Jacques Tourneur

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Jacques Tourneur
on set, date unknown
Born (1904-11-12)November 12, 1904
Paris, France
Died December 19, 1977(1977-12-19) (aged 73)
Bergerac, France
Occupation Director
Years active 1931–1965

Jacques Tourneur (November 12, 1904 – December 19, 1977) was a French film director known for the classic film noir Out of the Past and a series of low-budget horror films he made for RKO Studios, including Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man. He is also known for directing Night of the Demon that was released by Columbia Pictures.


Born in Paris, France, Tourneur was the son of film director Maurice Tourneur.[1] At age 10, Jacques moved to the United States with his father.[1] He started a career in cinema while still attending high school as an extra and later as a script clerk in various silent films.[1] Both Maurice and Jacques returned to France after his father worked on the film The Mysterious Island in 1925.[1] Tourneur died in 1977 in Bergerac, Dordogne, France.


Tourneur began work as an editor and assistant director. He made his debut as a director on French short film Tout ca ne vaut pas l'amour in 1931.[1]

Tourneur went back to Hollywood in 1934 where he had a contract with MGM Studios.[1] While working as the second unit director on the film A Tale of Two Cities he met film producer Val Lewton.[1] Tourneur made his feature debut as director in the 1939 film They All Come Out.[1] After Tourneur was dropped by MGM in 1941, he was picked up by Lewton to film several acclaimed low-budget horror films for RKO Studios including Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie.[1] Cat People was considered to be a B movie and didn't have a very big budget, yet the style of lighting and cinematography gave it an edge that has been imitated countless times. Tourneur was promoted to the A-list at RKO, directing films including Out of the Past and Berlin Express.[1] In the 1950s, Tourneur became a freelance director, filming various genre films including The Flame and the Arrow, Stars In My Crown and Night of the Demon.[1] His last films both starred Vincent Price, with The Comedy of Terrors (1963) and War-Gods of the Deep (1965) for American International Pictures.[1]

After his final days working for film, Tourneur began directing television episodes.[1] Tourneur filmed episodes of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone and The Alaskans. Tourneur's final director credit was for an episode of T.H.E. Cat in 1966.[1] Tourneur then retired and returned to France.[1]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Earnshaw 2004, p. 102
  • Earnshaw, Tony (2004). Beating the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon. Tomahawk Press. ISBN 0-9531926-1-X. 
Further reading
  • Young, Gwenda (2001) 'Shadows: Jacques Tourneur's Cinema of Ambiguity'. Film Ireland, 83 (*):47–51.
  • Young, Gwenda (1999) 'Jacques Tourneur's World War II Films: From Unity to Chaos'. Popular Culture Review, 10 (2):55–65.
  • Young, Gwenda (1998) 'The Cinema of Difference: Jacques Tourneur, Race and I Walked with a Zombie (1943)'. ''Irish Journal of American Studies, 7:101–121.

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