Jean Richard, the actor and circus proprietor, was born in Bessines France on the 18 April 1921.
As a distinguished actor Jean Richard appeared in 80 films, but it was for his portrayal of the pipe-smoking detective Maigret in the French television series based on Georges Simenon’s books that he became a household name in France.
He had started out as a cartoonist, however, and later developed talents as a cabaret performer and music hall star, as well as becoming the first private zoo owner in France and a theme park operator. He also brought about a spectacular revival of the circus industry in his native country. He also found the time to write three books, Mes bêtes à moi (1969), Envoyez les lions! (1971) and his autobiography, Ma vie sans filet (1984).
In 1973, Richard suffered a terrible road accident and for weeks his life hung in the balance. He had been desperately tired and worried at that period, and this no doubt contributed to his near-fatal accident. An arsonist had been trying to destroy his Cirque Pinder unit, with 10 attempts in the space of six weeks. It was even more of a shock to Richard when the pyromaniac was revealed to be one of the circus’s own staff, a groom attached to the elephant act of Costa Kruso.
Despite his terrible injuries, Richard survived the accident, but his control of his businesses was never again as sharp. In 1983, his circus empire collapsed in bankruptcy. He retired to Ermonenville, continuing to run La Mer du Sable there along with his son Jean-Pierre and daughter Elizabeth. The title of Cirque Pinder-Jean Richard was bought by a French investor, Gilbert Edelstein, and is flourishing again as one of France’s leading travelling circuses.