He was born in New York, under the protection of the Statue of Liberty, on November 5. Joseph is the son of a violinist Beatrice, called Bea, who works with the best classical musicians such as Pablo Casals. His father, Jules Dassin, is fond of cinema. After a short stage career, he becomes Hitchcock's associate director and a film director at last. This tight couple who lives in an America ready to take revenge on Japan for Pearl Harbour, gives Joe two sisters: Ricky, the elder, and Julie, the little. Little Dassin grows in a cocoon of love. Till 1940 he lives in New York. Then his father, seduced by the seventh art, decides to move to Los Angeles. The mysterious Los Angeles of the MGM studios and the Pacific Coast beaches. In this American city, where East meets West, Joe lives a happy teenager's life till the day when…
The world turns upside down. Along with the end of the World War II and Yalta agreements the world has to put up with the consequences of the "Cold War". East and West face each other: the USA against USSR, capitalism against socialism. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin opens and leads his witch-hunt against people suspected of sympathizing communists. Jules Dassin, who has already won some fame, is also under suspicion. Soon, he is accused of "Moscow-liking". This means the end of sweet Hollywood life and the exile for the Dassin family. In the end of 1949 a transatlantic liner leaves the New York harbor heading for Europe. Joe is watching his native land disappear in the morning mist and the liner's smoke. From this time on, he won't call any country home.
Joe discovers the Old Europe at the age of 12. This is 1950 and the old continent is under total re-construction. The Marshall Plan and ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) make front-page stories. While Jules and Bea are settling in Paris, Joe is sent to a boarding school of a famous Col-lege Rosey in Switzerland. The establishment is chic and very expensive. In spite of the exile the money doesn't seem to be a big problem to the Dassins. There Joe makes acquaintance with Karim Aga Khan and the rich European heirs.
Meanwhile, the educational establishments follow one another. 1951: Joe is in Italy. 1953: he at-tends the International School in Geneva. In 1954 this latter sends him to Grenoble to pass his "baccalaureat" exam and get a bachelor's degree, for this kind of diploma doesn't exist in Switzer-land. By this time Joe is 16 and he is a very handsome guy with a winsome look in his eyes. He speaks three languages fluently and gets a good (excellent) mark for his "bac" exam.
In 1955, Joe's parents get divorced. The film-maker continues his career with a new companion, the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, while the violinist prefers, from this time on, to keep in the back-ground. Joe takes the failure of his parents' family life close to heart and decides to return to his hearth and home of America. So, he comes back to the USA where, at that time, the standards of the university education were second to none. As Joe gets enrolled in the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Elvis Presley starts his crusade for Rock'n'Roll. Joe doesn't seem to be really im-pressed by this musical style. Being an earnest and diligent student, Dassin Jr. is far from black shirts, people indulging in pointless rebellion and the American Graffiti "live". At first he tries to study medical science but experimenting with animals and dissection is more than he can endure, so Joe focuses on Anthropology and Russian language studies. Very concerned to speak fluently many languages, Dassin lives with his two French-speaking buddies, a French, Alain Guiraud and a Swiss, soon-to-be dean of one of the faculties of Geneva University. Quite often Alain and Joe make some changes in their usual time-table… Armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, while America gets "electrified", having neither leather jackets nor pomaded haircuts a la mode, the two friends sing in duet, standing on the double ladder so that the audience can see them better. Their repertoire includes neither Elvis Presley nor Eddie Cochran but Brassens. In the atmosphere of gen-eral affectation the French-singing duet assure their Folk "a la francaise" some kind of a promotion and is the first ever to export the poetry of Brassens to the American campuses. These recitals bring them some bottom dollars but it has more of a money spinning side-line than a regular job and Joe has to work. No problem. In an America of "affluent society" of J.K.Galbraith all young Americans make different "student jobs". During six years of studies Joe takes turns working as a sociologist, a delivery man, a truck driver… Meanwhile, our A student finds some spare time to write a story - "Wade In Water" - which received the second national award.
A painful omen: he is declared unfit for military service because of cardiac problems.
While Joe is studying hard at the University, his father gains authority throughout the world and becomes the Great Jules Dassin. In 1958, he asks Joe to record some themes for his next movie - "La Loi" (The Law) starring Gina Lollobrigida and featuring a marvelous tarantella. Dassin Jr. re-leases an EP at Versailles label in 1959. Then, in 1960, comes "Never On Sunday" (Jamais le di-manche) with its astonishing sound track and, especially, the song "Les Enfants du Piree" (The Children Of Piree) performed by Melina Mercouri. Joe graduates from the University and gets Doc-tor's degree in Anthropology while the 60s take full speed. The Rock'n'Roll has already conquered America and is on the way to charming the Old Europe.
Diploma in the pocket, Joe has to decide his own future. And this is not an easy thing to do for a man who is an artist like his parents but not a daydreamer. Somehow he guesses that his future is on the other side of the Atlantic, in the good old Europe of his adolescent years. $300 in the pocket, Joe boards a ship which takes him to Italy. He travels first class: in the hold of a cargo. It is 1962 and Joe is 24. As he still does not feel like finding himself a regular job, his father hires him as an asso-ciate director of "Topkapi", Jules' second great movie. The world media are delighted to show the father and his son on the same set, and unveil Joe's unshaven oriental face. Easy come easy go, and Joe spends his fee on a little Triumph. Just after that he starts to perform at the Radio Luxembourg and becomes a journalist for Playboy, while the French ye-ye is in its prime.
