Philippe Noiret

'Cinema Paradiso' actor

Philippe Noiret, actor: born Lille, France 1 October 1930; married 1962 Monique Chaumette (one daughter); died Paris 23 November 2006.

Philippe Noiret was one of France's most popular actors on both stage and screen. Although he was no Apollo, his amiable face endeared him, too, to international audiences, notably in Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1988) and the 1994 hit Il Postino.

Indeed, his appeal seemed to lie in his ordinary appearance: critics described a "neighbourly" face, his "hangdog" and "world-weary" expression. But he succeeded always in giving an impression of inborn authority, physical composure and unforced elegance.

He was born in Lille in 1930; his father was in the clothes trade. Noiret was an indifferent scholar and spent his schooldays in and out of various prestigious schools in Paris, so he never attended university, but preferred to spend his youth in the bohemian enclaves of Montparnasse and Saint Germain.

This was where he started his long acting career, first of all in a comedy duo with Jean-Pierre Darras in which he played King Louis XIV in an extravagant wig opposite Darras as the dramatist Jean Racine. He was thus "discovered" by the stage photographer Agnès Varda when she worked for the great director Jean Vilar's TNP (Théâtre National Populaire).

But Noiret's major acting experiences were to be in the cinema. Varda put him in her first movie, La Pointe Courte (1954), and later declared: "I discovered in him a breadth of talent rare in a young actor." Sporting a rather comical pudding-basin cut, Noiret was the incarnation of a plump, lovelorn youth in the southern fishing port of Sète. He later admitted: "I was scared stiff, and fumbled my way through the part - I am totally absent in the film."

However, movie parts began to roll in. Noiret appeared in Louis Malle's adaptation of Raymond Queneau's Zazie dans le métro (1960) and went on to play second leads in Georges Franju's Thérèse Desqueyroux (1962), adapted from the François Mauriac novel, and Le Capitaine Fracasse ("Captain Fracasse", 1961), from Théophile Gautier's celebrated romantic adventure.

At this point, Noiret decided to give up work in the theatre, and began the long series of films which eventually totalled around 150 - including Jean-Paul Rappeneau's La Vie de Château ("Gracious Living", 1965), Yves Robert's Alexandre le Bienheureux (1967), Jean-Pierre Blanc's La Vieille Fille (1971), a remake of the 1939 Bette Davis movie The Old Maid, with Annie Girardot, and Le Vieux Fusil (Old Gun, 1976), for which he won a César, the French equivalent of an Oscar.

Noiret had by now come to the notice of Hollywood, where he starred in George Cukor's Justine (1969). He appeared with a French actor who became his life-long friend, Michel Piccoli, in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), and in 1970 starred in Peter Yates's Murphy's War.

He made some of his most unforgettable appearances in Italian cinema. In the French/Italian production La Grande Bouffe (Blow Out, 1972) by Marco Ferreri, he played the judge, Philippe, who gorges himself on a surrealist banquet alongside Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni and Ugo Tognazzi - all eating themselves to extinction. This film created a riot at the Cannes Film Festival, when most of the audience stormed out of the cinema in disgust.

Noiret's further Italian successes included Valerio Zurlini's magnificent fantasy Il Deserto dei Tartari (Desert of the Tartars, 1976), in which he starred with Vittorio Gassman. And in 1988 came Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso), in which a film-maker looks back on his childhood friendship with the projectionist at the local film house (Noiret), and which won an Oscar as best foreign-language film.

Back in France, in 1991 André Téchiné cast Noiret in J'embrasse pas (I Don't Kiss) as a melancholy old homosexual obsessed with young male flesh - a part which Noiret played with extreme delicacy and tact. In Gli Occhiali d'oro (The Gold-rimmed Glasses, 1987), based on Giorgio Bassani's novel about the cramped social life of post-war Ferrara, in Italy, he had played an elderly and respectable doctor, who is gradually suspected of being a covert homosexual with a passion for a beautiful young man, played touchingly by Rupert Everett.

For La Vie et Rien d'Autre (Life and Nothing But, 1990), Noiret won a second César. In Michael Radford's Il Postino (1994), he played the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, living in exile on a small Italian island, who befriends Mario, his lovelorn postman, and helps him to win the heart of a local waitress. In the same year, he was d'Artagnan in La Fille d'Artagnan (D'Artagnan's Daughter), with Sophie Marceau as his daughter. Noiret's last film, Trois Amis, is due for release next year.

James Kirkup

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor