French actor, director, and theatre manager. In recognition of his contribution to French theatre he was made an Officier de la Légion d'honneur and a Commandeur des Arts et des lettres.
Barrault began his career with Charles Dullin (1885–1949) at the Atelier (1931) and later studied mime with Étienne Decroux; he made his debut as director with Autour d'une mère (1935), adapted with Camus from a William Faulkner novel.
While at the Comédie-Français (1940–47) he met and married Madeleine Renaud and together they founded their own repertory company at the Théâtre Maligny (1947–56), staging modern and classical plays. At the theatre and on tour Barrault worked with the company both as actor and director. He became co-director of the Théâtre du Palais-Royal (1958) and director of the Théâtre National de l'Odéon (1959–68), but was dismissed from the post after the student riots of 1968, l'Odéon having become a focal point during the demonstrations. He also worked at the Théâtre des Nations (1965–67 and 1972–74). In 1974 he created the Théâtre d'Orsay inside a huge tent at the Gare d'Orsay, which moved to the Palais des Glaces, a disused ice-skating rink, in 1980. Barrault has appeared in a number of films – including Les Beaux Jours (1935), Les Enfants du paradis (1945), and The Longest Day (1962) – and in many television programmes. Barrault's theatrical ideas are discussed in his autobiographies, Réflexions sur le théâtre (1949; translated as Reflections on the Theatre, 1951) and Nouvelles Réflexions sur le théâtre (1959; translated as The Theatre of Jean-Louis Barrault, 1961); other publications include Souvenirs pour demain (1972) and Saisir le présent (1984).