• Riviera Insider editorial

Remembering Jean-Paul Belmondo, legendary French actor

Jean-Paul Belmondo has died at the age of 88. As the country mourns their fallen star, the Côte d'Azur remembers his frequent visits.

Jean-Paul Belmondo with Jeanne Moreau at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival © Traverso

Jean-Paul Belmondo died in Paris on 6 September at the age of 88. The French film star, who spent a lot of time on the Côte d'Azur, played alongside colleagues such as Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, and Catherine Deneuve and advanced to become a successful actor in action films and one of the biggest stars of European cinema. In the course of his career, he made over 80 films and played more than 40 theatre roles.

In the South of France as well as throughout Europe, there is tremendous sympathy for the death of the internationally revered actor. In Cannes and Nice, for example, Belmondo was a frequent and welcome guest. In Cannes, writes Mayor David Lisnard in a communiqué on his death, he was a frequent visitor and liked the sandy beach even better than the red carpet during the film festival - whose poster he adorned in 2018.

"Belmondo was an eternal new wave of verve and charisma. A precise but never intrusive actor, radiant and never emotional, talented and never pretentious." -David Lisnard.

Counterpart Christian Estrosi from Nice joins the eulogy to the film star, who embodies "a certain ideal of the French hero" like no other:

"Jean-Paul Belmondo was much more than a popular actor, much more than a star. He was a symbol, an icon of cinema who knew how to occupy this status without ever seeming inaccessible or too pretentious. ... The city of Nice, the Côte d'Azur and its inhabitants will keep a special memory of him, who was often here for filming and loved to spend his holidays here." -Christian Estrosi

The film star had been physically debilitated since suffering a stroke in 2001. In 2008, his last film "A Man and His Dog" was released. "He had been very tired for some time," his lawyer said. "He died peacefully."

His breakthrough in the 1950s

Belmondo had his breakthrough as an actor in the 1950s during the French Nouvelle Vague. He became famous for his role in Jean-Luc Godard's "Out of Breath" alongside Jean Seberg.

After that, Belmondo could hardly save himself from role offers. Between 1960 and 1964 alone, he appeared in almost 30 films. In the mid-1960s, he became known to an international audience with the film "Adventures in Rio".

Belmondo was called "Bébel" by his French fans. He played daredevils and gangsters in numerous works. In the 1960s, he was a symbol of rebellion and anarchism. He was part of a new generation of film stars who were no longer beautiful heroes.

Born on 9 April 1933 in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, his father Paul, whose family came from Sicily, was a well-known sculptor, and his mother was a dancer. As a child, Jean-Paul was considered particularly undisciplined. He changed schools several times and discovered boxing as a high school student. He fought several fights before deciding to become an actor.

Belmondo's history on the Côte d'Azur

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina on the official poster of the 2018 "Festival de Cannes" ©Festival de Cannes.

The role the South of France played in his life can be seen in this little chronicle made up of archive images from the local press: The spectrum ranges from his very first appearance at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival to his last appearance in the old town of Antibes last year.

In March 1960, "Breathless" is released in cinemas. Belmondo, still unknown back then, became a star overnight. Two months later he stands on the Croisette for the first time. " Moderato cantabile", in which he plays with Jeanne Moreau, is shown at the festival.

In 1964, "Bébel" is at the Croisette again. This time with the film "One Hundred Thousand Dollars in the Sun" by Henri Verneuil alongside Andrea Parisy and Lino Ventura.

In 1976 he meets Johnny Hallyday in Monaco, in 1977 he is in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

In the 1980s, the Belmondo era reaches its peak. "Bébel" can be seen everywhere: at René Château's house in Saint-Tropez (1981), at Club 55 on the beach at Pampelonne (1983), at the Oetker Hotel "Eden Roc" on the Cap d'Antibes (1985), at the circus festival in Monte-Carlo (1988), where the circus scenes for "Itinerary of a Spoiled Child" are shot.

In the 90s, it becomes quieter around him. There are many reruns on television. He is seen less often on the screen, but more often again on theatre stages, which he had avoided since the end of the 1950s.

In the summer of 1996, he is back in Saint-Tropez, in 2003 with Luiz Fernandez in the Ray Stadium at the Nice - PSG football match.

Jean-Paul Belmondo on the set of "Tendre Voyou" in Nice (1966) © Charles Bébert

From 2010, the "twilight of the giant" (Nice-matin) becomes more evident. Belmondo is weakened and no longer makes films, but continues to visit loyal friends in the Alpes-Maritimes and in the Var. In 2011 he appears once again on the Cannes Red Carpet. 2013 he comes to Nice for the funeral of his companion Georg Lautner. One of his last public appearances was in 2020 with Richard Anconina at Mamo Restaurant in Antibes.

Book of condolences in Nice, where a photo exhibition is currently dedicated to Belmondo

A book of condolences has been on display at the side of the exhibition "De Bébel à Bébert...", which has been on display at Place Pierre Gautier since July and now until 19 September. The photo exhibition illustrates the special relationship that photographer Charles Bébert was able to build with his friend Jean-Paul Belmondo - "Bébel" - with photos of the actor during his filming in Nice between 1964 and 1984.


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