Louis Jourdan was born Louis Robert Gendre in Marseille, France, to Yvonne (née Jourdan) and Henry Gendre, a hotel owner. He was educated in France, Britain, and Turkey. He trained as an actor with René Simon at the École Dramatique. He debuted on screen in 1939, going on to play cultivated, polished, dashing lead roles in a number of French romantic comedies and dramas.
During World War II, after his father, the manager of the Cannes Grand Hôtel, was arrested by the Gestapo, Louis and his two brothers (both of whom became film directors, Pierre Jourdan and Robert Gendre) joined the French underground; his film career came to a halt when he refused to act in Nazi propaganda films.
In 1948, David O. Selznick invited him to Hollywood to appear in The Paradine Case (1947); he remained in the USA and went on to star in a number of Hollywood films. After 1953, he appeared in international productions and, in 1958, appeared in Gigi (1958), his best-known film by American audiences. He also made numerous appearances on American television.
Jourdan died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, in 2015, aged 93.