Eddie Constantine

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Eddie Constantine
Constantine in 1972
Israel Constantine

(1913-10-29)29 October 1913
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died25 February 1993(1993-02-25) (aged 79)
Wiesbaden, Germany
  • Singer
  • Actor
Years active1936–1993
Helene Musil
(m. 1942; div. 1976)
Dorothea Gibson
(m. 1977; div. 1977)
Maya Faber-Jansen
(m. 1979)

Eddie Constantine (born Israel Constantine; October 29, 1913 – February 25, 1993) was an American singer, actor and entertainer who spent most of his career in France.[1] He became well-known to film audiences for his portrayal of secret agent Lemmy Caution and other, similar pulp heroes in French B-movies of the 1950s and '60s.

His celebrity and status as something of a pop icon saw him work with prominent arthouse directors like Jean-Luc Godard (as Caution in Alphaville and Germany Year 90 Nine Zero), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (as himself in Beware of a Holy Whore 1971), Jesús Franco, Agnès Varda, Rosa von Praunheim, Lars von Trier, William Klein and Mika Kaurismäki.

Early life[edit]

Constantine was born Israel Constantine[2][3] in Los Angeles, California 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. However, when he returned to the United States, his career failed to take off, and he started taking work as a film extra.[4]


Having failed to make a career in the United States, Constantine returned to Europe in the early 1950s and started singing and performing in Paris 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 and so he has songwriting credits on the English versions of some of her most famous songs (especially "Hymne à l'amour"/"Hymn to Love").[5]

Eddie Constantine at the airport in Copenhagen, 1958

In the 1950s Constantine was a star in France because of 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 (1953), Je suis un sentimental (1955), Lemmy pour les dames (1961) and Your Turn, Darling (1963).

When not playing Lemmy Caution, Constantine would have a character that would still typically be a suave-talking, seductive, smooth guy although he often played that for laughs. He turned his accent and perceived American cockiness to advantage in such roles, and he later described his film persona as having been "James Bond before James Bond".[6] One of his best remembered later roles was as the visiting Mafia boss Charlie in the British gangster film The Long Good Friday (1980), a rare English-speaking role.

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 television dramas as well as film. Constantine later claimed that he had never taken his acting career seriously, as he considered himself to be a singer by trade, and that he had been an actor strictly for the money.[6] In 1982 he appeared in Rosa von Praunheim's film Red Love. 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 that year, in Godard's experimental film Germany Year 90 Nine Zero.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Eddie Constantine in the 1990s

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.[4] His daughter Tanya Constantine, born in 1943, is a photographer. His daughter Barbara (b. 1955,)is a writer, his son Lemmy (b. 1957) is also a singer and actor. His daughter Mia (b. 1981) is a theater director.


Constantine died of a heart attack on 25 February 1993 in Wiesbaden, Germany, aged 79. His remains were cremated and remanded to Paris.


