Pierre Batcheff

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Pierre Batcheff
Pierre Batcheff by Henri Manuel.jpg
Batcheff c. 1926
Born(1901-06-23)23 June 1901?[1]
Died(1932-04-13)13 April 1932
Other namesBenjamin Batcheff
Piotr Bachev
Пётр Бачев
Years active1923-1932
Notable workUn chien andalou
SpouseDenise Piazza

Pierre Batcheff (Russian: Пьер Батчефф; 23 June 1901?[1] – 13 April 1932) was a French actor of Russian origin. He became a popular film actor from the mid-1920s until the early 1930s, and among his best-known work was the surrealist short film Un chien andalou (1929), made by Luis Buñuel in collaboration with Salvador Dalí. After appearing in about twenty-five films, he died at an early age from a drug overdose.


Pierre Batcheff was born in Harbin in China and he grew up in Saint Petersburg. (One source says that his birth name was Benjamin Batcheff and that he adopted the name Pierre later from his father.)[2] When war broke out in 1914, his family were on holiday in Switzerland and they decided to remain there, at first in Lausanne and then Geneva. Batcheff's father went bankrupt around 1917, leaving the family in financial difficulty, and Pierre started taking small parts in Georges Pitoëff's theatre company in Geneva. Between 1919 and 1921 he attended the Collège Calvin. In 1921, Batcheff moved with his family to Paris where he worked at first as a theatre actor.[2]

Batcheff's earliest leading role in the cinema was in 1923 in Claudine et le poussin, in the first of several performances as a young aristocratic lover. In the next few years he made films with Marcel L'Herbier, Jean Epstein, and Abel Gance. By 1927 he was established as a popular young leading man, with interviews and covers photos in film magazines. He was at the same time dissatisfied with the type of roles which he was offered and he cultivated links with avant-garde circles, especially the surrealists. In 1927 he met Luis Buñuel and their discussions led to their subsequent collaboration on Un chien andalou in the following year.[3]

In 1926 Batcheff met Denise Piazza, the daughter of a publisher, and they married in 1930. As Denise Batcheff, and later Denise Tual, she became a film editor and producer.

In the ten years of his film career, Batcheff made around 25 films. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a project with Jacques Prévert to write and direct a film which proved to be sufficiently radical to alarm some financial backers. Batcheff's behaviour showed signs of stress and became increasingly erratic, and in April 1932 he died from an overdose of drugs, possibly by suicide.[4][5][6][7]

One of the Parisian newspapers reporting on his death summarised his contemporary appeal as an actor: "As an artist, he brought an extremely personal tone of refinement, of sensitivity and of melancholy, which was not devoid of strength, and this earned him a very wide popularity". It also noted that on the day after his death he had been due to sign a contract with a producer to direct his first film.[8]


Year Original title English title Director Notes
1923 Le Roi de Paris The King of Paris Maurice de Marsan and Charles Maudru Lost film.
1924 Claudine et le poussin Marcel Manchez Role of Claude de Puygiron
1925 Princesse Lulu Émile-Bernard Donatien Lost film.
1925 Autour d'un berceau Georges Monca and Maurice Kéroul Lost film.
1925 Le Double Amour Jean Epstein
1926 Feu Mathias Pascal The Late Matthias Pascal Marcel L'Herbier Role of Scipion.
1926 Destinée Henry Roussel Lost film.
1926 Le Secret d'une mère Georges Pallu Lost film.
1927 Le Joueur d'échecs The Chess Player Raymond Bernard Role of Prince Serge Oblonoff.
1927 Napoléon Abel Gance Role of General Hoche.
1927 Éducation de prince Education of a Prince Henri Diamant-Berger
1927 En rade Alberto Cavalcanti
1927 La Siréne des tropiques Siren of the Tropics Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant With Josephine Baker.
1928 Le Bonheur du jour Gaston Ravel Lost film.
1928 L'Île d'amour Island of Love Jean Durand and Berthe Dagmar
1928 Vivre Robert Boudrioz Lost film.
1928 Le Perroquet vert Jean Milva
1929 Les Deux Timides Two Timid Souls René Clair
1929 Un chien andalou An Andalusian Dog Luis Buñuel Short film.
1929 Monte Cristo Henri Fescourt Role of Albert de Mortcerf.
1930 Illusions Lucien Mayrargue
1930 Le Roi de Paris The King of Paris Leo Mittler Lost film.
1931 Les Amours de minuit Augusto Genina and Marc Allégret Also in German version Mitternachtsliebe.
1931 Le Rebelle The Rebel Adelqui Migliar Lost film.
1932 Baroud Baroud Rex Ingram and Alice Terry Batcheff appeared in both French and English versions.
1932 Amour... Amour... Robert Bibal Batcheff wrote the script only; filmed and released after his death.


  • Powrie, Phil & Rebillard, Éric. Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009
  • Tual, Denise. Au cœur du temps. Paris: Carrère, 1987.


  1. ^ a b Various reference sources give his birth year as 1901: e.g. Bibliothèque nationale de France; Dictionnaire du cinéma français; sous la direction de Jean-Loup Passek. (Paris: Larousse, 1987); Ephraim Katz, The International Film Encyclopedia (London: Macmillan, 1980). On the other hand, the most detailed academic study of Batcheff's life and career, by Powrie and Rebillard (see Bibliography), says that Batcheff was born on 22 or 23 June 1907 [p.2] and cites as evidence his marriage and death certificates [p.24]; in this case he would have started his appearances in film at the age of 16, and he would have been only 24 when he died.
  2. ^ a b Phil Powrie & Éric Rebillard, Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009. p. 2.
  3. ^ Phil Powrie & Éric Rebillard, Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009. pp. 9–10.
  4. ^ Dictionnaire du cinéma français; sous la direction de Jean-Loup Passek. Paris: Larousse, 1987. p.30.
  5. ^ Dudley Andrew, Mists of Regret. Princeton University Press, 1995. p.78.
  6. ^ Guy Jacob, "Les films de Jacques Prévert", in Premier plan, no.14, novembre 1960 (spéciale Jacques Prévert).
  7. ^ Some accounts identify the drug as Veronal. In 1929, Batcheff's co-star in L'Île d'amour, Claude France, committed suicide by gas inhalation. Simone Mareuil, the leading actress in Un chien andalou, would later (1954) kill herself by setting herself on fire.
  8. ^ La Liberté (Paris), 16 avril 1932, p. 5, col. 3: "En tant qu'artiste, il apportait une note extrêmement personelle de finesse, de sensibilité et de tristesse, d'où la force n'était pas exclue, ce qui lui valait une très grande popularité".

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