Gabriel Axel

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Gabriel Axel
Born Axel Gabriel Erik Mørch
(1918-04-18)18 April 1918
Aarhus, Denmark
Died 9 February 2014(2014-02-09) (aged 95)
Bagsværd (near Copenhagen), Denmark
Nationality Danish
Education Actor
Alma mater Royal Danish Theatre
Occupation Film director, actor, writer, producer
Years active 1945–2001
Known for Babette's Feast
Spouse(s) Lucie Juliette Laraignou (m. 1948–1996)
Children 4[1]
Awards Academy Award
Rungstedlund Award

Axel Gabriel Erik Mørch better known as Gabriel Axel (18 April 1918 – 9 February 2014)[2] was a Danish film director, actor, writer and producer, best known for Babette's Feast (1987), which he wrote and directed.[3][4]


Born in Aarhus, Denmark, on 18 April 1918,[5] Axel spent most of his childhood in Paris in a wealthy Danish manufacturer's family.

In 1935, at age 17 after the family's economic collapse, he moved to Denmark and trained as a cabinet maker.[6] In 1942, Axel was admitted to the acting school at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen. After graduating in 1945, he returned to France where he spent five years on stage in Paris, including at the Théâtre de l'Athénée under theatre director Louis Jouvet. During the winter of 1948-1949 he produced Ludvig Holberg's Diderich Menschenskraek (Diderich the Terrible) at Théâtre de Paris.[7][8][9]

Axel returned to Denmark in 1950, and broke through as a stage director in the early 1950s. His productions included La tête des autres (Other People's Heads) by Marcel Aymé, Le Cid by Pierre Corneille, and Pour Lucrèce by Jean Giraudoux.[10][11][12][13] Axel started directing for television in 1951, and, from 1951–1968, did some 48 television dramas.[14]

From 1955, Axel was a director at Nordisk Film.[15] His debut feature, the social-realist drama Nothing But Trouble (1955), was highly praised, and the breakthrough came with the TV film A Woman Not Wanted in 1957.[16][17]

He went on to direct a string of lighter comedies and farces before making the epic Nordic saga The Red Mantle in 1967,[18] which was selected for Cannes Film Festival competition and won a Technical Prize (Mention spéciale du grand prix technique) at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival.[19][20] His other films include the popular comedy The Goldcabbage Family (1975) and its sequel, and a series of sexually oriented features including the campaigning Det kære legetøj (1968) which advocated the legalisation of pornography in Denmark.[21][22]

With some 16 feature films to his credits Axel returned to France in 1977, where he directed several large projects for French television, culminating in 1985 with a historical five-episode series, Les Colonnes du ciel (fr) (Heaven's Pillars).

In 1987, Axel returned to Denmark to direct what had been his dream project for over 15 years, and is considered his masterpiece, an adaptation of Karen Blixen's Babette's Feast. After screening at the Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 60th Academy Awards among others.[4][23][24]

His next films, the youth drama Christian (1989), the historical drama Prince of Jutland (1994), after the legend of Prince Amleth, and starring Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne, and Christian Bale, and Leïla (2001), a love story set in Morocco, failed to achieve the same international resonance.

Alongside his directing career, Axel acted in a dozen Danish films, mostly in colourful supporting roles in popular comedies in the 1950s and 60s. He played the lead as the elegant charlatan Marcel de Sade in The Reluctant Sadist (1967).[25][26][27][28]

Axel in 1995, was made a Knight of the French National Order of Merit, in 2000 Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2003 was made Officer of the Legion of Honour.[29] In 2003, Axel received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.[30] In 2012 he received the Rungstedlund Award.[31]

Axel died in his sleep on 9 February 2014 at the age of 95.[32][33]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Credits Notes
1955 Altid ballade Director
1955 Der kom en dag Actor
1956 Kispus Actor
1957 En kvinde er overflødig Director
1958 The Girls Are Willing Director
1958 Styrmand Karlsen Actor
1959 Helle for Helene Director
1960 Flemming og Kvik Director
1962 Peters baby Actor
1962 Oskar Director
1962 Han, hun, Dirch og Dario Actor
1962 Crazy Paradise Director
1963 Vi har det jo dejligt Director
1963 Three Girls in Paris Director, actor
1963 Paradise and Back Director
1965 En ven i bolignøden Actor
1966 Dyden går amok Actor
1967 Hagbard and Signe Director
1967 The Reluctant Sadist Actor
1968 Det kære legetøj Director
1970 Amour Director
1971 Med kærlig hilsen Director
1972 Soft Shoulders, Sharp Curves Director
1972 Nu går den på Dagmar Actor
1975 Familien Gyldenkål Director
1976 Familien Gyldenkål sprænger banken Director
1977 Going for Broke Director
1987 Babette's Feast Director Academy Award
1989 Christian Director
1994 Prince of Jutland Director
1995 Lumière and Company Director Segment
2001 Leïla Director


