Nov 16, 2016

Mario David: Bodybuilder Turned Gay-Vague Comedian

What is it with bodybuilders and comedy?  It's as if film directors are deliberately trying to mask the erotic potential of muscles through jokes and pratfalls.

Case in point: Mario David (1927-1996), a competitive bodybuilder in France in the late 1940s (far left)  He also worked in the circus, as an acrobat, lion tamer, and clown.

He began flexing his muscles in comedies in 1952.

In La tournée des grands Ducs, about a Russian duke visiting Paris (1953), he played "an Attraction" at the Balajo Nightclub.

In Peek-a-boo (1954), about a small-town police officer investigating a strip show, he played "L'homme musclé" (the Muscleman).

Many more muscle-flexing comedies followed: Plus de whiskey pour Gallaghan, Naughty Girls, Anyone Can Kill Me, Les Tortillards (The Trains).  

In 1958 he created the role of gay-vague masseur Philippe Dubois on stage in Oscar, about a businessman who suffers from chaotic calamities during a very bad day.  He returned to the role in the 1967 movie version, and on stage again in 1971.  (Sylvester Stallone starred in an American version in 1991).

There are a few thrillers and dramas on Mario's resume, but even then he often played comic relief parts.  He starred as Paul Riotard in a 1965 episode of the police procedural Les cinq dernières minutes (The Last Five Minutes) (top photo). But the episode, entitled "Hunting Frogs," is about a diver assassinated by an underwater missile (top photo).  You can see the entire episode on youtube.

Mario played gay-vague musclemen in several comedies with film great Jean-Paul Belmodo, such as Up to His Ears (Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine, 1965) and Le Magnifique (1971), released in the U.S. as How to Destroy the Reputation of the Greatest Secret Agent.  

In the farce Le gendarme et les extra-terrestres (1979), a bumbling police inspector tries to stop the invasion of aliens who drink oil and sound like empty garbage cans when you touch them.  Mario plays "the Oil Can Thief."

And on like that through his career, which was substantial -- over 100 movie and tv roles -- and won him many accolades.  But throughout his physique was played for laughs.

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