(BY SAÏDEH PAKRAVAN) Fans of the Birdcage, the Mike Nichols film casting Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as the old homosexual couple living in Miami Beach have no idea of the extraordinary success of the play that started it all, La cage aux folles. It played for five years at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal and for two at the Variétés, the “boulevard” answer to Broadway. By the time it was over, two million people had seen it. The play then went on to a film career, totaling three movies in all. Ugo Tognazzi played Baldi, but the scene-stealer was the stupendous Michel Serrault, the French actor who died last week, a few hours before Bergman and Antonioni.
Serrault was one of the best-known and most beloved French actors. Over his career, started as one of a duo of comedians with his good friend Jean Poiret, the author of La cage aux folles, he played in some 135 films and a number of plays, effortlessly identifying with his characters in an impressive range, from funny man to serial strangler. A three-time winner of the César, the highest film award in France, Serrault will certainly be best remembered for La cage of folles but also for completely different and remarkable performances in Garde à vue and Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud.
© 2007 Ali Naderzad