The crossing of Bourvil (France 3): why did the actor hide his bone marrow cancer for so long?

Bourvil loved to fool around and made millions of viewers laugh with his funny naive roles. But behind this popular figure of French cinema (who hated Fernandel…) was hiding a modest and determined man. Today, Bourvil, whose friendship with Jean-Pierre Mocky was based on a misunderstanding, is without doubt one of the most endearing and striking actors in comic and popular French cinema. The evening dedicated to him by the France 3 channel, this evening, at 9:10 p.m., with the unpublished documentary The crossing of Bourvil (whose title obviously refers to the film The crossing of Paris) is an opportunity to learn more about him.

Bourvil: family first

At 17, André Raimbourg, says Bourville, meets Jeanne at a ball, but he will wait nine years before marrying her. Not out of hesitation, but because the future actor wants to earn enough money to live in Paris with her. Together, they will have two sons, Dominique and Philippe, and if the actor lives for his job, he easily gives up a film to spend holidays with his wife and children. When he tours Paris or plays there at the theater, he has lunch and dinners with them. And he only works nine months a year, in order to take advantage of his loved ones. Relatives whom he keeps away from his professional life.

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Bourvil: the cinema, his only forum

Bourvil has always refused to speak in public on subjects that did not concern his art, claiming that it was not his role and that he did not have the skills to do so. “I am neither a philosopher, nor a great writer, nor a politician. I’m just an actor. And a singer sometimeshe likes to specify. I like to talk about my job, but that’s it. I’m so afraid of talking nonsense…» However, he never hesitated to choose projects that allowed him to tackle sensitive, even sulphurous, subjects on French society in the 1960s. Director Jean-Pierre Mocky gave him the opportunity four times, with films as A funny parishioneron religion, The heelabout sex…

Bourvil: discreet until the end, he hid his illness

In 1969, he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. A disease that Bourvil will hide carefully… out of necessity, fearing that he will no longer be able to work if the insurers find out. Suffering in silence for three years, he continues to film despite intense pain and paralysis of the tongue. With rage, he trains in front of the mirror, in order to find a perfect elocution. While the evil gnaws at him, he still affirms that he is “varnished” to be so fulfilled by his job and his family. Knowing his near end, but still optimistic, or in denial, he signs new projects that he will never do: a show at the Olympia, the film Megalomania with his old accomplices Gérard Oury and Louis de Funès. He is shooting his last film, The Atlantic Wallduring the summer of 1970. He died in September, at only 53 years old.

The crossing of Bourvil (France 3): why did the actor hide his bone marrow cancer for so long?