Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's 2012: Happy New Year from!

By Charles Zigman,

January 1, 2012

I hope everybody had a very nice summer, fall, and end of 2011. I can’t believe it has been five months since I updated this blog site with new Jean Gabin information. Thank you again for buying my book WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO. The newly revised edition of the book – I’ve re-written 20 + chapters from scratch and I've made changes in almost every other chapter (and I'm just about finished) -- should be available in 2012 or 2013.

There has been quite a bit of really interesting Jean Gabin news to report over the last five months, and I am duty-bound, as the author of the Gabin book, to report it to you. (Also, I enjoy reporting it to you). So here it is:


This past August 18th, as I had reported in my most recent blog, Turner Classic Movies presented the very first Jean Gabin Movie Marathon in the history of American television. Thirteen great films were screened over a period of twenty-four hours, including Gabin’s internationally acknowledged classics – Pepe Le Moko, La Grande Illusion, La Bete Humaine, and Le Jour se leve – plus many films which have either never been screened in the U.S., or haven’t been screened in the U.S. for at least fifty years, movies like Le Desordre et la nuit, L’Air de Paris, Remorques, and Des gens sans importance – in fact, one of the films, a terrific little noir from 1953 called Leur derniere nuit had never been screened in the U.S. at all, so this TCM screening effectively served as its North American premiere, some fifty-eight years after it was made.

Needless to say, it was a great pleasure to see these wonderful films exhibited on American television, all in new, digitally restored presentations – although my one gripe, is that TCM’S Ben Mankiewicz, who hosted a few of the films that were screened in primetime – Pepe Le Moko, La Grande illusion, and Touchez pas au grisbi – continually mispronounced Jean Gabin as "Jean GabON," and he also referred to Jeanne Moreau as ‘JEENE’ Moreau, and he pronounced the title of Gabin’s 1953 film Touchez pas au grisbi as Touchez PAZ -- as in Paz Vega -- au grisbi. However, these mispronunciations notwithstanding, it was wonderful that these films were shown, and I was happily surprised when, after the 8:00 pm screening of Gabin’s powerful Emile Zola adaptation La Bete humaine, Mankiewicz mentioned my book.

Wow: I have just discovered this great YouTube clip. A Gabin fan has made a video montage of posters from all 95 of Jean Gabin's feature films, many of them original. I have never even seen some of these posters myself. He even includes posters for the three "missing" Gabin films -- Adieu les beaux jours (1932), La Foule hurle (1932), and L'Etoile de Valencia (1933). The music behind the clips is Ennio Morricone's theme for Gabin's powerhouse 1969 Mafia/heist epic, The Sicilan Clan.


This past November 6th, producer/film professor Christian Buckard, who is based in Berlin, presented his all-new, one-hour Jean Gabin biography on the German radio channel SWR2, and the program includes a rare, new interview with 91-year-old Michele Morgan, Gabin’s co-star from four excellent films – Le Recif de corail (1939), Le Quai des brumes (1939), Remorques (1941), and La Minute de verite (1952). (Gabin and Morgan also appeared in director Sacha Guitry’s misguided 1955 epic Napoleon, although they do not share any scenes in that film.) Buckard’s radio program also deals with the torrid relationship between Gabin and Marlene Dietrich and, as it has been mentioned many times on this blog site, and in my book, Dietrich, who dated thousands of people, had always considered Gabin to be the main love of her life.

Here is a link to a German-language article about the radio program, which also contains a few minutes worth of excerpts from the broadcast, as well as an interview with Christian Buckard regarding the making of the show:

The one-hour program will be repeated in April or May of 2012, and at this time, Dr. Buckard promises that there will be a link, so that you will be able to listen to the entire one-hour broadcast on line, in its entirety. And when you listen to it, please tell me as much as you can about its contents, since I don’t speak German! (PS, Dr. Buckard asked me if there are any English-language radio stations that might subsidize an English-language translation of the show; I don’t know anything about the radio world -- I thought about NPR, but NPR didn't return my calls! -- but if you do, feel free to email me at, and I will pass the information on to Buckard.)

Here's the cover of the new album "Chimes at Midnight," by the Canadian band Scars and Scarves. Track #3 is called, "If Gabin Doesn't Die (Then the Movie's No Good)."


