Jean Paul Arthur Hamman was born on October 26, 19883 in Paris, France.He became the French equivalent of the American cowboy in a long ranging career from 1907 to 1967. He was also an affluent film director.
We generally associate the western with American cinema, but in the early years there were European westerns too. Joë Hamman was the epitome of the French western, often filmed in the Camargue, South of France. His father was a Dutch expert in painting, his mother a former lady’s companion of empress Eugénie. Hamman studied in Paris and London before going to Art School in Paris. He became a sketcher and a noted water colorist, but he chose a different career. When Jean was six, the circus of Buffalo Bill Cody came to Paris, but young Hamman was not allowed to go. He had to wait until he was 21 to meet Cody, when in 1904 his father took him on a business trip to America. Hamman and Cody met privately, became friends, and Hamman visited Cody’s North Plate house in Nebraska, meeting the extras of Cody’s wild west show, and drawing water colors for local rangers. At a ranch in Montana Jean Hamman learned to ride, and was employed as a cowboy, and learned to break and gather horses. He also visited the Pine Ridge reservation in Dakota, and met Spotted Tail, war lieutenant of Indian Chief Red Cloud, who presented him with a buckskin war costume. In the Fall of 1904 he returned to Paris to do his military service. When in 1905 Cody’s circus came to Europe, Hamman was invited to join and participated in the French tour of Buffalo Bill and was billed as Joë Hamman.
In 1907 Hamman started out as both actor and director of “Le desperado”, followed by performances in some 40 other short westerns until early 1914. He made mostly short westerns with Gaumont Productions, often directed by Jean Durand, who from 1910 on specialized in the genre at Gaumont, though some were also shot by Léonce Perret. Often Hamman’s antagonist in the Gaumont westerns was the actor Gaston Modot. Hamman also directed 10 early shorts himself, in different genres, such as “L’ile d’épouvante” (“The Island of Terror”) (1911) and the western “La ville souterraine” (“The Subterranean City”) (1913) for the Eclipse company.
During the First World War, his film acting and directing came to a halt.
When sound cinema came in, Hamman had a comeback and was a lead in several French early sound films. When France got involved in the Second World War Hamman himself faced destiny of nomore film roles during the war. After the war, Hamman played in an uncredited role as general Kellermann in Sacha Guitry’s “Napoléon” (1955). His last performance was an uncredited part in “Pop’s Game” (Francis Leroi 1967).
Joë Hamman died in Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, France on June 30, 1974.
Today we remember Joë Hamman on what would have been his 130th birthday.