Jean Marnot (1943 - 1988) was a filmmaker from Louisianne noted for unusually high quality erotica. His partnership with actress Atlanta Wells was particularly successful in that regard. His murder in 1988 remains a point of mystery and suspicion.
Born to an upper class prostitute in Baton Rouge, Marnot never knew the identity of his father. He grew up around bordellos and professional con men. He was always fascinated by the cinema and managed to gain employment in some film studios by the time he was twenty.
He spent over a decade as a kind of apprentice in the movie-making trade, starting as a gofer and working his way up to cinematographer. Along the way, he played several parts himself. Given his rugged good looks, sensual air and willingness to do nudity, it was an easy way to make money. Reports of his having done gay porn in this period continue to circulate but are unproven--although he hinted as much many times. Marnot was a charismatic, often flamboyant personality who rarely turned down the opportunity to amuse or (sometimes) shock.
In 1976 he directed his first film, Fiancee, which although a formulaic murder-mystery showed his flair for creating an erotic atmosphere. It did well enough he was given other films to do, or was able to find backers for. Nous Avons in 1978 was followed by Noir de les Vompires in 1980. When he met and befriended the American-born actress Atlanta Wells, the two of them became great friends and they made four films together.
Their last, Messaline (1989) was to be his most lavish--a costume drama about the wife of Roman Emperor Claudius. Certainly it was his most expensive film to date.
On December 21, 1988, his bleeding body was found in a New Orleans alleyway--stabbed and bludgeoned to death. His wallet was missing. Police ruled this a robbery gone awry. No one was ever arrested for the crime. Many theories about his death have been spread over the years:
- Some assume he was killed as part of a jealous spat with some lover. Marnot made no secret of his homosexuality and had numerous partners. No believable suspect has been put forward for this theory.
- Another theory claims Marnot was murdered at the order of some of Messaline's backers, who wanted to insert explicit footage into the movie--a move he fought long and hard to avoid. In fact the film was eventually released in two formats: The 'Uncensored' and 'Director's Cut' versions.
- Writer Errol Redfern came up with a very different theory in his book Murdered For Blood in which he claimed Jean Marnot was the son of a very prominent family and that they had him killed before any connection with them could be proven. Redfern goes so far as to claim Marnot to have been uncle to Jean-Francois Young, current First President of Louisanne. Marnot's blood type, as well as that of his mother and President Young's family, would seem to preclude that as a possibility but Redfern insists the medical records have been tampered with.
Jean Marnot himself has remained something of a cult figure. Atlanta Wells wrote a memoir of their life together, Joie Et Gloire which has helped stir up interest in the man and his films. His life story is talked about as the subject of a film, as are remakes of his motion pictures. Certainly several major film directors credit him with being an influence.
Some of his film posters...