• 2 May 1922
  •  Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Serge Reggiani


The notably gifted, multi-talented actor, chanteur, poet and painter Serge Reggiani was born in Reggio Emilia, a town in northern Italy, in 1922. His father, a highly visible anti-fascist, fled his Mussolini-dictated homeland due to his fervent political activities and emigrated to France in order to protect his family. Serge learned to speak fluent French and developed an interest in athletics, particularly boxing, but went an entirely different route altogether by following in his father's footsteps as a hair stylist. In 1937, his career path changed yet again when he was accepted into the Conservatoire des Arts Cinematographiques. After graduation, he landed a few minor roles in both films and theatre and enrolled at the prestigious Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique in 1939 wherein he won numerous acting awards. Though he earned a reputation for himself in the Paris theatre world, Reggiani was more interested in movie-making and would thereafter focus his attention toward the big screen. During the filming of Le carrefour des enfants perdus (1944) [Children of Chaos], he met and subsequently married actress Janine Darcey, which produced two children: Stephan (1946) and Carine (1951). After obtaining French citizenship in 1948, he went on to secure a name for himself in Gallic cinema with roles in Gates of the Night (1946) [Gates of the Night], Manon (1949), The Lovers of Verona (1949) [The Lovers of Verona], La ronde (1950) and Casque d'Or (1952). Following his divorce, he married actress 'Annie Noel' and fathered three children: Celia (1958), Simon (1961) and Maria (1963). In 1959 Reggiani introduced a distinctive singing talent on radio and, following film roles in Le Doulos (1962) and The Leopard (1963) [The Leopard], launched his musical career at age 43. Reggiani released his award-winning debut album in 1965 and it proved to be such a major hit with both the French public and the critics that singing became a prime career. Surprisingly, the middle-aged, deep-voiced balladeer would strike a chord with the younger politically left generation of the late 60s. A second album produced in 1967, plus a left-wing concert with the legendary Jacques Brel, clenched his popularity with teenagers. He began to extend himself internationally while continuing a healthy album output. Children Stephan and Carine actively developed their own singing careers and Reggiani performed on the concert stage with them in encouragement but with lackluster results. Son Stephan, completely overshadowed by his father, took this extremely hard and in 1980 (July, 29) committed suicide at the family home in Mougins. He was only 33. Devastated, Reggiani withdrew from the music scene for a while to recover from his grief and would battle bouts of depression and alcoholism for much of his remaining life. Divorced from his second wife in 1973, he met actress Noëlle Adam in the 1980s and they lived in partnership for over 20 years, she becoming a lasting source of strength for him in dealing with his personal tragedies. Reggiani's later years would be more or less spent in seclusion, finding one last passion in painting. He displayed his works at his first exhibition in 1989. After performing in concert to mark the 25th anniversary of his singing career, Reggiani found the strength to return to the French music scene with a brand new album. At age 70+, he successfully recorded and was welcomed back to the concert stage with great applause. Though his acting career had calmed down a great deal since his singing heyday erupted, he did star in De force avec d'autres (1993) [For the Love of Others], a film written and directed by son Simon Reggiani that also featured Ms. Adam. Serge married his longtime partner, Noëlle Adam, in March of 2003; he died of a heart attack at his Paris home a little over a year later at age 82. Although little known here in the U.S., unlike chanson stylists Yves Montand and Jacques Brel, the acclaimed Reggiani has nevertheless reached legendary proportions in France and Europe.