Jean Cocteau (zhäN kôktō´), 1889–1963, French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker. He experimented audaciously in almost every artistic medium, becoming a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s. His first great success was the novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929), which he made into a film in 1950. Surrealistic fantasy suffuses his films and many of his novels and plays. Among his best dramatic works are Orphée (1926) and La Machine infernale (1934, tr. 1936), in which the Orpheus and Oedipus myths are surrealistically adapted to modern circumstances. His films include The Blood of a Poet (1933), Beauty and the Beast (1946), and Orphée (1949). Among other works are ballets, sketches, monologues, whimsical drawings, and the text (written with Stravinsky) for the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927).
See his autobiography; comp. from his writings by R. Phelps (tr. 1970); biographies by F. Brown (1968), E. Sprigge and J.-J. Kihm (1968), and F. Steegmuller (1970); M. Crosland, ed., Cocteau's World (tr. 1972).