Earlier today, I found these two small gems featuring one of my favourite French actors – Robert Hirsch. Between 1948 and 1974, he was the star of the Comédie-Française. He played all the great classical parts, as well as modern roles. He was superb in absolutely everything. He had oodles of charm. His timing was matchless. He could be scary and moving, and hilariously funny.
I saw him in numerous films, but only a few times on stage, unfortunately. I so wish I’d seen his Nero in Britannicus. Still, I got to see him in Richard III, directed by Terry Hands, and that was amazing.
Anyway, if you don’t speak French, here's a bit of background info about these clips.
The first one is a short parody of Victor Hugo’s romantic drama Ruy Blas. Watch Robert Hirsch becoming more and more childishly petulant as a ‘sociétaire de la Comédie-Française’ (i.e. an associate member of the illustrious theatrical company, which, of course, he was at the time) who feels he cannot give his all because of two other actors who are not up to it and a set that refuses to cooperate. By his side, trying to calm him down, is Jacques Charon, who was his partner on stage and in real life.
Every year, the Union des Artistes du Spectacle used to organise a charity event (on behalf of old artistes who didn’t have a pension), in which famous actors, singers, etc. used to perform something unusual – for them; most of the time a circus act. Here are Robert Hirsch and Jacques Charon in Swan Lake. They are introduced by Jacques Chancel – a very famous talk show host – and the wonderful choreographer Maurice Béjart.