  1. ^ "Ekstra Bladet - Gabriel Axel sang franske sange aftenen, før han døde". 
  2. ^ Ronald Bergan Obituary: Gabriel Axel, The Guardian, 10 February 2014
  3. ^ "Babette's Feast director Gabriel Axel dies". BBC News. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b ""Babette's Feast and the Goodness of God" by Thomas J. Curry". 
  5. ^ Karin Mørch (2008). Gabriels gæstebud (in Danish). Gyldendal A/S. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-87-02-06775-0. 
  6. ^ "Halv franskmand, halv dansker, hel ildsjæl". Information. 
  7. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (3 January 1948). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 41–. ISSN 00062510. 
  8. ^ Billboard. Billboard Publications. September 1949. 
  9. ^ Ove Holger Krak (1980). Kraks blå bog (in Danish). Krak. 
  10. ^ Michel Lécureur (1 January 1997). Marcel Ayme (in French). Les Belles Lettres/Archimbaud. p. 134. ISBN 978-2-251-44107-8. 
  11. ^ Cahiers Jean Giraudoux (in French). B. Grasset. 1981. p. 231. 
  12. ^ Perspektiv (in Danish). H. Reitzel. 1954. p. 51. 
  13. ^ Harald Engberg (1958). Dansk teater i halvtredserne (in Danish). Carit Andersen forl. p. 63. 
  14. ^ Dragerytteren (in Danish). Gyldendal A/S. 2006. ISBN 978-87-02-02104-2. 
  15. ^ J. R. Keith Keller (1 January 1999). Karen Blixen og filmen (in Danish). Aschehoug. p. 147. ISBN 978-87-11-11311-0. 
  16. ^ Mette Hjort; Ib Bondebjerg (1 January 2003). The Danish Directors: Dialogues on a Contemporary National Cinema. Intellect Books. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-1-84150-841-2. 
  17. ^ Birger Langkjær. Realismen i dansk film (in Danish). Samfundslitteratur. pp. 152–. ISBN 978-87-593-1598-9. 
  18. ^ Roger Ebert (15 June 2009). Roger Ebert's Four Star Reviews--1967-2007. Andrews McMeel Publishing. pp. 311–. ISBN 978-0-7407-9217-5. 
  19. ^ Danish Films. Danish Film Institute. 1994. p. 18. 
  20. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hagbard and Signe". Retrieved 2009-03-08. 
  21. ^ Ib Bondebjerg (2012). Virkelighedsbilleder: den moderne danske dokumentarfilm (in Danish). Samfundslitteratur. pp. 195–. ISBN 978-87-593-1629-0. 
  22. ^ "Dansk films seje overlever". Information. 
  23. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Group US. pp. 148–. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2. 
  24. ^ Maaike de Haardt; Anne-Marie Korte (2002). Common Bodies: Everyday Practices, Gender and Religion. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 20–. ISBN 978-3-8258-5578-9. 
  25. ^ "Gabriel Axel er død". 
  26. ^ Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema. Scarecrow Press. 31 August 2012. pp. 66–. ISBN 978-0-8108-5524-3. 
  27. ^ Francisco Lafarga. Le XVIIIe siècle aujourd’hui. Présences, lectures et réécritures (in French). Editions Le Manuscrit. pp. 131–. ISBN 978-2-304-23419-0. 
  28. ^ "I de Sades saloner". 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "‘Babette’s Feast’ Director Gabriel Axel Dead At 95". Variety. 
  32. ^ "Filminstruktøren Gabriel Axel er død". Danmarks Radio. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  33. ^ "Ekstra Bladet - Gabriel Axel sang franske sange aftenen, før han døde". 

External links[edit]