I just watched Jean-Paul Belmondo’s national homage on YouTube and I am not ashamed to say that I was moved to tears. And I was not the only one… many people, men, and women alike were seen wiping their eyes while listening to President Emmanuel Macron’s eulogy.
The ceremony which took place in the courtyard of the venerable Hotel des Invalides in Paris was attended by family, friends, and hundreds of adoring fans. A military band and various branches of the armed forces were present and added a somber solemnity to this poignant ceremonial. I was particularly impressed by the slow, steady roll of drums accompanying the public appearance of the actor’s coffin.
Bebel represented to perfection the quintessential image of the devil-may-care French man. He was loved by the common folk for his simplicity, friendliness, and great sense of humor. He could, and would, talk to anybody and even have a drink with total strangers. He was athletic (he did all his stunts himself), self-deprecating, “gouailleur” (cheeky, a typically Parisian trait) and loved by all, men, and women alike.
He was also an improbable leading man. It is usually an asset for a male protagonist to be good-looking, and it did help his rival Alain Delon to some extent, but Bebel’s broken nose proved more effective than Delon’s Roman profile.
Belmondo was a versatile actor and did some theater before (and after) devoting most of his time to cinema. Starting in the late ’50s, in a career spanning 6 decades, he made over 80 movies, some thoroughly memorable. Among them, “A bout de souffle”, “Un singe en hiver », “L’homme de Rio”, “Le Professionnel”, and « Les miserables ».
Bebel was a man’s man adored by millions of women. He was “Un héro au cœur tendre » (a hero with a tender heart) and his memory will linger with us for a very long time.
Adieu Bebel… you were second to none, and you are already missed.