Maurice Ronet  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Maurice Ronet (born Maurice Julien Marie Robinet, 13 April 1927 - 14 March 1983) was a French film actor, director and screenwriter.

Maurice Ronet was born in Nice, Alpes Maritimes, the only child of professional stage actors Émile Robinet and Gilberte Dubreuil. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire where Jean-Louis Barrault was one of his mentors. He made his film debut at the age of twenty-two in Jacques Becker's Rendez-vous de juillet (1949), in a role that was written specifically for him by Becker. At that time he had little interest in pursuing an acting career, and in 1950 he departed to southern France to try his hand at ceramics, painting, writing and music. Throughout the early fifties he made a living by selling his paintings and acting in small, supporting roles in the films of directors like Yves Allégret, René Wheeler and Yves Ciampi, primarily with ambitions of becoming a director himself. However, he came to discover a freedom in acting and a creative satisfaction that provided a synthesis of all that interested him in painting and literature.


He first garnered acclaim at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival for his work in Jean Dreville's Horizons sans fin (Endless Horizons), and over the next few years, notably as the romantic lead in André Michel's La Sorcière (The Scorceress, 1956) and in Jules Dassin's Celui qui doit mourir (He Who Must Die, 1957). It was at the presentation of La Sorcière, at Cannes in 1956, that he met a creative and an intellectual counterpart in Louis Malle. Ronet made his international box-office breakthrough as Julien Tavernier in Malle's first feature film, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows, 1957). He went on to act in close to one hundred French and Spanish, Italian, British & American co-productions of the 50s, 60s, and 70's, in leading and in smaller or comedic/character roles. Most notably, he originated the role of Dickie/Phillipe Greenleaf in the French adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley in Plein soleil (Purple Noon, Rene Clement, 1960). However, the role with which he is most closely identified is that of the suicidally depressed writer Alain Leroy, in his finest collaboration with Louis Malle: Le Feu follet (The Fire Within, 1963), which won a Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.


Other highlights include: La Dénonciation (by the co-founder of the Cahiers du cinéma Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, 1962); Trois chambres à Manhattan (Three Rooms in Manhattan, Marcel Carné, 1965); Lost Command (1966) co-starring Alain Delon and Anthony Quinn; Claude Chabrol's Le Scandale (The Champagne Murders, 1966), for which he won the Best Actor award at the 1967 San Sebastián International Film Festival & La Femme infidèle (The Unfaithful Wife, 1968); La Piscine (The Swimming Pool, Jacques Deray, 1969); Raphaël ou le débauché, (Michel Deville, 1971); Beau-père (The Stepfather), (Bertrand Blier,1981). He was also originally cast to play Ali in Lawrence of Arabia, but he was replaced on location by Omar Sharif because of difficulties with his French accent.


He made his directorial debut in 1964 with Le Voleur de Tibidabo, a light-hearted musical crime story shot in Barcelona, and followed it up with two documentaries: Vers l'île des Dragons (1974), an allegorical journey to Indonesia to film the Komodo dragon and a report on the building of a damn in Caborabassa, Mozambique, for French television. Toward the end of his life he directed more programs for television: an acclaimed adaptation of Herman Melville's Bartleby in 1976 (which was released theatrically in 1978) and adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe & Cornell Woolrich stories. He also authored two books: "L'ile des Dragons" (1973), a personal recollection and a chronicle of the making of Vers l'île des Dragons, and "Le Métier de Comédien" (1977), an honest and thorough discussion of the acting profession.


He married Maria Pacôme, a French stage actress and playwright, in 1950, but the marriage quickly ended in a separation and they divorced in 1956. He lived with Josephine Chaplin, by whom he had a son, Julien (b.1980), in the village of Bonnieux in Provence from 1977 until his death, of cancer, in Paris, a month before what would have been his 56th birthday. He is buried at the cemetery near his home.





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