When the eternally Gallic Louis Jourdan (1921-2015) died on Valentine’s Day three years ago, film critic Terence Rafferty reflected in The New York Times of the stage and screen favorite’s “reserved, quiet manner that lent his performances an aura of mystery and even of melancholy and that served him well in both sympathetic and unsympathetic roles.” Happily married to his childhood sweetheart for 67 years, he would woo many a leading lady on screen with debonair style and/or cold calculation and/or befuddled amazement from Letter to an Unknown Woman (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), The Happy Time (1952) to Three Coins in a Fountain (1954), The Swan (1956) and Gigi (1958), in which his delivery of the exultant title-tune confessional is still the most empathetic delivery of that Academy Award®-winning Best Song. When he turned dastardly, as in his 1977 TV turn as Count Dracula or his Octopussy (1983) Bond villain Kamal Khan, no one could make the sinister and predatory more suave and cunning, and worth celebrating on what would today have been his 97th birthday.
Such is the case with his reunion with Three Coins in the Fountain director Jean Negulesco on another Cinemascope drama about the romantic involvements of three career women, The Best of Everything (1959), adapted from Rona Jaffe’s insightful publishing-world-set bestseller. Jourdan plays David Savage, a stage director and inveterate womanizer whose liaison with aspiring actress Gregg Adams (supermodel Suzy Parker) is a casual affair for him but, even as she puts up a front as a jaded worldly woman, it becomes a serious matter for the emotionally fractured Gregg, who becomes gradually and hauntingly unhinged when she’s replaced in Savage’s new production – and his life. She can’t take rejection and her dramatic end comes with a melodramatic tilt of Negulesco’s camera and an awkwardly caught heel on a fire escape grating. The veteran actor’s own dramatic end to his screen career was also a nasty bit of business that he nonetheless delivered with snappy comedic timing and viperous wit, the nefarious scientist Philippe, covetous of a priceless bottle of wine that’s the prize at the center of director Peter Yates and writer William Goldman’s romantic comedy thriller Year of the Comet (1992). The movie is blessed by a number of assets, including lovely French and Scottish highland locations, charming lead performances by the opposites-attracting lead performances of Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Daly, but another is clearly the erudite menace of the drolly loquacious Jourdan, whose way with torturous tactics in his maniacal pursuit of an eternal youth reinvigoration formula linked to the sought-after vino vessel culminates in a blissed-out, hallucinogenic rendition of A Lot of Livin’ to Do that’s a hoot in itself and a prime reason to ride along to the conclusion of this little-seen caper in a Romancing the Stone vein. Both The Best of Everything (currently available through July 5 at the best possible price of 67% off original list during the label’s limited-time Twentieth Century Fox sales promotion) and Year of the Comet offer examples of the expert work and undeniably lethal charm of the marvelous Jourdan on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray.