LOS ANGELES — Movie director Vincente Minnelli and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner were far along in planning the 1958 musical “Gigi” without casting the role of Gaston, the worldly playboy who falls in love with the title character. Finally, they met with dashing French actor Louis Jourdan.

“He certainly looked the part,” Minnelli wrote in his 1974 memoir, “I Remember It Well.”

After discussing the role, Minnelli said, Jourdan brightly asked, “You know what I love about this character of Gaston?”

“What?” Minnelli asked.

“He’s so bored!” Jourdan answered, and he got the part. It turned out to be the defining role of his career, much, as it turned out, to his chagrin.

Jourdan, 93, died Saturday at his home in Beverly Hills. He had been in failing health for some time, said Olivier Minne, who is writing Jourdan’s authorized biography.


In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Jourdan played key roles in scores of films and TV shows, but felt he was too often stereotyped as the European lover, complete with charming accent.

“That ooh-la-la, conventional, embarrassing character,” he complained in a 1965 interview with The Associated Press. “I’m proud to be a Frenchman, but I resent the image people have of the stupid, continental charmer.

“Against that type of role I fight pitilessly.”

Robert Osborne, film historian and host of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, said Jourdan was indeed capable of serious work in roles such as the callous concert pianist he played in the 1948 movie “Letter From an Unknown Woman” that has become a film-buff favorite.

Louis Jourdan was born Louis Gendre on June 19, 1921, in Marseille, France. His parents ran hotels in the South of France and as a young man he studied theater in Paris. In 1939, Jourdan won his first film role in “Le Corsaire,” which starred Charles Boyer. The film was not completed because of the approaching war, but around that time – possibly on the set of the film – photographer Raymond Voinquel took a sultry picture of a shirtless Jourdan that was published in a French magazine.

During the German occupation of France, Jourdan and his family were involved in the resistance movement, according to several sources, and he worked as an actor in a few films, some of which didn’t make it into theaters until after the occupation. Movie mogul David O. Selznick saw his work and signed him to a contract to make films in Hollywood, the first of which was Alfred .Selznik sold Jourdan’s contract in 1950 to Darryl F. Zanuck, and much stereotyping ensued.


The actor finally scored a major hit with “Gigi,” in which he appeared with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier.

As he grew older, he was able to mostly shake off the typecasting. In the 1980s he had roles as villains, most famously in the 1983 James Bond movie “Octopussy.”

Jourdan had no immediate survivors.