- (1889 - 1963) French writer who won acclaim as a playwright,critic, poet, novelist, film director, and artist. His plays rangedfrom classical tragedy to romantic melodrama but usually dealt withthemes of love and death. The son of two wealthy lawyers, Cocteauserved as an ambulance driver in World War I. In his early twentieshe responded to a challenge from Diaghilev by collaborating on a workfor the Ballet Russe in Paris, and thereby helped to create Parade,which opened in 1917.
Cocteau found acclaim in 1922 with his adaptation of Sophocles'sAntigone, directed by Charles Dullin with a set by Picasso.This was followed by Orphée (1924) directed by GeorgesPitoëff. The next decade saw his powerful monodramaLa Voix Humaine (1930), La Machine Infernale (1934), basedon the story of Oedipus and directed by Louis Jouvet, and Les ParentsTerribles (1938; seen in London in 1951 as Intimate Relations).
Cocteau's greatest international success was the romanticcostume drama, L'Aigle à deux têtes (1946), whichopened in Paris with Edwige Feuillère in the role of the Queen.Later that year it enjoyed a long run at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith,where Eileen Herlie made her name in the same part. It was also successfulon Broadway.
After World War II, Cocteau concentrated on writing for thecinema. He died of a heart attack after hearing that his friend EdithPiaf had died earlier that day.