Year Title Role Director Notes
1953 Egypt by Three Nick Victor Stoloff (third episode)
La môme vert-de-gris Lemmy Caution Bernard Borderie
This Man Is Dangerous Jean Sacha
1954 The Women Couldn't Care Less Bernard Borderie
Avanzi di galera [it] Franco Cesari Vittorio Cottafavi
Yours Truly, Blake Larry Blake Jean Laviron
1955 Ça va barder [fr] Johnny Jordan John Berry
Je suis un sentimental Barney Morgan John Berry
Vous pigez ? [fr] Lemmy Caution Pierre Chevalier
1956 Ce soir les jupons volent [fr] Monsieur Howard Dimitri Kirsanoff Uncredited
Folies-Bergère [fr] Bob Wellington Henri Decoin
L'Homme et l'Enfant [fr] Fred Barker Raoul André
Bonsoir Paris, bonjour l'amour [fr] cameo appearance Ralph Baum
1957 Et par ici la sortie Eddie Willy Rozier Uncredited
Le Grand Bluff [fr] Eddie F. Morgan Patrice Dally [fr]
Ces dames préfèrent le mambo Burt Brickford Bernard Borderie
Les Truands Jim Esposito Carlo Rim
1958 Incognito [fr] Bob Stanley Patrice Dally [fr]
Hoppla, jetzt kommt Eddie [de] Eddie Petersen Werner Klingler
Passport to Shame Johnny McVey Alvin Rakoff
1959 Du rififi chez les femmes Interpol Agent Williams Alex Joffé
The Treasure of San Teresa (Hot Money Girl) Larry Brennan Alvin Rakoff
SOS Pacific Mark Reisner Guy Green
1960 Bombs on Monte Carlo Captain Eddie Cronen Georg Jacoby
Women Are Like That Lemmy Caution Bernard Borderie
Jack of Spades Patrick Yves Allégret
Ravishing cameo appearance Robert Lamoureux Uncredited
Ça va être ta fête [fr] John Lewis / John Jarvis Pierre Montazel
1961 Me faire ça à moi [fr] Eddie MacAvoy Pierre Grimblat [fr]
Destination Fury Felice Esposito Giorgio Bianchi
Cause toujours, mon lapin [fr] Jackson Guy Lefranc
1962 Une grosse tête [fr] Napoléon "Naps" Dubois Claude de Givray
The Seven Deadly Sins cameo appearance Jean-Luc Godard (segment "La paresse")
Lemmy pour les dames Lemmy Caution Bernard Borderie
Cléo from 5 to 7 cameo appearance Agnès Varda Uncredited
Lykke og krone cameo appearance Colbjørn Helander and Stein Saelen
Bonne chance, Charlie Charlie Jean-Louis Richard
L'Empire de la nuit [fr] Eddie Pierre Grimblat [fr]
Nous irons à Deauville Friend of Pin-Up Girl Francis Rigaud [fr] Uncredited
1963 Jeff Gordon, Secret Agent Jeff Gordon Raoul André
Les Femmes d'abord [fr] Bobby Carao Raoul André
Tela de araña Eddie Ross José Luis Monter
Your Turn, Darling Lemmy Caution Bernard Borderie
1964 Die ganze Welt ist himmelblau [de] Himself Franz Antel
How Do You Like My Sister? Himself Michel Boisrond
Laissez tirer les tireurs [fr] Jeff Gordon Guy Lefranc
Nick Carter va tout casser Nick Carter Henri Decoin
Lucky Jo Lucky Jo Michel Deville
1965 Ces dames s'en mêlent Jeff Gordon Raoul André
Faites vos jeux, mesdames [fr] Mike Warner Marcel Ophuls
Cent briques et des tuiles Le consommateur au bar Pierre Grimblat [fr]
Alphaville Lemmy Caution Jean-Luc Godard
Je vous salue, mafia! Rudy Hamberg Raoul Lévy
Nick Carter and Red Club Nick Carter Jean-Paul Savignac [fr]
1966 Cartas boca arriba [fr] (Attack Of The Robots) Al Pereira Jesus Franco
Residencia para espías [it] (Residence for Spies) Dan Leyton Jesus Franco
1968 Ces messieurs de la famille [fr] Cousin Lemmy Raoul André
À tout casser Ric John Berry
1969 Les Gros Malins [fr] Eddie Raymond Leboursier
Lions Love Himself Agnès Varda
1970 Malatesta Malatesta Peter Lilienthal TV movie
Eine Rose für Jane Boss Hans W. Geißendörfer TV movie
1971 Supergirl Partygast bei Polonsky Rudolf Thome TV movie
Beware of a Holy Whore Himself Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Haytabo (Eddie geht weiter) the professor Ulli Lommel
1973 Geen paniek Bill Silkstocking Ko Koedijk
World on a Wire Man in car Rainer Werner Fassbinder TV serial
1974 Une baleine qui avait mal aux dents [fr] Eddie Jacques Bral
1975 Souvenir of Gibraltar Father Jo Henri Xhonneux
A Second Spring [de] Frank Cabot Ulli Lommel
1976 Raid on Entebbe Capt. Michel Bacos Irvin Kershner TV movie
1977 Bloedverwanten Priest Wim Lindner
Le Couple témoin Dr. Goldberg William Klein
1978 It Lives Again Dr. Forrest Larry Cohen
1979 The Third Generation Peter Lurz Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Ticket of No Return (Bildnis einer Trinkerin) Küstler Ulrike Ottinger
1980 Exit... nur keine Panik Poigrard Franz Novotny
Panic Time Lemmy Caution Udo Lindenberg
Car-napping police officer Laroux Wigbert Wicker
The Long Good Friday Charlie John Mackenzie
1981 Die Alptraumfrau Lothar Lambert
Tango durch Deutschland Eddie Lutz Mommartz
Neige Pierrot Juliet Berto et Jean-Henri Roger
Freak Orlando Säulenheiliger Ulrike Ottinger
1982 Red Love Pawel Pawlowitsch Rosa von Praunheim
Boxoffice Hugh Barren Josef Bogdanovitch
1983 Non-Stop Trouble with Spies [de] Gregori Ustinov Ottokar Runze
La Bête noire [fr] the bar proprietor Patrick Chaput
Das Mikado-Projekt Lemmy Caution Torsten Emrich
1984 Rambo Zambo Harry Reinhard Donga TV movie
Fluchtpunkt Berlin Himself Christopher Petit
Uno scugnizzo a New York [it] Sammy Mariano Laurenti
Tiger: Springtime in Vienna [de] Lemmy Caution Peter Patzak
Seifenblasen Alfred Ninaus
1985 Seifenblasen cameo appearance Alfred Ninaus [de]
Paul Chevrolet en de ultieme hallucinatie [nl] Boy Pappa Pim de la Parra
1986 Makaroni Blues [no] Lemmy Caution Bela Csepesanyi
Roncalli Pablo Michael Mackenroth TV series
1987 Frankenstein's Aunt Alois - Water Spirit Juraj Jakubisko TV series, 7 episodes
Freckled Max and the Spooks Alojz Juraj Jakubisko
Helsinki Napoli All Night Long Old Gangster Mika Kaurismäki
1989 Le retour de Lemmy Caution Lemmy Caution Josée Dayan TV movie
Europa, abends Mr. Hardayle Claudia Schröder
1991 Europa Colonel Harris Lars von Trier
Germany Year 90 Nine Zero Lemmy Caution Jean-Luc Godard
Tokyo no kyujitsu [ja] William Wright Naoki Nagao
1993 Three Shake-a-leg Steps to Heaven [lb] Don Fabrizzi Andy Bausch
2010 Dimension N/A Lars von Trier Unfinished


  1. ^ "Eddie Constantine (obituary)". Variety. 5 March 1993. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  2. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VL1H-SYB : 27 November 2014), Israel Constantine, 29 Oct 1913; citing Los Angeles, California, United States, Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Department, Sacramento.
  3. ^ "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QGL4-VY1T : 1 March 2021), Israel Constantine, 29 Oct 1913; citing Birth, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States, California State Archives, Sacramento.
  4. ^ a b c IMDB entry for Eddie Constantine, archived from the original on 11 June 2011, retrieved 20 July 2010
  5. ^ DISCOGS entry for La Vie En Rose / Édith Piaf Sings In English, retrieved 20 July 2010
  6. ^ a b Eddie Constantine biography at cinemapassion.com

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