Born André Zacharie Raimbourg Ménart in 1917 in a small rural town of Normandy, France, Bourvil took his artist name from his hometown, Bourville. He was born an orphan since his father, André Raimbourg, died earlier this year on the battlefield of the Great War. His mother remarried to Louis, a widow with her two children, and three more children were born of this union. Life was tough in the Normandy countryside of the inter-war period, and Ménart, aided by their five children, worked hard on the farm. From the age of ten years old, André takes a liking to music, listening to the latest hits on the radio of the village teacher. At fourteen, certificate of study in hand, he leaves the campaign for boarding school at Doudeville. Tested by this life of confinement, he escapes and returns home.
After studying a few musical instruments such as the accordion, Bourvil joined the band of the village. But at 19 he left for Rouen where he first worked as a baker and married his girlfriend Jeanne Lefrique. But he rememberd his love of music. Th revelation came in 1936 when he saw a concert by Fernandel, another great French comedian. This makes he convinced that he should an artist. The following year he goes to Paris to join the army. He is committed for three years within his Regiment. He made his real debut singing in front of the other soldiers amazed by his talent and sense of humor. But it also becomes known outside the narrow walls of the army buildings, winning a few radio contests.
In September 1939 the war starts, with all its suffering. Bourvil went to war and then demobilized the following year. He then met Etienne Lorin, who will become his main song writer in the future. Together, they developed a new comic genre. He comes back to Paris in 1941. But nobody wants the young Norman excedpt the Gaite, who eventually hires him for one night. He sang his first compositions, accompanied by Etienne. Then he accompanied Bordas at ABC for several performances. This way he puts his foot in real show business. After several contracts in the cabaret, he decides to swap his name Andrel for Bourvil. He took the opportunity to marry his Jeanne in January 1943. Gradually, its contracts on stage get better. Until that day in 1944 when, moved by a small cross-selling postcards on the streets of Paris, he wrote pencils. This song goes on all the airwaves and became his first hit. Bourvil is now a true star.
Despite some criticism, each of his appearances is richly rewarded with a huge hit with French audiences. It must be said that Norman was always simple which helped him get popular. On stage he will get a new success in 1952 alongside George and Annie Cordy Guétary: operetta The hostel is played with flowers sold in December 1952 in the CBA and its success will last for years. For the next twenty years, Bourvil gets numerous successes with his films (The crossing of Paris, Le Passe-Muraille Le chanteur de Mexico, Les Miserables, The Hunchback, The mare Green A Funny parishioner, the mutt, The great mop, Brain, ...) and discography (Fredo-bearer, Ballad Irish Lullaby Frederick, fruit salad, Papuans, my little song, The Battle Constable, ...). Then in 1967, while filming the Cracks, at the height of his fame, Bourvil was diagnosed with Kahler's disease and his days are numbered. He actually survived another three years, until his death at the age of 53 years. He had just finished shooting the Red Circle with Alain Delon and Yves Montand.
Behind his false appearance of someone simple even stupid, Bourvil really marked the music and cinema industry of the twentieth century. Popular and generous, this unique artist has brought his comic character with a sort of peasant finesse. In each of his film roles he has shown a great understanding of the role, and his interpretations of classics (Marcel Ayme, Victor Hugo, Pagnol) scored the audience of several generations. He was one of the few with such great humor and an extremely delicate tenderness.