( France: 1910- 1994)
Barry John Capella
Jean-Louis Barrault, relatively unknown in America, ranks as a true twentiethcentury French Renaissance figure. As mime, speaking actor, director, and theater manager, he led a long and distinguished career in his native France for more than fifty years. Despite such a lengthy tenure, he never lost his enthusiasm for the theater and he expressed his love for it eloquently in Reflections on the Theatre. In that work, he speaks of his yearning to maintain "those waves of feelings that engulf us, those virgin emotions that make us almost want to faint" (1). Throughout his career, he never lost that yearning.
Initially, however, nothing in his family background would have prepared him or the world for such a calling. He was born in the French suburb of Le Vésinet on September 8, 1910, to his chemist father, Jules Barrault, and his mother, Marcelle Hélène. His father fought in World War I and died of typhus when Barrault was eight; his mother remarried two years later. Barrault's memoirs, Memories for Tomorrow, recounts an episode during the courtship of his mother by Louis Martin that suggests the embryonic actor struggling to emerge from a bourgeois existence. While Martin talked with Marcelle Hélène Barrault, the young son listened beneath a table. Having recently seen Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik, he imagined himself under a tent in the Sahara where he conversed with a Bedouin chieftain. Barrault's acting debut may be dated from the tender age of ten (22).
His education at Collège Chaptal proved to be a happy one, "the best of