Jean Cocteau

From Academic Kids

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (July 5, 1889October 11, 1963) was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, and filmmaker. He was born at Maisons-Laffitte, France, a small town near Paris. His versatile, unconventional approach and enormous output brought him international acclaim.


Life and work

Despite his achievements in virtually all literary and artistic fields, Cocteau insisted that he was primarily a poet and that all his work was poetry. As a leading member of the surrealist movement, he had great influence on the work of others, including the group of composer friends in Montparnasse known as Les Six. However, despite the fact that the word surrealism was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire to describe Cocteau's 1917 collaboration with Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, and Léonide Massine Parade, self-proclaimed surrealist leader André Breton declared Cocteau a "notorious false poet, a versifier who happens to debase rather than to elevate everything he touches." (Breton, 1953)

On the sunny afternoon of August 12, 1916, Pablo Picasso and his new girlfriend, the fashion model Paquerette, Max Jacob, Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, Marie Vassilieff, Henri-Pierre Roché, Moise Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani and the critic André Salmon were all sitting together outside the café La Rotonde in Montparnasse. Their friend, Cocteau, recorded for posterity this extraordinary gathering of talent in a series of 21 photographs showing such characters as a dapper Picasso dressed à l'anglaise with a flat cap, cane and briar pipe. Girlfriend Paquerette wore a long elegant dress and a very silly hat while Max Jacob at least looked as though he was sober and respectable and the tiny Marie Vassilieff appeared the formidable little lady she was.

In the 1930s, Cocteau had an unlikely affair with Princess Nathalie Paley, the beautiful daughter of a Romanov grand duke and herself a major fashion-plate, sometime actress, model, and former wife of couturier Lucien Lelong. She became pregnant. To Cocteau's distress and Paley's lifelong regret, the fetus was aborted due to the intervention of Marie-Laure de Noailles, the eccentric arts patron who had loved Cocteau as a young woman and was determined to ruin his new romance. Cocteau's most lasting relationship was with the handsome French actor Jean Marais, whom he discovered and cast in "Beauty and the Beast."

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Jean Cocteau

In 1940 Le Bel Indifférent, Cocteau's play written for and starring Edith Piaf, was enormously successful. He also worked with Picasso on several projects and was friends with most of the European art community. He struggled with opium addiction for most of his adult life and was openly gay, though he had a few brief and complicated affairs with women. He published a considerable amount of work criticising homophobia. Cocteau's films, the bulk of which he both wrote and directed, were particularly important in introducing surrealism into French cinema and influenced to a certain degree the upcoming French New Wave genre.

Cocteau is best known for his 1929 novel Les enfants terribles, the 1929 play Les parents terribles, and the 1945 film, Beauty and the Beast.

In 1955 he was made a member of the Académie française and The Royal Academy of Belgium.

During his life Jean Cocteau was commander of the Legion of Honor, Member of the Mallarmé Academy, German Academy (Berlin), American Academy, Mark Twain (U.S.A) Academy, Honorary President of the Cannes film festival, Honorary President of the France-Hungary Association and President of the jazz Academy and of the Academy of the Disc.

Jean Cocteau died in 1963 and is buried in Chapelle St. Blaise Des Simples, Milly La Foret, Essonne departement, France.

Filmography, as director

Books by Jean Cocteau

Selected works:

  • Cocteau, Jean, The Art of Cinema, edited by André Bernard and Claude Gauteur, translated by Robin Buss, Marion Boyars, London, 1988
  • Cocteau, Jean, Diary of an Unknown, translated by Jesse Browner, Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1988
  • Cocteau, Jean, The Eagle Has Two Heads, adapted by Ronald Duncan, Vision Press Ltd., Great Britain, 1947
  • Cocteau, Jean, The Holy Terrors (Les enfants terribles), translated by Rosamond Lehmann, New Directions Publishing Corp., New York, 1957
  • Cocteau, Jean, The Human Voice, translated by Carl Wildman, Vision Press Ltd., Great Britain, 1947
  • Cocteau, Jean, The Infernal Machine And Other Plays, translated by W.A. Auden, E.E. Cummings, Dudley Fitts, Albert Bermel, Mary C. Hoeck, and John K. Savacool, New Directions Books, New York, 1963
  • Cocteau, Jean, Les parents terribles, new translation by Jeremy Sams, Nick Hern Books, London, 1994
  • Cocteau, Jean, The White Book (Le livre blanc), translated by Margaret Crosland, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1989
  • Cocteau, Jean, Le coq et l'arlequin: Notes autour de la musique - avec un portrait de l'Auteur et deux monogrammes par P. Picasso, Paris, Éditions de la Sirène, 1918

External links

Other references

See also references in Les Six article.

  • Breton, André (1953). La clé des champs, p.77. Paris: Éditions du Sagittaire.

Preceded by:
Jérôme Tharaud
Seat 31
Académie française
Succeeded by:
Jacques Rueff
de:Jean Cocteau

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