Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Michel Simon (1895 – 1975), was a Swiss actor. He appeared in the notable films La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), L'Atalante (1934), Port of Shadows (1938) and The Train (1964). The actor François Simon is his son.
Simon left his family as a youngster to go to Paris, where he lived in Montmartre. He worked many different jobs to survive, such as giving boxing lessons or peddling smuggled lighters. He devoured every book he could find. His artistic beginnings in 1912 were modest: magician, clown and acrobat stooge in a dancers' show called "Ribert's and Simon's.
Conscripted into the Swiss Army in 1914, he was often insubordinate, spending a lot of time in the stockade.
His film career was really boosted with the advent of talking pictures. People remarked that his elocution and voice tone were as original as his appearance and play. He then revealed his unclassifiable talent: action comedy, drama, tragedy, light comedy. He appeared in 55 plays from 1920 to 1965, and 101 from 1965 to 1975.
Simon was a trusted friend of elite brothel-keeper Madame Claude, who referred to him as one of her “essayeurs”: he "tried out" her new girls for her. “I could judge their physical qualities,” Claude said. “I could judge if she was pretty, intelligent, and cultivated, but I didn’t know how she was in bed. So I had some boys, good friends, who told me exactly. I would ring them up and say, ‘There’s a new one.’ And afterwards they’d ring back and say, ‘Not bad,’ ‘Could be better,’ or ‘Nulle.’ Or, on the contrary, ‘She’s perfect.’”
In the 1920s/1930s, Simon enjoyed associating with the Parisian lower classes.
Simon would say that he preferred "living with animals than humans". He lived for a long time in a kind of bohemian house in Noisy-le-Grand, near Paris. The house was surrounded by rank weeds, and filled with amazing bric-a-brac, including his large collection of erotica.