09 February, 2009
Jean-Pierre Aumont was a French actor.
Aumont was born in Paris as Jean-Pierre Philippe Salomons to Alexandre Salomons, owner of La Maison du Blanc (a linen department store) and Suzanne Cahen. His mother's uncle was well-known stage actor Georges Berr. His father, whose family came from Holland, was Jewish and his mother also came from a Jewish family. Aumont began studying drama at the Paris Conservatory, following his mother, at the age of sixteen. His professional stage debut occurred at the age of 21. His film debut came one year later, when Jean de la Lune (Jean of the Moon) was produced in 1931.
However, his most important, career-defining role came in 1934, when Jean Cocteau's play La Machine Infernale (The Infernal Machine) was released. When his film and stage career began rising quickly, World War II broke out. Aumont stayed in France until 1942, when he realized that because of his Jewish ancestry, he would be forced to flee from the Nazi forces. He first fled to an unoccupied portion of Vichy territory, before moving, first to New York City, then to Hollywood to further his film career.
He began working with MGM, however, he was not content while his fellow countrymen were fighting for their lives in Europe. After finishing the film, The Cross of Lorraine, he joined the Free French Forces.
Aumont was sent to North Africa, where he participated in Operation Torch in Tunisia. Then, he moved with the Allied armies through Italy and France. Through the war, he was wounded twice. The first was on a mission with his brother. However, the second was more serious. Aumont's Jeep was blown up near a landmined bridge, and French General Diégo Brosset, commander of the 1st Free French Division, was killed. Because of his bravery during the fighting, Aumont received the Legion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre. Aumont continued working, starring as the magician in Lili with the then-ingenue Leslie Caron.
Aumont continued working with various famous actors and directors. In the mid-1950s he appeared as a guest on the television show What's My Line? In the 1960s and 70s he appearted in various Broadway productions, including Gigi. One of his last acting performances was in A Tale of Two Cities (1989). Two years later, he was decorated with the cross of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1992, he received an honorary César Award.
He died in 2001 of a heart attack at the age of 90, and was cremated.