Obituaries

Gabriel Axel, 95; tasted success with ‘Babette’s Feast’

Devout Danish parishioners enjoyed a sumptuous French dinner prepared by Babette in a scene from “Babette’s Feast.”
Devout Danish parishioners enjoyed a sumptuous French dinner prepared by Babette in a scene from “Babette’s Feast.”

COPENHAGEN — Gabriel Axel — the first Dane to win an Oscar for best foreign film, with ‘‘Babette’s Feast,’’ which he directed — has died at the age of 95.

His daughter Karin Moerch said in a statement that he died Sunday ‘‘quietly and peacefully after a long and eventful life.’’ She did not say where he died or give the cause of death.

Mr. Axel was born in Aarhus and divided his time between his homeland and France. He grew up in Paris, where his father owned a factory, and at age 18 he returned to Denmark to work as a carpenter making furniture.

KELD NAVNTOFT/EPA/file 2012
Mr. Axel directed several films and television projects, and also acted.
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But the theater drew him, and he enrolled in the Danish Royal Theater Actors’ School, graduating in 1945.

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Mr. Axel was born Gabriel Axel Moerch but he dropped his last name when he joined the theater troupe of French film and stage artist Louis Jouvet in Paris. Mr. Axel directed several large projects for French television, then returned to Denmark to produce series for Denmark’s public broadcaster and direct several films in the 1950s and 1960s. He also acted in films.

His international breakthrough came in 1987 with ‘‘Babette’s Feast,’’ based on a novel by Danish writer Karen Blixen. The movie is about a 19th-century Parisian woman, played by actress Stephan Audran, who finds shelter in a remote, puritanical Danish village, living with two sisters who maintain a strict religious philosophy. After several years, Babette uses lottery winnings to create a sumptuous French dinner that helps transform the sisters’ small congregation.

Mr. Axel’s works include ‘‘Prince of Jutland,’’ a 1994 film that tells the story of Amled, the Danish prince who inspired Shakespeare’s ‘‘Hamlet.’’

In 2003, Mr. Axel received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.

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Mr. Axel’s wife of nearly 50 years, Lucie Axel Moerch, died in 1996. He leaves four children and eight grandchildren.