French singer/actor Charles Aznavour mesmerized silver screen viewers with his leading role as Edward Saroyan in the historical drama Ararat (2002). Formerly, he showed his cinematic skill in Tirez sur le pianiste (1960), the self-written Gosse de Paris (1961), the Agatha Christie’s adaptation And Then There Were None (1974, starred as Michael Raven) and Yiddish Connection (1986, wrote and acted in). In the music scene, Aznavour made a name for himself as a gifted singer and songwriter with the song “La Mamma,” “Hier encore” (1969, won an Association of American Songwriters and Composers’ award and a La Médaille Vermeil award) and the platinum “She” (1974). In 1997, Aznavour received a César Honorary Award and a Victoires de la Musique Award.
Aznavour has written three books, the memoirs “Aznavour par Aznavour” (early 1970s), the song lyrics collection “Des mots à l’affiche” (1991) and a second memoir “Le temps des avants” (2003). Of Armenian descent, the performer founded the relief organization “Aznavour pour l’Arménie” following the 1988 earthquake in his homeland. He also gathered up French actors and singers to make the charitable single “Pour Toi l’Arménie,” as well as became a member of the Armenia Fund International Board of Trustees. In appreciation for his work, Aznavour was appointed UNESCO’s permanent ambassador to Armenia and was named the Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (1997) by French authorities. Recently, a special event called “An All-French Dinner” (2006) was held in West Orange California to honor Aznavour’s accomplishment in music.
As for his private life, Aznavour was married once to Micheline Rugel, Evelyne Plessis and Ulla Thorsell. He is also the father of six, three daughters and three sons.
Recital at Age Five
Childhood and Family:
Charles Aznavour was born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian on May 22, 1924, in Paris, to Armenian parents Anar (actress, part-time seamstress) and Misha Aznavour (singer, entrepreneur). He has an older sister named Aida Aznavour-Garvarentz.
Having an early passion for performing, Charles had his first professional appearance at age five in a poem recital. Several years later, he became a stage performer and dancer while selling newspapers to help support his aspirations. Later, Charles also pursued music.
Charles was married to Micheline Rugel (1946 -? has 2 children), Evelyne Plessis (1955 - ? has 1 child) and Ulla Thorsell (1968 - ? has 3 children). He has three daughters, Katia, Patricia and Seda Aznavour, and three sons, Misha, Nicholas and Patrick Aznavour.
Starting out as a dancer, nine-year old Charles Aznavour made his stage debut in the play “Emil et les detectives” (1933), in Paris. He then headed for the screen as an extra in La Guerre des gosses (1936) and was seen in the mystery drama Les Disparus de Saint-Agil (1938, unaccredited). In 1941, he met songwriter Pierre Roche and decided to perform a number of self-penned songs as a duo on the cabaret circuit. Besides taking roles in Adieu chérie (1946, as a singing croupier) and Entrez dans la danse (1948), Aznavour (along with Roche) also flew to Canada and performed at several concerts.
Returning to France, Aznavour began composing songs for famous musicians like Mistinguett, Patachou, Edith Piaf (French version of American hit “Jezebel”) and Juliette Gréco (“Je hais les dimanches,” 1950). He also made several successful solo tours and scored huge hits with the song “Sur ma vie,” “Parce que” and the controversial “Après l’amour.”
On screen, Aznavour gradually made an impact with the comedy Une gosse sensass’ (1957, was also credited as composer) and Georges Frange’s La tête contre les murs (1959, carried out the role of suicidal epileptic Heurtevent). A year later, Aznavour starred as piano player Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan in Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of David Goodis’ novel, Tirez sur le pianiste (1960), which became a box-office smash in the United States. Soon, the singer embarked on an extensive international tour, which included his Armenian stage performance singing the signature song “La Mamma.”
As a multitalented performer, Aznavour served as the actor and composer/music arranger in such films as the self-written Gosse de Paris (1961), the drama Les Quatre vérités (1962, played Charles) and the comedy Cherchez l’idole (1963, arranged and sang “Et pourtant”). The actor took on the title role in the TV series “Les Fables de la Fontaine” (1964) before starring in the famous musical “Monsieur Carnaval” (1965), in which he performed his hit song “La bohême.” 1966 saw Aznavour hit the music scene and the movie industry with his Spanish version of the single “Avec” and his starring turn as Thibon in the war drama Le Facteur s’en va-t-en guerre (1966).
Being an international star, Aznavour acted alongside Marlon Brando and Richard Burton in the satirical comedy Candy (1968, as the hunchback juggler). A year later, he released the award-winning hit single “Hier encore” (1969, won an Association of American Songwriters and Composers’ award and a La Médaille Vermeil award). The French artist then relocated to the United States, where he starred as Pavel Vendek in the Michael Winner-directed The Games (1970) and narrated the French version of the short animation The Selfish Giant (1971) before writing the script for the crime drama Les Intrus (1972, also starred as Charles Bernard).
Aznavour, who was seen in the drama The Blockhouse (1973) and the Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None (1974, starred as Michael Raven), continued burning up charts with the single “She” (1974), which went platinum in Britain. He next wrote the ballad “Ils sont tombés” (1975) to commemorate Armenian genocide. On the French silver screen, the actor had the supporting role of Dr. Lartigue in Claude Chabrol’s comedy Folies Bourgeoises (1976).
Taking part in a foreign film, Aznavour was cast as Sigismund Markus in the acclaimed German drama Die Blechtrommel (1979, also known as The Tin Drum). Next up for Aznavour, he played Naphta in the German adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (1982), appeared as Bellun in Une jeunesse (1983), had the supporting turn of Edouard Takvorian in Viva la vie (1984) and starred as Julien Mauriès in the miniseries “Le Paria” (1985). He also wrote the story and script for the crime comedy Yiddish Connection (1986, also played Aaron Rapoport).
After leaving the Barclay recording company, Aznavour released the album Les Emigrants (1986) under the label of Trema. The prolific actor then resumed his journey through the films Mangeclous (1988), “Le Chinois” (1989), the miniseries “Prigioniera di una vendetta” (1990), the miniseries “Il Ritorno di Ribot” (1991), the family comedy Les Années campagne (1992, as grandfather), the TV crime film Un alibi en or (1994), Laura (1995, TV), Pondichéry, dernier comptoir des Indes (1997, starred as Léo Bauman) and the made-for-TV movie Les Mômes (1999).
In between his acting work, Aznavour released a 30-CD set greatest hits album in 1996, under EMI Records. The following year, he was given a César Honorary award and a Victoires de la Musique award for Best Male Singer of the Year. He later held the solo concert “Aznavour on Broadway” (1998) before making a worldwide farewell concert tour, from 1999 to 2001. However, the artist still wrote the musical “Lautrec” (2000) and released the album Aznavour 2000 (2000).
Subsequent to the TV film Judicaël (2001, starred as Raphaël Perlman), Aznavour joined Armenian-born director Atom Egoyan in the drama about Turks-Armenians conflict, Ararat (2001), starring as Edward Saroyan. The studio album Je Voyage (2003) preceded Aznavour’s screen appearance as the title character in Le Père Goriot (2004, TV) and his performance in the drama comedy Emmenez-moi (2005, as Charles Aznavour).
In 2006, the veteran performer will be seen as M. Rossi in the upcoming historical movie Mon colonel (2006). Helmed by Laurent Herbiet, the film will also feature Olivier Gourmet and Robinson Stévenin.