1895 - 1975
The French character actor Michel Simon was born as François Simon in Geneva, Switzerland. Before he had his breakthrough in the film business in the 30's he earned his living as a boxer, photographer and acrobatic clown.
He made his theater debut in 1918 with the Pitoef ensemlbe in Geneva where he impersonated numerous roles of classical dramas. He followed Pitoef to Paris where he had only little success because of his Swiss accent.
Michel Simon made his film debut with "La galerie des monstres" (24),
it followed other small parts in the silent movies "Feu Mathias Pascal"
(25), "L'inconnue des six jours" (26), "Casanova" (27), "La Passion de
Jeanne d'Arc" (28) and "Tire-au-flanc" (28).
His first great success came with the movie "Jean de la lune" (31), where he impersonated a unscrupulous parasite who pulled faces and sang. Michel Simon saw early the danger to be pinned down to such roles and appeared in Renoir's "Die Hündin" in the same years where he played a smutty bank clerk. In "L'Atalante" (34) he impersonated a constant scolding dreamer who lived in a cave surrounded by animals, and radiated an always childlike fortune.
Other well-known movies of the 30's are "Le Bonheur" (34), "Jeunes filles de Paris" (36), "Mirages" (37), "Quai des brumes" (38), directed by Marcel Carné, "Les Disparus de Saint-Agil" (38), directed by Christian-Jaque, "La fin du jour - Lebensabend" (39), directed by Julien Duvivier and "Fric-Frac" (39).
During and after the war he became a victim of several accusations. First they suspected him of being a Jew, after that they assumed that he was a communist and finally he was accused after the war for collaboration with the enemy. But all these couln't harm his career fortunately.
To his impressive roles of the 40's belong "Paris - New York" (40), "Tosca" (41), "Au bonheur des dames" (43), "Panique" (46), "Les amants du pont Saint-Jean" (47) and "Fabiola" (49).
Michel Simon had difficulties with his health in the 50's which was traced back to the use of an aggressive makeup tincture which strained his central nervous system. The consequence was that his face and a part of his body was paralyzed. Still Michel Simon acted indefatigable in front of the camera and appeared in movies like "La beauté du diable" (50), "Monsieur Taxi" (52), "L'impossible Monsieur Pipelet" (55), "Un certain Monsieur Jo" (58), "Es geschah am hellichten Tag" (58) and "Die Nackte und der Satan" (59).
He recovered only slowly from his disease but he continued his career with smaller parts in movies like "Austerlitz" (60), "Le diable et ses dix commandements" (62), "Cyrano et d'Artagnan" (63), "The Train" (64) and finally with his marvellous performance in "Le viel homme et l'enfant" (67) with which he reported impressive back to the film business. This rang in his last career phase in a turbulent life and offered him once more rewarding age roles.
To his last movies belong "La maison" (70), "Blanche" (71), "La piu bella serata della mia vita" (72), "Le boucher, la star et l'orpheline" (73) and "l'Ibis rouge" (75).
Michel Simon lived most of the time in the country, together with four
monkeys and a parrot.
Other movies with Michel Simon: