His laughter, his banter and his voice… Bourvil has marked generations of French people with his personality. The public discovered him as a music-hall singer, he caused a sensation at numerous shows and later turned to the cinema. A singular humor that will make all of France laugh after the Second World War.
Yet born the son of farmers in Normandy, André Robert Raimbourg (his real name) has come a long way before experiencing success in the cinema. Long confined to the role of naive and sometimes simpleton comic, Bourvil shot several notable films with one of his favorite acting partners: Louis de Funès. La Traversée de Paris in 1956, Le Corniaud in 1965 without forgetting La Grande Vadrouille in 1966, they form one of the most emblematic duos in cinema.
However, their difference in character could have created tensions between the two famous actors. But Bourvil had the secret to make his slightly grumpy sidekick smile. “The happy character of Bourvil works wonders on the set of La Grande Vadrouile”, noted the author Bertrand Dicale in his book Louis de Funès, de A à Z, published by Éditions Gründ in 2020.
“When Louis de Funès arrives on the set with his face of the bad mornings, which keeps everyone away from him and a prelude to electric storms, we see his friend spinning around him singing the chorus of his song Les Abeilles (‘bzz bzz bzz, the bees’)”, hummed the artist according to the words of the journalist.
With their complicity, Louis de Funès and Bourvil were to shoot together in La Folie des Grandeurs with the director Gérard Oury. But, a terrible illness will prevent the actor from finding the film sets. He died on September 23, 1970, killed by bone marrow cancer at the age of 53.
At the height of his career, Bourvil saw his destiny darken when he learned that he was affected by Kahler’s disease. However, he continued to shoot while suffering in silence”. What he liked in life was to work. It was to be an actor, to play comedy”, evoked Dominique Raimbourg, one of his sons born from his union with his wife Jeanne Lefrique, in the JT of France 2 in 2020. “Being able to continue, it was also a way to help healing, even if it did not work”.
But, a financial reason also explains why Bourvil had taken care to hide his illness. “He was afraid that insurance would prevent him from acting. He also shot his last films with producers who agreed not to be covered by insurance,” said his eldest son and criminal lawyer in the pages of the Parisian.
Discreet about his private life, Bourvil was a happy family man with his two sons Dominique (born in 1950) and Philippe (born in 1953). On the professional side, he led his career with a beating drum. “When I was very young, he often made films during the day and in the evening he was on stage to play “La Route Fleurie”, which he performed 1,300 times between 1951 and 1956″, Dominique Raimbourg recalled in The Parisian.
In terms of family life, the lawyer recounts his life alongside his illustrious father. “He was present at home anyway: he took vacations with us, we went every summer to our country house in Yvelines and to his parents’ in Bourville. Sometimes we also went, to the Côte d’Azur for example… And then, even though my father didn’t make my brother and me do our homework, he was the one who pushed us to learn English.”
Still, their father’s fame had some day-to-day downsides. “We couldn’t go everywhere. When we went to Normandy, we chose an uncrowded beach, on the edge of which there was no café. And there was no question of going to the funfair!”, assures the son de Bourvil who remembers a father “very friendly with people who asked him for autographs. He even walked around with photos of him and markers in his pockets”.