Actress Paulette Dubost, known as the “Dean of French Cinema,” and a performer in films directed by Jean Renoir, Marcel L’Herbier, Jacques Tourneur, Julien Duvivier, Max Ophüls, Preston Sturges, François Truffaut, Louis Malle, and Marcel Carné, died of “natural causes” on Sept. 21 in the Parisian suburb of Longjumeau. The Paris-born Dubost had turned 100 years old on Oct. 8.
Dubost’s show business career began at the age of seven, performing various duties at the Paris Opera. Following some stage training, her film debut took place in 1931 in Wilhelm Thiele’s Le bal, which also marked the film debut of Danielle Darrieux (who’s still around and still active).
Ultimately, Dubost’s film career was to span more than seven decades, during which time she was featured in over 140 movies. She is probably best remembered as the adulterous chambermaid Lisette in Jean Renoir’s 1939 comedy-drama La règle du jeu / The Rules of the Game, considered by many one of the greatest movies ever made.
Also of note, Dubost was one of the leads in Marcel Carné’s all-star drama Hôtel du Nord (1938), opposite Arletty, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Annabella, and Louis Jouvet, and had the second female lead in Marcel L’Herbier’s Le Bonheur (1934), a romantic melodrama starring Charles Boyer and Gaby Morlay that had a rare US showing on Labor Day at Los Angeles’ Cinecon.
Throughout much of the 1930s, Dubost was featured in light comedies such as Max Nosseck’s Le roi des Champs-Élysées / The King of the Champs Elysees (1934), starring a post-Hollywood Buster Keaton, and Jean de Limur’s L’auberge du Petit-Dragon / The Little Dragon Inn (1934) and La brigade en jupons / The Underskirt Brigade (1936). Film roles became sporadic during World War II, but Dubost was back in full force from the late ’40s on in a variety of supporting parts.
Those include appearances in Julien Duvivier’s La fête à Henriette / Holiday for Henrietta (1952), with Dany Robin; Max Ophüls’ all-star omnibus effort Le plaisir (1952) and his Martine Carol vehicle Lola Montès (1955); and Preston Sturges’ Les carnets du Major Thompson / The French, They Are a Funny Race (1955), with Carol and Jack Buchanan.
Also: Renoir’s futuristic social comedy Le déjeuner sur l’herbe / Picnic in the Fields (1959), with Paul Meurisse; Jean Delannoy’s Maigret tend un piège / Inspector Maigret (1959), with Jean Gabin and Annie Girardot; and Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! (1965), starring Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau.
In later years, Dubost worked with François Truffaut in his Academy Award-nominated homage to the theater world, Le dernier métro / The Last Metro (1980), starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu; Moshé Mizrahi in the drama La vie continue / Life Goes On (1981), with Annie Girardot; and once again with Louis Malle in the BAFTA-nominated sociopolitical comedy Milou en Mai / May Fools (1990), with Miou Miou and Michel Piccoli.
This century, Dubost had three film roles: in Jean-Claude Brisseau’s comedy-drama Les savates du bon Dieu / Workers for the Good Lord (2000), Jérôme Bonnell’s Prix Jean Vigo winner Les yeux clairs / Light Eyes (2005), and Alexandre Moix’s short comedy Curriculum (2007) – in which, as in Hôtel du Nord, Dubost played a character named Ginette.
Five years ago, on Laurent Ruquier’s French television talk show it was said that Dubost had died. The actress then called the station to let them know that she was still a Planet Earth denizen. A few weeks later, she was on the show herself.