Born: Crozon, France, 24 December 1887.
Died: Paris, France, 1951.
Trained as a druggist, he began his working life as a pharmacy assistant but kept on trying for an acting career. Despite three rejections by the Paris Conservatoire, he persisted and, after joining a stage company as an administrator in 1908, made his acting debut in 1910. He made a solitary silent film appearance in Shylock (1913), and that same year was appointed director of the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in Paris. Following combat service at the front during WWI, he came with his troupe to New York, where they played a repertory of productions to much acclaim from 1919 to 1921. Returning to France, he became the director of the Théâtre de Champs Elysées and was soon on his way to becoming one of the leading actors of the Paris stage.
Although he began appearing regularly in films in 1933, Jouvet remained primarily a man of the theatre and often claimed he performed in films for money so that he could sponsor additional stage productions with his earnings. Just the same, he contributed a number of outstanding performances to the French cinema of the 30s, often overcoming even mediocre productions with his forceful screen personality. In films of high quality he was simply superb, handling complex roles with great subtlety and wit. He spent the WWII years touring South America with his company and after the war returned to Paris and resumed his work on the stage and in films. But he never recaptured the heights of his earlier screen achievements. His daughter, Lisa Jouvet, is a stage and screen actress.