Jean-Paul Belmondo: Secrets, Wounds, Glory and Family

Magnificent, like the film he carried high, Jean-Paul Belmondo had entered the hearts of the French, but a year has already passed since his death. His (last) love, his dark years, his stroke, but also his immense career: a tribute to Bébel's incredible journey.

  Jean-Paul Belmondo: Secrets, Wounds, Glory and Family

Jean-Paul Belmondo is dead on September 6, 2021, a few months after blowing out its 88 candles. In the summer of 2020, the actor had however embarked on a new project. With his former company Carlos Sotto Mayor , he had designed a perfume. 40 years after their separation, nice morning had even insinuated that the actor was again in a relationship with the Brazilian actress . Both had spent a magical summer in St Tropez. He will have known love one last time, before bowing out.

His previous birthday, Bébel had celebrated it in a very particular context, that of confinement. But it took more to destabilize this legendary actor! Duplex during the 8 p.m. newscast TF1, the 'Magnificent' had blown out his candles live from his Parisian home with all French viewers.

In great shape at the time, Jean-Paul Belmondo had taken advantage of this moment on the air to send a message. Sitting in his armchair, his shirt ajar, he had simply wished 'good luck' to caregivers, on the front line against the coronavirus.

Many personalities did not hesitate to celebrate this holiday. His 56-year-old son, Paul, had of course put his dad in the spotlight on Instagram, writing: 'Always optimistic, never complain and above all never give up, happy birthday' .

View this post on Instagram

Always optimistic, never complain and above all never give up, happy birthday

A post shared by Paul Belmondo Official (@paulbelmondo) on

To understand well Belmondo family DNA and his endless quest for strong emotions, no need for a family tree or work on family constellations. If Paul Belmondo mixes family history with the upheavals of history, it is Fanny Cerrito, the actor's great-grandmother, who puts all the spotlight on her.

Fanny Cerrito, the great-grandmother dancer. Belonging to the great family of romantic ballerinas, Fanny Cerrito was born in 1817 and grew up in Naples. Passionate about dance, she continues to perfect herself with Arthur Saint-Léon, a French dancer and choreographer who became her husband.

At the time, she was one of the stars of romantic ballet characterized by diaphanous and light dancers, dressed in vaporous tutus and carried by dancers who were reduced to the role of stooges. Her recognized talent, Fanny Cerrito met with success alongside her husband, particularly in the ballets The Marble Girl , The Devil's Violin and Daisy. The choreographer also made an impression by performing character dances.

Paul Belmondo, the sculptor father

Paul Belmondo, grandson of the ethereal Fanny, was born in Mustapha, a suburb of Algiers in 1898. His father, already named Paul Belmondo, was a blacksmith from the town of Borgo San Dalmazzo in Piedmont and his mother Rose Cerrito de Cefalù, Sicilian, is the daughter of the ballerina but has not taken up the torch from her mother. Curious and passionate about the arts, the young Paul began very early to put his hands in the earth and made his first sculptures at the age of 13.

He joined the School of Fine Arts in Algiers but the war interrupted his studies and Paul was called to the front in 1917. On his return, he obtained a scholarship and joined the School of Fine Arts in Paris. In addition to his passion for sculpture, the young man spends his time drawing because he believes that drawing is the basis of all creation.

It was on the benches of the famous school that he met the gaze of Sarah Rainaud-Richard, a painter whom he married in 1931 and who gave up a good career to take care of her home. 3 children were born from this union: Alain in 1931, who would become a film producer and director of the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris, Jean Paul in 1933, and Muriel in 1945, who would become a dancer, like her grandmother before her.

Paul set up his studio in Arcueil and his talent was recognized: he worked for the Palais de Chaillot and won prizes recognizing his work. But the Second World War breaks out. Having become a corporal, Paul joined the front during the few months preceding the French capitulation.

Back in Paris, the sculptor will maintain ties with the occupier, a dark part of his history that his children will then try to erase. Member of the Collaboration Group and vice-president of the arts section throughout the occupation, Paul was regularly invited to dinners organized by the German Embassy and took part in a study trip across the Rhine for French painters and sculptors who will be widely exploited by the propaganda of the 3rd Reich.

At the end of the war, Paul Belmondo goes before the purification court for visual artists which pronounces as a sanction the prohibition of sales and exhibitions for one year. After these few lean months, Paul became a professor at the National School of Fine Arts and entered the Academy of Fine Arts.

Paul Belmondo, a hard worker

Recognized by his peers, he worked tirelessly until his death. Very marked by his childhood in Algeria, the sculptor creates works for the country where he was born and works with clay, plaster, bronze, stone and marble.

A refugee most of his time in his studio on avenue Denfert-Rochereau in Paris, Paul is for all that an attentive father and adored by his children who serve as his models. Jean-Paul started posing for his father at the age of 5 but struggled to stay still. His parent then gives him sweets and lollipops as soon as he manages to keep the pose but it's rare!
' Most my father was excessively patient . I stood in the middle of the sculptures and wondered what it was all about “, tells the actor to Yves Calvi on France Inter in 2015 adding that when his father left his studio, he never parted with his pencil.

' He was drawing all the time, at the table he was drawing, I always knew him pencil in hand. He worked a lot “, says the actor always on France Inter. 

Paul does not count his hours: he gets up at 7 a.m. to join his workshop where before starting to work he always puts a peeled apple on the stove so that it perfumes the room. He then devotes himself for twelve hours to his passion and does not join his family until 8 p.m. for dinner.

A taste for a job well done that he will keep until the end as his son Jean-Paul still remembers . ' A year before his death, I accompanied him on a Sunday afternoon to the Louvre, where we had already been hundreds of times, and I said to him: 'But dad, why do we still come here?' And he said, 'To learn, my little ', said the actor in Paris Match in 2010.

Growing up, Jean-Paul and his brother Alain will often push the door of the workshop but for other reasons! ' We would see him for the naked women he did. I was impressed, at 12, we wondered why he was famous, what did it mean, sculptor ' he confides always on France Inter in 2015.

Jean Paul, Alain and Muriel still have boundless admiration for their father and after his death in 1982 , they will inaugurate a museum in his name in Boulogne Billancourt. ' This magnificent museum, like those devoted to Maillol or Rodin, will allow as many people as possible to judge and appreciate the talent of my father, who was a master ', will tell Jean-Paul in Paris-Match .

John Paul the Magnificent

The youngest of the Belmondo family, Jean Paul, grew up in this family of artists where he distinguished himself by his incredible energy. Turbulent and struggling to stay in place, he announces to his mother that he wants to become a clown!

His schooling is chaotic and he only talks about football with his friends. Despite everything, he will never cease to praise this blessed period of his life and to recognize a joyful nature.

' This relaxation, this joie de vivre constituted a great capital comforted by the education I received, the freedom, the benevolence, the trust that my parents placed in me. “, says the actor in his autobiography A thousand lives are better than one published in 2016.

This is during the night of September 21, 1948 that his life changed : the 15-year-old gets up quietly to listen to the legendary match between Marcel Cerdan and American Tony Zale on the radio. The French sends Zale to the ground after a breathless fight. This fight triggers a vocation in the teenager who the next day enrolls in a mythical boxing gym where he channels his energy by constantly hitting training bags.

' Bullies aren't always who you think they are! Me, I like boxing because it made me dream as a teenager. Then, I pushed the doors of the Avia Club to never leave this sport again to dream, like Cerdan! Except I didn't have his talent. But I didn't waste my time, I built myself. And then, I made very good friends. This sport has enchanted my life ', confides Jean-Paul Belmondo to the Belgian version of Paris- Match in January 2018.

The next year, he stops his studies and at the same time, he contracts a tuberculosis infection. The fresh air being the only treatment recommended by the doctors, the teenager is sent to Allanche, in Cantal. Far from the capital and his friends, Jean-Paul is afraid of being bored but against all odds, he thrives in the great outdoors! ' I acclimatize wonderfully to the peaceful existence in the heights and do not regret for a second my daily life as a city dweller. “, says Jean-Paul Belmondo in his autobiography.

He discovers commonalities' with the local guys ', the village fairs and especially his vocation: he will be an actor. ' The barker competitions and the howls of laughter of the comrades reminded me of the immeasurable pleasure that I had always taken in giving myself a show. ', says the actor still in his autobiography.

Back in Paris, encouraged by his parents who believed in his dream, he decided to try his luck and enrolled in Raymond Girard's course, which helped him prepare for the competition for the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art where he failed twice! When he was finally admitted at the age of 19, his teacher Pierre Dux did not really believe in his talent and even declared ' that with the head he has, he could never take a woman in his arms, because it would not be credible '.

The young man stayed there for 4 years and met the ' conservatory band ' composed among others of Jean Rochefort, Jean-Pierre Marielle and Bruno Crémer. In 1954, he fell in love with a dancer called Élodie Constantin whose stage name was Renée Constant. The young couple leads a dissolute life but they have a daughter Patricia, the same year. Florence followed in 1960, and Paul in 1963. The couple went before the mayor in 1957 and divorced in 1965. During his exit exam from the conservatory, the troublemaker still made an impression in a play by Georges Feydeau. Acclaimed by the public but shunned by his jury, which only awarded him an accessit, he gave the jury a finger of honor.

Bebel: 'They didn't like me seriously'

The apprentice actor begins by playing in the theater and then in the cinema in a fun sunday in 1958, but it is thanks to Jean-Luc Godard who made it turn in A bout of souffle , that he knows consecration. The actor then connects the films like Leon Morin priest or A monkey in winter the same year. It was in 1964 that he was bombarded as a popular actor thanks to the wild success of The man from Rio .

