Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

People We Like: Jean Sorel

Delon, Belmondo and Mastroianni may have been the top European actors who began in the '60s - others included Jacques Perrin, Franco Nero, Fabio Testi and Jean Sorel - all very prolific and still working. Sorel was a charmer who began in Lumet's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, and is appealing opposite Lilli Palmer in ADORABLE JULIA in 1962 (below), also in French films like AMELIE OU LE TEMPS D'AIMER, the Vadim LE RONDE in 1964 . Nanni Loy’s THE FOUR DAYS OF NAPLES is an enduring classic also from 1962 where Sorel is the young sailor shot by the Germans.

Then came two amusing roles in those mid 60s Italian episodic comedies: LE BAMBOLE (The Dolls) in 1965 where he is the diffident secretary to bishop Akim Tamiroff who come to stay at Gina Lollobrigida’s hotel and Gina devises endless strategies to seduce him. Its an amusing trifle and the best of the 4 episodes (the others feature Vitti, Virna Lisi and Elke Sommer). Less successful was the 1966 LE FATE (The Queens) where he is teamed with the uninteresting young Raquel Welch in the weakest episode – Vitti, Cardinale and Capucine are much better in the other segments.

Also in 1965 came a difficult to see now Visconti film STELLA or OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS (VAGHE STELLE DELL’ORSA), which was a discovery recently as I had not seen it since 1965! Its an operatic melodrama with Claudia Cardinale at her peak, Michael Craig as her husband and Sorel as her incestuous brother and would seem a modern upstaging of the Greek tragedy Electra where the destiny of the characters are pre-ordained. Visconti of course makes it wonderfully operatic with great images and Cardinale being absolutely spellbinding.

Probably Sorel’s best known film followed in 1967 – Luis Bunuel’s BELLE DE JOUR as the husband of Catherine Deneuve. It's of course a truly surrealistic exercise in ambiguity, fantasy, and reality which, like Antonioni’s BLOWUP, has enthralled and fascinated for decades since the 60s.

He then appeared in two Carroll Baker opuses: THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH in 1968 and PARANOIA in 1970 which I have just seen, and its delirious fun.

Two interesting giallos followed in 1971, those frenetic Italian thrillers which set the nerves jangling. I finally saw Aldo Lado’s SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS yesterday and found the beginning and the end enthralling but a rather dull and convoluted middle stretch where, in flashbacks, Sorel as the journalist in Prague is searching to find his missing girlfriend (Barbara Bach) and stumbling on a mysterious club and several other missing girls …. But what a start: the body being found in the park and being assumed dead and taken to the morgue. Rigor mortis though does not set in so the medics there try to revive him as the paralysed Sorel on the slab tries to remember what happened to him before that autopsy looms …. Ingrid Thulin as a fellow journalist and ex-lover is also on hand but really has little to do. The ending is almost on a level with DePalma’s CARRIE !

I have just acquired A WOMAN IN A LIZARD’S SKIN from the same year – with Florinda Bolkan and Stanley Baker – so hopefully it will be more thrills and spills …

Sorel also crops up in Zinnemann’s DAY OF THE JACKAL in 1973. There are a lot of others I have not seen and most of them never surfaced here in the UK. Two I would have liked to see though are THE BRONTE SISTERS from 1979 by Andre Techine – a by all accounts delirious French retelling, starring Isabelle Adjani and Isabelle Huppert. ASPERN in 1985 seems an interesting version of the Henry James “Aspern Papers” with Bulle Ogier and Alida Valli as the aged countess, with Sorel as the writer determined to get those letters.

Jean Sorel, as his imdb filmography shows, worked steadily through the 80s and 90s and up to now in his '70s. He is one of the better European leading men, a lightweight actor perhaps (a European Robert Wagner maybe?) but certainly always a pleasure to see.


  1. Believe it or not, I had never even HEARD of Jean Sorel until you mentioned him on my site. I had to come and see who he is. He is GORGEOUS!!! He is exactly the type of man I fall for. I have got to get on Belle du Jour (or anything else of his I can find) ASAP! Thanks!!

  2. All part of the service ! Maybe next: Jacques Perrin's blond sailor in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort ? - or the early Richard Gere of Yanks, Days of Heaven, Mr Goodbar, American Gigolo.... and I am certainly writing about Jeffrey Hunter !

    Your lovely appreciation on Treat Williams has led me to order Hair (it might arrive today!) and The Ritz!