Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier


Honored November, 1984

Jacques Cartier was born on a ship in the Indian Ocean at the turn of the century as his parents were en route to a diplomatic post. His exact age isn't known, friends say, because Jacques gave his age based on what role he was vying for.

Jacques attended military school till age sixteen, and then enrolled at Vanderbilt University. When an elderly Shakespearean actor and his young actress wife visited the campus, Jacques took to the stage as a spear holder for the performances. Before the run concluded, the "beautiful" young actress had kissed Jacques and suggested he consider becoming an actor.

He cabled his father in Johannesburg, South Africa, and requested permission to attend drama school. His father's reply was succinct, "No."

Jacques followed his dreams despite his father's objection. "I had some diamonds that my mother gave me," Jacques said; he sold a few and went to New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Several weeks later, he was kicked out for having no talent."

Out of diamonds and jobless, he was sleeping on a park bench, and hadn't eaten for four days, when a friend saw him on the street, invited him to dinner, and offered to tell her director that Jacques was a dancer. "She said that he would give me a job, and she would show me what to do," he recalled. The director asked Jacques to audition. "I haven't the vaguest idea what I did," Jacques said, but he was hired.