Charles Denner (29 May 1926 – 10 September 1995) was a French actor born to a Jewish family in Tarnów, Poland. During his 30-year career he worked with some of France’s greatest directors of the time, including Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Costa-Gavras, Claude Lelouch and François Truffaut who gave him two of his most memorable roles, as Fergus in The Bride Wore Black (1968) and Bertrand Morane in The Man Who Loved Women (1977)
Year Title Role Director
1954 Poisson d’avril a guest in a café (uncredited) Gilles Grangier
1957 Elevator to the Gallows an inspector Louis Malle
1962 Bluebeard Henri Désiré Landru Claude Chabrol
1964 Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (episode “Le Grand escroc”) the swindler Claude Chabrol
1965 Marie-Chantal contre le docteur Kha Johnson Claude Chabrol
The Sleeping Car Murders Bob Costa-Gavras
1966 The Two of Us Claude’s father Claude Berri
The Thief of Paris Cannonier Louis Malle
1968 A menyasszony feketében volt (La Mariée était en noir) Fergus François Truffaut
Z Manuel Costa-Gavras
1970 Le Voyou Gallois Claude Lelouch
1971 The Married Couple of the Year Two the traveller Jean-Paul Rappeneau
1972 L’aventure, c’est l’aventure Simon Duroc Claude Lelouch
Egy olyan szép lány, mint én (1972) – Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me Arthur François Truffaut
1973 The Inheritor David Loweinstein Philippe Labro
1974 The Holes the minister Pierre Tchernia
And Now My Love David Goldman Claude Lelouch
1975 Peur sur la ville Inspector Moissac Henri Verneuil
1976 If I Had to Do It All Over Again the lawyer Claude Lelouch
Mado Reynald Manecca Claude Sautet
1977 The Man Who Loved Women Bertrand Morane François Truffaut
1978 Robert és Robert (Robert et Robert) Robert Goldman Claude Lelouch
1982 Mille milliards de dollars (fr) Walter Henri Verneuil
A Captain’s Honor Gillard Pierre Schoendoerffer
Denner was born in 1926 in the city of Tarnów in south-eastern Poland, before emigrating with his family to France at the age of four. During World War II, his family took refuge in Brive-la-Gaillarde, where they were helped by Rabbi David Feuerwerker. During World War II Charles Denner was a Free French partisan in the Vercors mountains and destroyed a nazi SS truck with a grenade; he was wounded and later received the Croix de Guerre for this operation. Passionate about theatre from his childhood, Denner became a student of Charles Dullin, a famous theatre teacher of his time, under whose guidance he remained until 1945. Another great personality of French theatre, Jean Vilar, impressed by Denner’s performance at Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias) called him four years after he left Vilar to join the Théâtre National Populaire (TNP). It was there that he gave some of his earliest stage performances in plays such as Heinrich von Kleist’s Prinz Friedrich von Homburg and Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio, among others.
In 1955, director Yves Allégret offered Denner a small role in La Meilleure part (The Best Part), thus introducing him for the first time to cinema audiences. Two years later, in 1957, he secured another secondary role in Louis Malle’s legendary Elevator to the Gallows, next to Jeanne Moreau, a co-performer of his from the days of the TNP; however, it was not until 1963 that Denner was offered his first leading role by Claude Chabrol in Landru, a film considered by many as his greatest on-screen performance. Despite his growing recognition on the big screen, the stage remained his true passion and the place where he gave his most memorable performances in plays like Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin’s Schemings) and Brecht’s Drums in the Night.
On 10 September 1995 Denner died of pneumonia in Dreux, France.
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