1889 - 1963

"True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing."

- Jean Cocteau

He was a renowned novelist, playwright, critic, composer, set designer, artist, and painter – but when asked, the internationally acclaimed Jean Cocteau always referred to himself as a poet. Publishing his first volume at 19, he went on to write over 20 books of poetry. In 1923, after the death of his lover, novelist Raymond Radiguet, Cocteau began using opium.  His use of the drug and efforts to stop greatly impacted his work. The most famous of his 6 novels, Le Enfants Terribles (1929) was written during a week of withdrawal and Opium (1930) is an account of his addiction. His 20 plays include ‘La Voix Humaine,’ (1929) which featured only a woman on stage talking on the telephone. It was followed by what is considered his greatest play – ‘La Machine Infernale’ (1934) – a reworking of the story of Oedipus. In 1940 Cocteau wrote the enormous stage hit ‘Le Bel Indifferent’ which starred Edith Piaf. During WWII, the Vichy government branded him as decadent due to his drug addiction and homosexuality.  After the war he returned to Paris, gaining notoriety as an avant-garde filmmaker with such classics as ‘The Beauty and the Beast’ (1946), and ‘Orpheus’ (1949), both of which starred his lover Jean Marais – the latter also featuring Edouard Dermithe, another actor/lover whom Cocteau formally adopted.  His films are considered essential for introducing surrealism to French cinema.  His numerous honors include his election to the Academie Francaise and commander of The Legion of Honor.  Jean Cocteau died at his chateau in France in 1963; it is said his heart ceased beating upon hearing news of the death of Edith Piaf.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated France

Era/Epoch Art Deco (1910-1940) Great Depression (1929-1939) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929) World War I (1914-1918) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution








Commemorations & Honors

Commander of the Legion of Honor

Member of the French Mallarmé Academy, German Academy, American Academy and Mark Twain Academy

Cannes Film Festival and the France-Hungary Association Honorary President's

President of the Jazz Academy and of the Academy of the Disc

Académie Française Member (1955)

The Royal Academy of Belgium Member (1955)


Related Videos


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell