An actor in La Ciotat
From Switzerland to La Ciotat
Michel Simon (1895-1975) began his career in theatre and was also a huge success in cinema, notably in the films Boudu Sauvé des Eaux and Le Quai des Brumes. A true legend, he was one of the first film stars and performed with the greatest directors of the time (Jean Renoir, Sacha Guitry, Marcel Carné). Charlie Chaplin said that he was "the greatest actor in the world".
He discovered La Ciotat when visiting his friend, the sculptor Walter Spaeny (or Späny) who, since the 1930s, had been living in the villa that took his name. The enchantment he felt led him, in 1946, to buy an 18th century country house (a bastide) nearby.
A nature and animal lover
He considerably modified this old farmhouse to make it his home, adding a tower, a projection room and a belvedere. The latter, built at the end of the park, allowed the actor to contemplate the Calanques of La Ciotat and to listen to the sound of the waves and the wind. A nature lover, he lived surrounded by cats, dogs... and even monkeys!
A former agricultural land
The estate adjoining the villa bears witness to ancient agricultural practices, with terraces where olive trees, almond trees, vines and orchards were cultivated. Following the agricultural decline of the 20th century, these farms were divided up and bought up by non-rural owners such as Spaeny and Simon.
A future visitor centre
Following the death of the actor, the villa was acquired in 1990 by the city of La Ciotat. In November 2020, the town entrusted it to Calanques National Park for 99 years. Located at the entrance to the Park's core zone, it is now intended to become a venue to welcome,, inform and entertain a wide public. It will thus be the first visitor centre of Calanques National Park. Its opening is planned for 2024.
To enable everyone to play a part in this wonderful project, Calanques National Park is inviting all proud citizens of La Ciotat, lovers of the Calanques and admirers of Michel Simon to participate in the interioir refitting of the villa.
This crowdfunding is organised in partnership with the Fondation du Patrimoine.
Don't miss out: in France and as an individual, 66% of your donation is deductible from your taxes (to up to 20% of your taxable income).
La Ciotat, a cinema town
The Michel Simon Villa is only one part of La Ciotat's rich cinematographic heritage. There is also the Eden Théâtre (the oldest cinema in the world!) and the film by Louis Lumière, L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de La Ciotat, making up a true journey dedicated to the 7th art. And it continues with the 2017 release of the film L’Atelier (The Workshop), by Laurent Cantet, filmed in the Villa itself!
Visiting and regulations
Before coming to Calanques National Park, plan your visit and read the best practices to adopt and the rules to be followed.
Michel Simon Villa is located on the road to the semaphore station at La Ciotat, near the Notre-Dame de la Garde de La Ciotat chapel and on the road leading to the Bec de l’Aigle semaphore station. It is not open to the public. Consult the dedicated section on the Calanques de La Ciotat for more information about the area.
GPS coordinates: 43.169765, 5.591282