Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Pitoëff's first film role was in 1952. Appearing in over 50 movies, he is probably best known for his performance in Alain Resnais' enigmatic Last Year at Marienbad (1960), as a character known simply as "M". He was also featured in roles of various sizes in such films as René Clément's Is Paris Burning? (1967), Anatole Litvak's Night of the Generals (1967), and Jacques Demy's Donkey Skin (1970). Toward the end of his career, he began appearing in horror films, including Dario Argento's Inferno (1980) and the low budget Patrick Still Lives (1980).