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.


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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