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Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau (July 5, 1889 - October 11, 1963) was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, and filmmaker.

Born Jean Maurice Eugene Clement Cocteau, at Maisons-Laffitte, France, a small town near Paris. His versatility, unconventionality, and enormous output brought him international acclaim.

Despite his achievements in virtually all literary and artistic fields, Cocteau insisted that he was primarily a poet and that all his work was poetry. As a leading member of the surrealist movement, he had great influence on the work of others, including the group of composer friends in Montparnasse known as Les Six.

On the sunny afternoon of August 12, 1916, Pablo Picasso and his new girlfriend, the fashion model Pquerette, Max Jacob, Ortiz de Zarate, Marie Vassilieff, Henri-Pierre Roché, Moise Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani and the critic André Salmon were all sitting together outside the café La Rotonde in Montparnasse. Their friend, Cocteau, recorded for posterity this extraordinary gathering of talent in a series of 21 photographs showing such characters as a dapper Picasso dressed à l'Anglais with a flat cap, cane and briar pipe. Girlfriend, Pquerette wore a long elegant dress and a very silly hat while Max Jacob at least looked as though he was sober and respectable and the tiny Marie Vassilieff appeared the formidable little lady she was.

In 1940 Le Bel Indifferent, Cocteau's play written for and starring Edith Piaf, was enormously successful. He also worked with Picasso on several projects and was friends with most of the European art community. He struggled with opium addiction for most of his adult life and was an open homosexual. He published a considerable amount of work criticising homophobia. Cocteau's films, the bulk of which he both wrote and directed, were particularly important in introducing surrealism into French cinema.

Cocteau is best known for his 1929 novel, Les Enfants Terrible, the 1934 play The Infernal Machine, and the 1945 film, Beauty and the Beast.

In 1955 he was made a member of the Académie Française and The Royal Academy of Belgium.

During his life Jean Cocteau was commander of the Legion of Honor, Member of the Mallarmé Academy, German Academy (Berlin), American Academy, Mark Twain (U.S.A) Academy, Honorary President of the Cannes film festival, Honorary President of the France-Hungary Association and President of the jazz Academy and of the Academy of the Disc.

Jean Cocteau died in 1963 and is buried in Chapelle St. Blaise, Milly La Foret, Essonne departement, France.

Filmography, as director: Le testament d'Orphée (1960); La villa Santo-Sospir (1952); Coriolan (1950); Orphée (1949); Les parents terribles (1948); L'aigle à deux têtes (1947); La belle et la bête (1946); Le sang d'un poète (1930); and Jean Cocteau fait du cinéma (1925).

Note: This profile was written in or before 2003.

Jean Cocteau Facts

Birth NameJean Maurice Eugène Cocteau
BirthdayJuly 5, 1889
BirthplaceMaisons-Laffitte, France
Date of deathOctober 11, 1963 (age 74)

Selected Filmography

Not available.