Paulette Dubost: Doyenne of French cinema who acted in more than 200 films

The doyenne of French cinema, the centenarian Paulette Dubost, never played a grande dame but she excelled in a succession of servant girls and working-class women roles that made her hugely popular in her native country. During the course of a career that spanned over eight decades and over 200 films, television films and stage plays, she worked with such fameddirectors as Jacques Tourneur, Marcel Carné, Julien Duvivier and Louis Malle and most famously portrayed Lisette, the chambermaid in Jean Renoir's 1939 masterpiece La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game).

An upstairs-downstairs dramatic comedy with a twist, as well as a foreboding sense of the impending doom awaiting Europe, La Règle du Jeu remains a favourite of film students and directors the world over and was even part of the baccalauréat curriculum a decade ago. Dubost excelled as the "camériste", the chambermaid whose flirting with a poacher in front of her jealous gamekeeper husband mirrors the complicated love lives of her hauts bourgeois employers and triggers a chain of events whose unfolding has lost none of its potency 70 years on.

François Truffaut remembered Dubost's film-stealing performance when he cast her as the dresser Germaine Fabre in Le Dernier Métro (The Last Metro, 1980), the drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu, set in a Paris theatre during the German occupation. She may have played characters with everyday names like Lisette, Germaine or Joséphine – the house maid in Lola Montès (1955), the Max Ophüls film featuring Martine Carol in the title role of a dancer and courtesan romanced by Anton Walbrook and Peter Ustinov – but she infused them with a Parisian cheek and charm that lifted them out of the ordinary.

In 1940, the fresh-faced Dubost seemed ideally cast as the Breton housemaid Bécassine but the film adaptation of the popular French comic series failed to lift the mood of a defeated nation. It would remain her only lead and one of the few disappointments she tackled in her 1992 memoir entitled C'est Court La Vie [Life Is Short].

Born Paulette Deplanque in 1910, she was the 11th child of a gas engineer and an operetta singer whose maiden name she took when she became a "petit rat", a young ballet student, at the Paris Opera at the end of the First World War. However, her mother soon decreed that her "bum was too big to be a ballerina" and sent her off to study singing and acting at the Paris Conservatory. In 1929 she began a two-year run in the Arthur Honegger operetta Les Aventures Du Roi Pausole at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens and started getting minor film parts. By the mid-1930s she had appeared with Buster Keaton in Le Roi Des Champs-Elysées (The King of the Champs-Elysées) and turned down an offer from 20th Century-Fox.

After the Second World War she consolidated her reputation as one of France's leading character actresses. Ophüls asked her to play Madame Fernande, one of a group of prostitutes holidaying en masse in the delightful Le Plaisir (1952), and she portrayed a butcher's wife in Maigret tend un piège (Maigret Sets a Trap, 1958) and a hotel manageress in Maigret Voit Rouge (Maigret Sees Red, 1963) two eminently watchable films starring Jean Gabin as the detective. Indeed, Dubost worked with every major French movie star of the last century including such monstres sacrés as Raimu, Louis Jouvet, Michel Simon, Fernandel, Jean Marais and Bourvil as well as Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot.

Last year, Dubost appeared on the Sunday afternoon TV programmeVivement Dimanche alongside theoctogenarian Charles Aznavour as a guest of Danielle Darrieux, who celebrated her 94th birthday this May. French entertainers do seem to drink the elixir of life.

Pierre Perrone

Paulette Marie Emma Deplanque (Paulette Dubost), actress: born Paris 8 October 1910; married 1936 AndréOstertag (divorced 1944, one daughter); died Longjumeau, France 21 September 2011.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam