repertory house in Paris, learned an ailing actor's part in two hours and took it over without a rehearsal. Tristan Bernard, the famous French playwright and producer took notice of this feat. He engaged Dauphin for the leading role of his next play "La fortune" was was also made into a film the next year...
“ 1945 Félicie Nanteuil de Marc Allégret ” - guillaume836076
 
40.
Fernandel
The apocryphal biography of Fernand Contadin tells the invention of his artistic name Fernandel by his sister-in-law ("Voici le Fernand d'elles"). At the beginning of the thirties he became a typical actor of the comedy genre: popular, common, likable and with a concealed grain of drama. Marc Allégret was the director of his first successful film La meilleure bobonne...
“ 1945 Naïs de Raymond Leboursier ” - guillaume836076
 
41.
“ 1945 Sortilèges de Christian-Jaque ” - guillaume836076
 
42.
Noël-Noël
Writer, The Chorus
Warmly popular French character player and screenwriter in his heyday, Noel-Noel was born Lucien Noel and developed his celebrity in music halls and the cabaret venue, where he created his Ademai comic character, a blundering French soldier. He eventually took this character successfully to film in...
“ 1945 La Cage aux rossignols de Jean Dréville ” - guillaume836076
 
43.
Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet was a living glory of the French theatre where he debuted in 1910. In his life he has worked as pharmacist, manager of a theatre, actor and theatre teacher. He debuted at the movies in 1932 and his best films were of the Golden Age of French cinema called the "poetical realism", e.g. "Hotel du Nord (1938)" or "La fin du jour"...
“ 1946 Un revenant de Christian-Jaque ” - guillaume836076
 
44.
“ 1946 La Fille du Diable de Henri Decoin ” - guillaume836076
 
45.
Jean Marais
Jean Marais was a popular French cinema actor and director who played over 100 roles in film and on television, and was also known for his many talents as a writer, painter and sculptor. He was born Jean Alfred Villain-Marais on December 11, 1913, in Cherbourg, France. His father practiced veterinarian medicine...
“ 1946 La Belle et la bête de Jean Cocteau
Best French Actor 1946 ” - guillaume836076
 
46.
Noël-Noël
Writer, The Chorus
Warmly popular French character player and screenwriter in his heyday, Noel-Noel was born Lucien Noel and developed his celebrity in music halls and the cabaret venue, where he created his Ademai comic character, a blundering French soldier. He eventually took this character successfully to film in...
“ 1946 Le Père tranquille de René Clément ” - guillaume836076
 
47.
François Périer
Francois Perier was one of France's most prolific character leads. Born in Paris, his father managed a wine shop. At age 14, he wrote to legendary actor Louis Jouvet who subsequently helped him enter the Cours Simon and Le Conservatoire dramatic institutions. A stage star by 1938, he then apprenticed in bit film parts...
“ 1946 La Tentation de Barbizon de Jean Stelli ” - guillaume836076
 
48.
Raimu
Orson Welles once called beloved, down-to-earth French character star Raimu (born Jules Auguste Cesar Muraire) "the greatest actor who ever lived." It is hard to argue the compliment of one genius to another. Raimu was born in Toulon, France on December 17, 1883 of very humble means. He began his career at age 16 as a music hall extra by imitating famous French comic idols...
“ 1946 L'homme au chapeau rond de Pierre Billon ” - guillaume836076
 
49.
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
“ 1946 La Foire aux chimères de Pierre Chenal ” - guillaume836076
 
50.
“ 1947 Le café du cadran de Jean Gehret ” - guillaume836076
 
51.
Maurice Chevalier
Actor, Gigi
His heavy French accent, melodic voice and Gallic charm made Maurice Chevalier the prototype of the gallant French monsieur in the American cinema of the 1930s. Before he went to Hollywood he worked as a farmer, circus acrobat, cabaret singer and, starting in 1908, a comical actor in French films, a few times even with the celebrated Max Linder...
“ 1947 Le Silence est d'or de René Clair ” - guillaume836076
 
52.
“ 1947 Monsieur Vincent de Maurice Cloche ” - guillaume836076
 
53.
Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet was a living glory of the French theatre where he debuted in 1910. In his life he has worked as pharmacist, manager of a theatre, actor and theatre teacher. He debuted at the movies in 1932 and his best films were of the Golden Age of French cinema called the "poetical realism", e.g. "Hotel du Nord (1938)" or "La fin du jour"...
“ 1947 Quai des Orfèvres de Henri-Georges Clouzot ” - guillaume836076
 
