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October 29, 1917
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||February 25, 1993 (aged 75)|
|Occupation||Film actor, singer|
He became well known for a series of French B movies in which he played secret agent Lemmy Caution and may be best remembered for his role in Jean-Luc Godard's philosophical science fiction film Alphaville (1965).
Constantine also appeared in films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (as himself in Beware of a Holy Whore 1971), Lars von Trier, and Mika Kaurismäki. He continued reprising the role of Lemmy Caution well into his 70s; his final appearance as the character was in Jean-Luc Godard's Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991).
Israël Constantine was born in Los Angeles to Jewish immigrant parents, a Russian father and Polish mother; his father was a jeweler. In pursuit of a singing career, he went to Vienna for voice training, but when he returned to the United States his career didn't take off and he started taking work as a film extra. Having failed to make a career in the United States, Constantine returned to Europe in the early 1950s and started singing and performing in Parisian cabarets. He was noticed by Edith Piaf, who cast him in the musical La p'tite Lili. Constantine also helped Piaf with translations for her 1956 album La Vie en Rose/Édith Piaf Sings In English, so that he has songwriting credits on the English versions of some of her most famous songs (especially "Hymne à l'amour"/"Hymn to Love").
In the 1950s Constantine was a star in France due to his role as the hard-boiled detective/secret agent Lemmy Caution (from Peter Cheyney's novels) in a series of French B-pictures, including La môme vert-de-gris (1953), This Man Is Dangerous, Ça va barder (1953), Je suis un sentimental (1955), Lemmy pour les dames (1961) and Your Turn, Darling (1963).
When not playing Lemmy Caution, Constantine's character would still typically be a suave-talking, seductive, smooth guy, although he often played this for laughs. He turned his accent and perceived American cockiness to advantage in such roles, and later described his film persona as having been "James Bond before James Bond". One of his best remembered later roles was as the visiting Mafia boss Charlie in the British gangster film The Long Good Friday (1980).
One of his most notable roles was in Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965), in which he reprised (to a more radical end) the role of Lemmy Caution, in a departure from the style of his other films. His box-office appeal in France waned in the mid-1960s. Having remarried to a German television producer, he eventually relocated to Germany, where he worked as a character actor, appearing in German TV dramas as well as film. Constantine later claimed he had never taken his acting career seriously, as he considered himself to be a singer by trade, and had been an actor strictly for the money. He nevertheless worked with directors including Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and his last notable film appearance was in Lars Von Trier's Europa in 1991. He had taken up the part of Lemmy for the last time in the same year, in Godard's experimental film Germany Year 90 Nine Zero.
Constantine was married three times, to Helene Musil (1942-1976, divorced), with whom he had three children, Dorothea Gibson (1977, divorced), and the film producer Maya Faber-Jansen (1979–1993, Constantine's death), with whom he had one child. His daughter Tanya Constantine, born in 1943, is a photographer. His daughter Barbara Constantine, born in 1955, is a writer. His son Lemmy Constantine, born in 1957, is also a singer and actor. His daughter Mia Constantine, born in 1981, is a theater director.
Eddie Constantine died of a heart attack on February 25, 1993, aged 75.
- "Eddie Constantine (obituary)". Variety. 5 March 1993. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- Azzopardi, Michel (1997). Le temps des vamps: 1915-1965. L'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-7384-4866-8.
- McKinney, Mark (2008). History and politics in French language comics and graphic novels. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-60473-004-3.
- IMDB entry for Eddie Constantine, archived from the original on 2011-06-11, retrieved 2010-07-20
- DISCOGS entry for La Vie En Rose / Édith Piaf Sings In English, retrieved 2010-07-20
- Eddie Constantine biography at cinemapassion.com