December 13, 1963 radically changes Joe's private life. At one of the many parties organized by Eddy Barclay he meets a girl. The pretext of this "party" is the French release of Stanley Cramer's movie "This Crazy, Crazy, Crazy World". Surrounded by the imposing architectural beauty of the Pavillon d'Armenonville, Joe is equally impressed by girl's charm and personality. Her name is Maryse. None of them suspects their ten-years long romance that will follow. A few days after the Pavillon party, Joe invites Maryse Massiera for a week-end to Moulin de Poincy, some 40 km from Paris. His aim is clear - to seduce her by all possible means. In the intimacy of the room with burn-ing fireplace he sings her "Freight Train", accompanying himself on a guitar. He knows very well that the combination of his vocal cords and those of his guitar is irresistible. His devilishly tender plan works out perfectly and she falls into his arms… After this week-end out of time, the two lov-ers live up in the clouds till the end of the year.
From January 6, 1964, feeling determined the young couple starts to make plans. By the end of the month the idea of engagement, or even wedding, is in the air. Joe and Maryse settle in Saint-Cloud, at Bea's place. The solution is temporary but the two lovers don't put such difficult questions. Joe writes stories for the magazines and this let him get by for a moment. And even invite Maryse for a few days of skiing to Zermatt, Switzerland, in February. On their coming back, the couple becomes aware of reality and has to solve the apartment question. They accumulate their money and spend the spring of 1964 looking for a new lodging. Like all Americans, Joe is fond of St.Germain-des-Pres. He chooses Boulevard Raspail. The house is situated in front of the American center but a lit-tle three-room is far from Joe's dreams… Whatever, this is his first apartment shared with a beloved woman. Inspired by his new role of a "family man", Joe spends half a summer repairing their love nest. Determined to become a real head of family, he redoubles his efforts. In order to get some more money, he dubs American movies and writes articles for Playboy and The New Yorker. He even plays a part in Trefle Rouge (The Hop-clover) and Lady L. Between the two movies Joe gets a job of a stage manager for Clive Donner in What's New Pussycat? His guitar is still his passion, his evening pleasure. Maryse shares with him these precious moments of musical emotion. Apparently, Joe is not going to bring his hobby into profit but nobody suspects what the future keeps in store…
Maryse has a friend, her former classmate, Catherine Regnier. While in boarding school, the two girls always shared their joys and sorrows. In this same 1964 a US record company which has recently established its subsidiary in France engaged Catherine as a secretary. Its rather shabby-looking office is situated on 42, rue Paradis, in the Xth district. The Columbia Broadcasting System more known as CBS distributes the discs of such American artists as Barbara Streisand. Catherine often speaks about songs and records, and Maryse has an idea. Joe's 26th birthday is on November 5 and she is going to offer him a disc. As a gift. With the help from Catherine, who knows a man charged with transferring the sound from magnetic tape on vynil surface, Maryse intends to release a one-copy "supple", so that she can easily listen to the voice of her beloved man singing "Freight Train"…
They make an appointment with the CBS staff. One October day, the precious magnetic tape in her hand, Maryse penetrates into the CBS office, which is nothing but an old apartment on the last - fourth - floor of a house with leaking roof. One of the brightest ever careers of French showbiz is decided in a room where every little rain makes appear a whole army of basins. Maryse meets Cath-erine, who promises to record the disc by the beginning of November. As soon as Maryse leaves, the little staff of CBS France, more used to listen to the American products than to young French-speaking singers, grabs the tape from the shelf in order to have a little fun in the end of a boring working day. But soon the fun gives place to deep reflection. The singer's voice is deep and pleas-ant, and his phenomenal sense of rhythm is evident. Will it sell? And what if CBS France will es-tablish its own record catalog instead of trying to sell the American stars? The gift record is made and Catherine is charged with persuading Joe to meet the CBS France team. As it has to be a (good) surprise for him, Joe still knows nothing about it. But this birthday "surprise" sets him in a bad hu-mor. Especially when he finds out that the tape fell into hands of a record company which would truly like to meet him for some business reasons. Needless to say that Catherine's proposition to see the CBS staff about his possible career of a singer is firmly refused. Joe will never become a singer. But it has to be something more than that to discourage Catherine who believes in Joe's talent. She repeats her assault five times, ten times and… finally manages to convince him. Not too much, in-deed, just a little record, kind of a trial balloon… Two months of a siege gain the upper hand over the young rebel and a few days before Christmas the fortress surrenders. Joe puts his John Hancock on what is the very first contract with a French singer in the long history of the CBS record com-pany.
On December 26 , Joe is in the CBS recording studio. Oswald d'Andrea conducts the orchestra. They record four tunes for a glossy jacketed EP. There are inevitable adaptations and two originals written by Jean-Michel Rivat and Frank Thomas. The two young talented songwriters side Joe in the beginning of his legendary career. But, to tell the truth, the EP is a slapdash piece of work and Joe has difficulty believing in his "lucky star".