BOURVIL. A true figure of French comedy, André Robert Raimbourg alias Bourvil was an authentic star of French cinema when he died of illness. Back to the end of his life.
[Mis à jour le 23 septembre 2022 à 20h30] Bourvil, however immense star of the French comedy in the cinema, always refused to evoke his personal problems. This is how, for many months, he hid from the public that he was sick. It was in 1969 that André Robert Raimbourg – better known by his stage name Bourvil – received a terrifying medical diagnosis: he had bone marrow cancer. Already ill before the diagnosis, Bourvil suffered for three years without ever speaking about it publicly. The intense pain went so far as to paralyze his tongue, but Bourvil did not want to let himself be defeated and, above all, he did not want to stop working. He then decides to train relentlessly to find a speech as perfect as possible. Never pessimistic about his medical situation, Bourvil accepts many projects, including La Folie des grandeurs by Gérard Oury with Louis de Funès, which he will unfortunately never be able to honour. In the summer of 1970, the actor turns in what will be his last feature film: The Atlantic Wall. He died in September 1970. He was only 53 years old.
Short biography of Bourvil – Bourvil, whose real name is André Robert Raimbourg, was born on July 27, 1917 in Prétot-Vicquemare in Seine-Maritime. He spent his childhood in the village of Bourville and, as his cousin Lucien Raimbourg was already an actor, he took this name as his stage name to avoid confusion. After an apprenticeship as a baker, he decided to go to Paris to try his luck as a singer, especially in radio hooks at the beginning. He became known thanks to his song “Les Crayons” which he performed in the film La Ferme du pendu (1945) by Jean Dréville. His comic acting and his roles as great naive people make him adore the French, especially in the films where he plays the role of Louis de Funès.
These films have all become great classics: La Traversée de Paris (1956), Le Corniaud (1964) and La Grande Vadrouille (1966) by Gérard Oury. He also played alongside Jean Marais in two costume films: Le Bossu (1959) and Le Capitan (1960). We find him with Fernandel in the excellent comedy La Cuisine au beurre (1963) where he plays a Parisian chef forced to work with a southern cook with very different habits. But Bourvil does not only accept comic roles. He notably embodies an abject manipulator opposite Michèle Morgan in Le Miroir à deux faces (1958). We rediscover him in 1969 in The Christmas Tree where he helps a child with leukemia who loves wolves. After shooting the film Le Cercle rouge (1970) with Yves Montand and Alain Delon, he finished the film Le Mur de l’Atlantique (1970) by Marcel Camus. These two films were released in theaters a few weeks after his death at the age of 53, on September 23, 1970 in Paris.
We obviously know the comedian Bourvil but he was just as much an actor as a singer. And it was with the humor that characterized him that he pushed the song, just as appreciated behind a microphone as in front of the camera. From his repertoire, it will be difficult to forget “Fruit Salad” or even “La Tendresse” which we suggest you listen to again in the videos below.
Bourvil met Jeanne Lefrique in 1936 during a ball organized in the village of Fontaine-le-Dun in Normandy. The couple married on January 23, 1943. Born in 1918, Jeanne, Bourvil’s wife died in 1985, fifteen years after the actor in a car accident while leaving to pray at her husband’s grave. She was 67 years old.
From his union with Jeanne Lefrique, Bourvil had two children, two sons born in the 1950s who were the pride of their parents. Born in 1950, Dominique Raimbourg – named after his father – became a lawyer but also a deputy. His younger brother, Philippe Raimbourg, was born in 1953 and made a career as a professor of finance. He notably taught at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne.