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(stage name of Fernan-Joseph-Désiré Contandin). Born May 8, 1903, in Marseille; died Feb. 26, 1971, in Paris. French film actor.
After beginning his career on the variety stage, appearing in music-hall revues and operettas, Fernandel first performed in films in the early 1930’s. He acted in numerous motion pictures (not all of which are artistically significant), playing the comic role of a charming simpleton, a dauntless loser. Outright slapstick characterized most of his films, including Squadron Fun (1932) and Casimir (1950). In a number of films, however, Fernandel was attracted to dramatic, psychologically complex roles, for example, in The Dance Card (1937), Topaz (1950), The Law Is the Law (1958), and The Devil and the Ten Commandments (1962).
Fernandel’s humor is closely linked with traditional French theater, especially the farce and fair theater, as well as with the folk types of Provence.