Simon, Michel

(1895-1975)
   Actor. Born François Michel Simon in Geneva, Michel Simon got his start as a stage actor in the renowned Pitoëff theater troupe in Geneva. He came to France in the 1920s to start a film career and appeared in a number of silent films, including Jacque Catelain's La Galerie des monstres (1924), Jean Choux's La Vocation d'André Carel (1925), Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928), and Jean Renoir's Tire-au-flanc (1928). Simon was not really appreciated, however, until the sound era. He was one of the most popular and arguably most gifted actors to appear on the screen, and he appeared in more than one hundred films over the course of his career.
   The 1930s and 1940s marked the peak of Simon's career. He reprised a part he had played on the stage in Choux's Jean de la lune (1931) and had a number of excellent roles early in the 1930s, including lead roles in Renoir's La Chienne (1931), On purge bébé (1931), and Boudou sauvé des eaux (1932), Marc Allegret's Lac aux dames (1934), Marcel L'Herbier's Le Bonheur (1934), and Jean Vigo's L'Atalante (1934). These roles established him as a formidable actor with a broad range, able to perform comedy, drama, and everything in between. Simon also appeared in several less artistic, broadly popular films, including Henri Diamant-Berger 's Miquette et sa mère (1933), which demonstrated a willingness as well as an ability to perform in all sorts of films. Simon went on to appear in Allegret's Sous les yeux d'occident (1935), Raymond Bernard's Amants et voleurs (1935), Alexandre Ryder's Mirages (1937), Marcel Carné's Drôle de drame (1937) and Le Quai de brumes (1938), Sacha Guitry's Faisons un rêve (1937), Pierre Billon's La Bataille silencieuse (1937) and Vautrin (1944), Jean Boyer's La Chaleur du sein (1938) and Circonstances attenuantes (1939), Christian-Jacque's Les Disparus de Saint-Agil (1938), Georges Lacombe and Yves Mirande's Derrière la façade (1939), Pierre Chenal's Le Dernier tournant (1939), Carl Koch and Renoir's Tosca (1941), L'Herbier's La Comédie du bonheur (1942), André Cayatte's Au bonheur des dames (1943), and Henri Decoin's Les Amants du pont Saint-Jean (1947), among other films.
   Simon continued to be a draw in the 1950s and 1960s, and he continued the trend of acting in popular films as well as in more critically appreciated cinema. Among the films in which he appeared were René Clair's La Beauté du diable (1951), Guitry's La Poison (1951) and La Vie d'un hônnete homme (1953), Henri Verneui's Brelan d'as (1952), Billon's La Marchand de Venise (1953), Pierre Foucard and André Hunébelle's Mémoires d'un flic (1956), René Jolivet's Un certain Monsieur Jo (1958), Abel Gance's Austerlitz (1960) and Cyrano et d'Artagnan (1963), Norbert Carbonneaux's Candide ou l'optimisme auXXe siècle (1961), Julien Duvivier's Le Diable et les dix commandements (1962), and Claude Berri's Le Vieil homme et l'enfant (1967).
   Simon appeared in only a handful of films in the 1970s, including Gérard Brach's La Maison (1970), Walerian Borowczyk's Blanche (1971), and Jean-Pierre Mocky's L'Ibis rouge (1975), which was his last film. Simon remains an icon of the cinema, and it is for his work with Renoir, Vigo, and Carné that he is best remembered.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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