Unfortunately he cannot shed this label, and the failure of the mississippi mermaid in 1969 left him with a very bitter taste. ' They didn't like me seriously. There was no way I looked serious. I was required to be happy and bouncing, happy and alive ', always writes in his autobiography the one who is now called Bebel in connection with the character Pepel interpreted by Jean Gabin in the film The Shallows .

In 1966, Jean-Paul Belmondo falls madly in love with Ursula Andress , met on the set of Tribulations of a Chinese in China . One evening when he went to see a boxing match with his friend Charles Gérard, he came home drunk.

' We wanted to enter the house but Ursula had closed all the shutters inside. I went to get a ladder that was lying around in the garden. We were half way up when Ursula took the ladder off the wall. We took a severe fall “, says the actor again.

Jean-Paul Belmondo begins the 1970s with the detective film Borsalino , where he shares the poster with his rival at the box office, Alain Delon. He then continued to shoot at a steady pace and met with great success with the films The Newlyweds of Year II , The Break , La Scoumone and The magnificent . In 1972, he lived for a few months with the Italian actress Laura Antonelli.

Two years later, the actor is again disappointed by the failure of the film Stavisky even if the following year, he won a very big success with fear over the city in which he performs risky stunts, including the memorable scene where he is suspended from a helicopter above the void. He connects thrillers, adventure films, and comedies and in 1987, 30 years after his debut, goes back on the boards to interpret Kean by Jean-Paul Sartre.

In 1988, it was the role of Sam Lion in Itinerary of a spoiled child which allows him to obtain the César for best actor. The actor doesn't go on stage to collect the statuette for a very specific reason! César, the sculptor of the eponymous statuette, never hailed his father's talent.

Jean-Paul Belmondo: the dark years

Jean-Paul Belmondo then moves away from the cinema for several years. 1994 is marked with a black stone in his life : his daughter Patricia, 40, dies in the fire of her apartment on rue de Rennes in Paris. Devastated, Jean-Paul Belmondo raises his head only thanks to the support and unconditional love of Natty Tardivel , a former coco-girl of Stéphane Collaro who has shared his life for 12 years.

Months pass and the actor manages to mourn. The years that follow are milder until the summer of 2001. On August 8, the actor is on vacation in Corsica when he is victim of a stroke . Emergency helicopter transported to Bastia Hospital, he was transferred at the end of the day to Saint-Joseph Hospital in Paris.

His state of health is considered serious and the actor must submit to a long rehabilitation. ' I woke up gabbling. It took me two years to be able to speak again when the doctor told me I would never speak again. Nailed it “, entrusts the actor to the Figaro Magazine in 2017. A year and a half later, as if to thumb their nose at fate, he married Natty and on August 13, 2003, Jean-Paul Belmondo became the father for the fourth time of a little Stella at the age of 70.

5 years later, he separates from Natty and has an affair with Barbara Gandolfi , a former Belgian model who posed for Playboy and participated in the Flemish version of temptation island . At the end of June 2010, the one who has become a formidable businesswoman is accused of taking advantage of Jean-Paul Belmondo's money : sentenced in 2017 to nine months in prison suspended and fined 5,500 euros for having extracted 200,000 euros from her companion at the time, she was finally acquitted at second instance.

Jean-Paul Belmondo has lived alone since this affair, which left him with a bitter taste but was hailed by his peers. At the Venice Film Festival 2016, the one who says he is now retired receives a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and in February 2017, he was awarded a honorary caesar.

Paul Belmondo, a fils si discret

Paul, the only son of Jean Paul Belmondo, did not inherit his father's taste for light. Shy and reserved, he grew up away from the spotlight. Raised by his mother who obtained custody of the couple's children after her divorce, when he was only 2 years old, the little boy was passionate about motor racing and sport in general from an early age. At 17, he made his debut on a karting track and a few years later branched off to Formula 3000 and then to Formula 1. In 1981, when he was 18, he experienced a furtive but intense passion with Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

In 1992, he finished 9th in the Hungarian Grand Prix and, 6 years later, launched his own racing car team, Paul Belmondo Racing . As a driver, Paul Belmondo participated 12 times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and also in Paris-Dakar.

Also a sports commentator, Paul was also belatedly won over by the family passion: he made a few appearances in the cinema, notably in Itinerary of a spoiled child before deciding to get on the boards. In 2009, he appeared in two plays directed by his cousin Olivier Belmondo, Alain's son, played in a TV movie and then made a documentary about his father entitled Belmondo by Belmondo , aired in January 2016.

In all his projects, he is supported by Luana, television chef and cookbook author whom he married in 1990 . Together they had three sons, Alessandro, now 27, Giacomo, 19, and Victor, who decided to take up the torch! It was at seven years old that the little boy announced to his relatives his decision to embark on comedy.

' It was in me from a very young age. My father listened to me, he just advised me to continue my studies at the same time, explaining to me that I could not rest on a job that was too random ', says Victor Belmondo, 25 years old at Gala, before adding: ' My grandfather came to see me on stage during my last year of classes , he said to me, 'It's okay, now you can go'. The circle is complete !