54.
François Périer
Francois Perier was one of France's most prolific character leads. Born in Paris, his father managed a wine shop. At age 14, he wrote to legendary actor Louis Jouvet who subsequently helped him enter the Cours Simon and Le Conservatoire dramatic institutions. A stage star by 1938, he then apprenticed in bit film parts...
“ 1947 Le Silence est d'or de René Clair ” - guillaume836076
 
55.
Gérard Philipe
In 1940 Gerard left school and his parents wanted him be a lawyer. But soon his mother noticed that he was only interested in acting, although his father was against the idea. After timely intervention from Mark Allégret, who decided he showed some promise, Gerard's debut was in Claude Dauphin's play "One plain girl"...
“ 1947 Le Diable au corps de Claude Autant-Lara ” - guillaume836076
 
56.
Michel Simon
Actor, L'Atalante
The son of a sausage-maker, Michel Simon was conscripted into the Swiss Army at the start of World War I, but was thrown out through a combination of tuberculosis and general insubordination. He was variously a boxer, photographer, general handyman and right-wing anarchist, finally becoming a stage actor in Geneva in 1920...
“ 1947 Panique de Julien Duvivier
Best French Actor 1947 ” - guillaume836076
 
57.
“ 1948 Dédée d'Anvers d'Yves Allégret ” - guillaume836076
 
58.
Sacha Guitry
French actor, dramatist and director, Sacha Guitry was born in 1885 in Saint-Petersburg where his father, actor Lucien Guitry, was under contract with the city's French theater. Early on, Sacha knew he was going to be an artist. Therefore, his studies were mediocre. His acting debuts were not too encouraging either...
“ 1948 Le Diable boiteux de Sacha Guitry ” - guillaume836076
 
59.
Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet was a living glory of the French theatre where he debuted in 1910. In his life he has worked as pharmacist, manager of a theatre, actor and theatre teacher. He debuted at the movies in 1932 and his best films were of the Golden Age of French cinema called the "poetical realism", e.g. "Hotel du Nord (1938)" or "La fin du jour"...
“ 1948 Les Amoureux sont seuls au monde de Henri Decoin ” - guillaume836076
 
60.
Noël-Noël
Writer, The Chorus
Warmly popular French character player and screenwriter in his heyday, Noel-Noel was born Lucien Noel and developed his celebrity in music halls and the cabaret venue, where he created his Ademai comic character, a blundering French soldier. He eventually took this character successfully to film in...
“ 1948 La Parade du temps perdus (Les Casse-pieds) de Jean Dréville ” - guillaume836076
 
61.
Gérard Philipe
In 1940 Gerard left school and his parents wanted him be a lawyer. But soon his mother noticed that he was only interested in acting, although his father was against the idea. After timely intervention from Mark Allégret, who decided he showed some promise, Gerard's debut was in Claude Dauphin's play "One plain girl"...
“ 1948 La Chartreuse de Parme de Christian-Jaque ” - guillaume836076
 
62.
“ 1948 La Vie en rose de Jean Faurez
Best French Actor 1948 ” - guillaume836076
 
63.
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
“ 1948 La Danse de mort de Marcel Cravenne ” - guillaume836076
 
64.
“ 1949 L'école buissonnière de Jean-Paul Le Chanois ” - guillaume836076
 
65.
“ 1949 Portrait d'un assassin de Bernard Roland ” - guillaume836076
 
66.
“ 1949 La ferme des sept péchés de Jean-Devaivre ” - guillaume836076
 
67.
“ 1949 Pattes blanches de Jean Grémillon ” - guillaume836076
 
68.
Gérard Philipe
In 1940 Gerard left school and his parents wanted him be a lawyer. But soon his mother noticed that he was only interested in acting, although his father was against the idea. After timely intervention from Mark Allégret, who decided he showed some promise, Gerard's debut was in Claude Dauphin's play "One plain girl"...
“ 1949 Une si jolie petite plage d'Yves Allégret
Best French Actor 1949 ” - guillaume836076
 
69.
Serge Reggiani
Actor, Le Doulos
The notably gifted, multi-talented actor, chanteur, poet and painter Serge Reggiani was born in Reggio Emilia, a town in northern Italy, in 1922. His father, a highly visible anti-fascist, fled his Mussolini-dictated homeland due to his fervent political activities and emigrated to France in order to protect his family...
“ 1949 Manon de Henri-Georges Clouzot ” - guillaume836076
 
70.
Howard Vernon
Swiss-born actor Howard Vernon (né Mario Lippert) would make his infamous claim to fame as a stock lead player for the lowgrade, campy horror features of notorious director Jesús Franco, starring as Dr. Orloff, Dracula, and other terrorizers, most of them produced in Spain or France. Born in 1914 the son of a Swiss father and American mother...
“ 1949 Le Silence de la mer de Jean-Pierre Melville ” - guillaume836076