How much did you know about France’s all-time premiere film star?

Did you know that he — Jean Gabin — graces an official postage stamp issued by the French post office in 1998, two years after his death at age 72.  And that he has portrayed the marvelous Inspector Maigret on the big screen in movie treatments of the work of incomparable mystery novelist Georges Simenon.

You probably know of his great performances in Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion, as the hunted criminal in a North African casbah in 1937’s Pepe Le Moko, and as the doomed murderer who falls for the wrong woman in 1939’s Le Jour Se Leve (The Day Rises).

But how much did you know about Gabin’s brief period in Hollywood? Or about his very public affair with one of Hollywood’s best known stars (see photo above)?  Well, let’s to the answers to our Monday Jean Gabin Quiz. (As usual, to review questions, just scroll down to the blog below.)

1) Answer:  b) Gabin made two Hollywood films, 1942’s Moontide and 1944’s Strange Confession.

2) Answer:  b) Director Sergeo Leone, who made Clint Eastwood an international star, much admired Gabin.

3) Answer:  c) Walter Wanger.

4) Answer:  c) Gabin was promoted as “The French Spencer Tracy.”

5) Answer:  b) Henry Fonda, the star of 1947’s The Long Night, the Hollywood remake of Gabin’s tour de force, Marcel Carne’s Le Jour Se Leve.  Small bonus: Fonda gets to murder Vincent Price in the American version.

6) Answer:  This may have (inadvertently) turned into a trick question.  All four answers apply here.  Producer Walter Wanger wanted Gabin to star in Algiers, a remake of 1937’s Pepe Le Moko, which featured the French actor as a gangster trapped inside Algiers’ Casbah. For all the reasons cited, Gabin turned down the role, angering producer Wanger and giving the lead to Charles Boyer. 

7) Answer:  d) Olivia DeHavilland.

8) Answer:  d) Gabin wanted to get as far away as possible from Paris during the Nazi occupation in he 1940’s.  Who can blame him?

9) Answer:  a) Charles McGraw, who plays a soldier in 1944’s Strange Confession.

10) Answer: b) The biggest legacy of Gabin’s Hollywood period was the beginning of his passionate seven-year affair with Marlene Dietrich (pictured above with Gabin in happier times).  The two made an odd couple — she the svelte femme fatale, he the provincial tough guy — but they loved each other (Gabin was married three times during his lifetime but never to Dietrich). After the breakup she is said to have carried the torch to her grave. The one film they made together was back in France in 1946, Martin Roumagnac, a superb drama showing off Dietrich as the sleek beauty she was and Gabin as the acting powerhouse he was.  See it.

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