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1937

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

(Pépé le Moko); remade as Algiers (1938) and Casbah (1948)

France, 1937, 93 min, b&w

Dir Julien Duvivier; Asst dir Robert Vernay; Prod Paris-Films Productions; Scr Henri Jeanson, from the novel by Detective Ashelbé; Cinematog Jules Kruger and Marc Fossard; Music Vincent Scotto and Mohammed Yguerbuchen; Art dir Jacques Krauss; Sound Antoine Archaimbaud; Edit Marguerite Beaugé; Act Jean Gabin (Pépé le Moko), Mireille Balin (Gaby), Lucas Gridoux (Inspector Slimane), Line Noro (Inès), Fernand Charpin (Régis), Saturnin Fabre (Grandfather), Gabriel Gabrio (Carlos), Marcel Dalio (Arbi), Gilbert-Gil (Pierrot), Gaston Modot (Jimmy), Roger Legris (Max), Charles Granval (Maxime), Fréhel (Tania), Olga Lord (Aïcha), and Renée Carl (la mere Tarte).

In these final years of the decade, a mythic persona accreted around the actor Jean Gabin, and Pépé le Moko is a key film in the construction of that persona. Gabin had been acting in films ever since the point when the coming of sound had generated a need for popular singers (his parents were from music-hall and operetta backgrounds, and during the 1920s, he had appeared in revues and operettas, and at the Moulin Rouge with Mistinguett). Until 1934, however, even when he was acting the tough guy, his films had been lightweight entertainment. Then Julien Duvivier took him up, and after playing a somewhat grotesque Pontius Pilate, cast him in roles where he was basically a good bloke who came to unfortunate ends (La Bandera, #42, and La Belle Équipe, #51). Pépé le Moko added to this mix the themes of alienation and exile, together with a more explicit sense of tragic fatality. We discover Pépé as the leader of a gang in the Casbah, safe in the impenetrable labyrinth of alleyways but unable to leave them—protected by the Casbah but also trapped in it. Attempting to escape, he is betrayed, captured, and commits suicide.

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Appendix: Prizes and Awards

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Grand Prix du Cinéma Français (GPCF)

Awarded by the Société d’Encouragement à l’Art et à l’Industrie under the patronage of Louis Lumière. Effectively taken over by the state in 1937, it became known in 1939 as the Grand Prix National du Cinéma Français (GPNCF). By then some felt it had become a prize less about quality than virtue. Usually presented in January for films released in the preceding year, it was in 1939 (wisely) awarded in July. The changing terms of reference as to what constituted an eligible French film (e.g., “all collaborators must be French”) often eliminated likely contenders (Les Bas-Fonds, Mayerling, Jenny, Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, etc.) and would retrospectively have eliminated Maria Chapdelaine and La Kermesse héroïque.1

1934

Maria Chapdelaine (Julien Duvivier), over Itto and Zouzou

1935

La Kermesse héroïque (Jacques Feyder)

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Part III. 1952–1958

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

PART III

1952–1958

71. La Vérité sur Bébé Donge

(The Truth about Baby Donge)

Filmed 1 October–1 December 1951; released 13 February 1952

104 min, b&w

Dir Henri Decoin; Prod UGC; Scr Maurice Aubergé, based on the novel by Georges Simenon; Cinematog Léonce-Henri Burel; Music Jean-Jacques Grunenwald; Art dir Jean Douarinou; Sound Constantin Evangélou; Edit Annick Millet; Act Danielle Darrieux (Elisabeth “Bébé” Donge), Jean Gabin (François Donge), Gabrielle Dorziat (Madame d’Ortemont), Jacques Castelot (Dr. Jalabert), Daniel Lecourtois (Georges Donge), and Marcel André (Monsieur Drouin, the juge d’instruction).

The poisoning, in this film, of François Donge (Jean Gabin) by his wife must surely be the event that marks the definitive end of Gabin’s previous career as a tragic but tender working-class protagonist, and which foreshadows that second career in which he will play substantial patriarchal and authoritarian figures more at home with men than with women. We first meet him close to death in a hospital clinic from which he tells, in a series of whispered flashbacks, how he came to be there. Essentially, he was poisoned by his wife Bébé because of an ireconcilable conflict of values: she, an idealistic, romantic young woman who believed love could conquer all, that it was a magical explosion of emotion that swept all before it—he, an assertive, self-confident capitalist entrepreneur, boss of a successful tannery and future candidate for president of the patronat, accustomed to attracting, using, and disposing of his many mistresses. For her, what matters is “l’amour”; for him, “l’amour se fabrique.”

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1932

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Blood of a Poet

France, 1932, 65 min, b&w

Dir and Scr Jean Cocteau; Asst dir Michel Arnaud and Louis Page; Prod Vicomte de Noailles; Cinematog Georges Périnal; Music Georges Auric; Art dir Jean d’Eaubonne; Sound Henri Labrély; Act Enrique Rivero (the poet), Lee Miller (the statue), Pauline Carton, Féral Benga (black angel), Jean Desbordes, and Odette Talazac.

In 1929, the Vicomte de Noailles provided Jean Cocteau, Luis Buñuel, and Man Ray with a million francs each to produce whatever films they wanted to in total liberty. Buñuel produced L’Âge d’or (#3); Cocteau produced Le Sang d’un poète. Initially an animated film had been proposed, but Cocteau rapidly came to see that the necessary techniques were complex and would take much of the control out of his hands. He decided to make a film exploring visually and dynamically the same themes that he had been exploring in his literary works and sketches. His desire for total personal control made him one of the first and most outspoken advocates of what was later to be called auteurism: “A work written by one man and brought to the screen by another is merely a translation. . . . A writer must not let someone else interpret a work written with his left hand, but rather plunge both hands into the work and construct an object in a style equivalent to his writing style.”56

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1935

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

(The Mimosa Boarding House)

France-Germany, 1935, 109 min, b&w

Dir Jacques Feyder; Asst dir Marcel Carné and Ary Sadoul; Prod Tobis; Scr Feyder and Charles Spaak; Cinematog Roger Hubert; Music Armand Bernard; Art dir Lazare Meerson; Sound Hermann Storr; Edit Jacques Brillouin; Act Françoise Rosay (Louise Noblet), Paul Bernard (Pierre), André Alerme (Gaston), Lise Delamare (Nelly), Arletty (Parasol), Ila Meery, Nane Germon, Sylviac, Paul Azaïs, Jean Max, Raymond Cordy, and Pierre Labry.

Pension Mimosas was commissioned to exploit Françoise Rosay’s immense success in Le Grand Jeu (#31). Funded by Tobis, it was made without any of the financial anxieties that beset Jacques Feyder’s previous film. It focuses on two thematic fields that were omnipresent and immensely popular in the years 1930–1945, namely gambling and (usually implicit) incest. The pension (boarding house) of the title is a rather elegant establishment not far from the casino. Its proprietors, the Noblets, are childless, and take over as their own son Pierrot, the son of a lodger sent to prison. Released, the lodger reclaims him and he grows up in bad company, obsessed with gambling (at which he loses catastrophically) and with an “unsuitable” woman, Nelly. Attempting to save him, his (adoptive) mother enters into an overt rivalry with Nelly for his affections. To refinance him, she herself gambles and wins big, but too late: Pierrot has committed suicide and dies in her arms.

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