This Day In Literary History
On August 17th, 1926, the famous French playwright and actor Jean Poiret was born. He was born Jean Poiré in Paris, France.
Poiret first became famous in 1951, when he starred in the radio series Malheir aux Barbus, created by Pierre Dac and Francis Blanche.
A year later, while working in a stage show at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre, Poiret met legendary French actor Michel Serrault. They co-starred in a sketch called Jerry Scott, Vedette International. They would later co-star in a production of Poiret's most famous play.
By 1961, Poiret had become a member of the French cinematic society Pathé and wrote and recorded La Vache à Mille Francs, a parody of the song La Valse à Mille Temps by Jacques Brel.
Twelve years later, in 1973, Poiret married actress Caroline Cellier. She bore him one child. That same year, Jean Poiret wrote the play that made him world famous - a comedy called La Cages Aux Folles. (The Birdcage)
In the stage production, Poiret played the lead role of Renato Baldi, a middle-aged gay man who manages the Saint-Tropez nightclub where his partner, Albin Mougeotte, (Michel Serrault) performs in drag as Zaza Napoli.
Renato has a son, Laurent, from an early heterosexual relationship. He and Albin raised him. When Laurent returns from college, he announces his wedding plans and brings his fiancée's arch conservative, homophobic parents home to meet his father.
He never told them that Dad was gay, and now he fears that they won't let him marry their daughter when they find out. So, Renato and Albin redecorate their garish apartment and try to pass themselves off as husband and wife, with Albin in drag as Laurent's mother!
La Cage Aux Folles became a huge hit. In 1978, a feature film adaptation was made. In the role of Renato, Jean Poiret was replaced by Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi, but Michel Serrault resumed his co-lead role as Albin.
For its U.S. release, the movie was retitled Birds Of A Feather and dubbed into English by the original cast - a rarity for foreign films released in the United States.
The highly acclaimed feature film was followed by two mediocre sequels, La Cage Aux Folles II (1980), and La Cage Aux Folles 3: The Wedding (1985).
The original La Cage Aux Folles would later be adapted as a Tony Award winning Broadway musical and remade as a film in 1996 - The Birdcage - which starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in the lead roles.
In his amazing career, Jean Poiret acted in dozens of movies over a 40-year period. In 1992, he directed his first film - Le Zèbre (The Zebra).
Le Zèbre was an adaptation of a novel by Alexandre Jardin that starred Poiret's wife, Caroline Cellier. Unfortunately, three months before the film's premiere, Poiret died of a heart attack. He was 65 years old.
Quote Of The Day
“To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.” - Jean Genet
Today's video features a clip from a 2008 London performance of the La Cage Aux Folles musical. Enjoy!