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Jean Cocteau Is Dead

Oct. 11, 1963 - Jean Cocteau (pictured in 1960), whose avant-garde creativity illuminated French intellectual life for half a century, died at his home near Paris today, seven hours after the death of Edith Piaf. In a world where even the limitless arena of the arts has been overrun by specialists, Cocteau was a universalist — poet, playwright, critic, artist, decorator, book illustrator, designer and producer for the stage and screen. Cocteau, who had suffered a stroke earlier this year, received word of Piaf’s death this morning. When reporters called on him at his home 30 miles from Paris, he said: “I had a fever since this morning, and I must say that the death of Edith Piaf has caused renewed sadness and discomfort.” Evaluating her work, he said: “She had genius; she was inimitable. It was she who beheld lovers folded in each other’s arms, who still knew how to love, to suffer, and to die. How was this tiny person able to bring from her heart the great sad songs of the night? And when she sang, it was more than a voice. It was like an April nightingale.” A half hour later, stretched out on his couch, he said, “The boat is going down.” These words proved to be his last. Attending him when he died were his gardener and cook, a priest and a doctor. Death was attributed to a heart attack.


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