In previous posts, and in my Gabin book, I mentioned that there are two current Italian rock bands, "Gabin" and "Bebe Donge" which are named after Jean Gabin ("Bebe Donge" is named for Gabin's 1952 film, La Verite sur Bebe Donge), and that there is also a French rapper of Senagalese descent, who goes by the name of MC Jean Gab1. But as of this month, there is a new edition to the world of musicians who are inspired by The World's Coolest Movie Star:

On December 16, 2011, the Canadian band Scars and Scarves released its first album, "Chimes at Midnight," an eleven-song dynamo in which each (beautiful, haunting) song references a certain classic film, film genre, or artist. The title of the album is also the title of Orson Welles' 1966 Falstaff epic, but what's important to this blogsite, is Track #3, a tune called "If Gabin Doesn't Die (Then the Movie's No Good)," a reference to the fact that in Jean Gabin's best movies, the pre-War Poetic Realist pictures of the mid-to-late 1930s -- La Bete humaine, Le Quai des brumes, Le Jour se leve, and Remorques -- Gabin's tragically fated characters always die at the end. The album is the brainchild of the band's movie loving frontman Garrett Sordi-McClure (songwriter, guitar, lead vocals) and his wife, Annalea Sordi-McClure, and it's a beautiful piece of work, one which honors not only classic filmmaking, but also excellent music.

Besides the song about Jean Gabin, I also want to mention the album's Track #2, which is entitled "For Henri Alekan." It's inspired by Alekan (1909-2001) the internationally famous cinematographer who photographed Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Clouzot's Wages of Fear, and Wenders' Wings of Desire, not to mention two Jean Gabin films in the 1950s -- La Marie du port and Le Port du desir. During World War II, a thirty-one year old Alekan was captured and imprisoned by the Germans, and when he escaped, he started his own resistance movement! If there's anybody deserving of a song named after him, it's Henri Alekan!

Want to hear the album in its entirety? You got it:

And here's a link to a new interview with the band's frontman Garrett Sordi-McClure:


Over the last year-and-a-half or so, as I have mentioned in previous postings, some twenty of Jean Gabin’s movies have been issued on DVD, subtitled into English for the very first time, and these DVDs have been made by fans: Thanks to recent digital technology, as I have mentioned in other posts, some savvy, Gabin-loving movie fans have been purchasing French-language Gabin films – as well as other non-English-language films which do not have English subtitles – creating their own digital English subtitles, ‘marrying’ the subtitles to the picture, and producing their own English-subtitled DVDs, most of which are of extremely high quality. The fans trade or sell these ‘fan-subtitled DVDs’ on auction and classified ad sites like,, and

Since my last blog posting, six additional Jean Gabin movies have been newly subtitled into English:

First, there’s is director Marcel Carne’s La Marie du port (1950), in which Gabin’s waterfront hotel owner falls in love with his fiancee’s (Blanche Brunoy's) much younger sister (Nicole Courcel). I’m not sure if this is one of Gabin’s better films – it tends to be a bit sluggish – but it is of interest to Gabin completists, because it is the first film which Gabin made for director Marcel Carné since the two men had teamed up on the incredible Le Quai des brumes, eleven years before. The film is set in the northern port of Le Havre which, of course, was also the setting of Gabin’s 1938 classic, La Bete humaine. Of course, it's well-directed and Gabin is quite good in it.

La Marie du port (1950) is classic soap opera: Jean Gabin is the owner of a seaside resort who falls in love with his fiancee's younger sister -- she's 18 and he's 46 (just the way the Good Lord intended)! Little sis won't drop trou for our Gabin, so he ventures upstairs, where he discovers her big sister -- his fiancee -- in bed with younger sister's hairdresser boyfriend.

The second newly-English-subtitled release this season is extremely entertaining: It’s the 1957 actioner Le Rouge est mis, directed by Gilles Grangier, in which Gabin and his cohorts heist a factory’s safe and run from the cops. It’s a fast-paced look at the workaday world of the gangster, and it re-teams Gabin with another legendary French icon, the former boxer Lino Ventura, who plays a hood as volatile as is Joe Pesci in Goodfellas..

The third, fourth, and fifth newly-English-subtitled Gabin releases, comprise the exciting three-film trilogy in which Gabin plays author Georges Simeon’s legendary, pipe smoking Inspector Maigret, and for those who don't know Simenon and Inspector Maigret, author Simenon's Maigret books are to the francophone world what Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are to anglophole readers. In Film #1, Maigret tend un piege (1957), Inspector Maigret is called upon to deal with a baby-faced killer (Jean Desailly) who may or may not be butchering short-coiffed women all over Paris, and the film also stars Lino Ventura as well as the stunning Annie Girardot. Maigret et l’affaire Saint-Fiacre (1959), Maigret must deal with the murder of a Countess, and everyone in her household staff is a suspect. Finally, in Film #3, the fast-paced, jazz-infused Cinemascope offering Maigret voit rouge (1963), Gabin goes up against a group of American Mafiosi who are freshly arrived to Paris from St. Louis, Missouri – and in case you forgot, or in case you never knew, St. Louis, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s was a hotbed of the Italian-American Mafia, so much so that Senator Kefauver tried to stop it when he spearheaded his infamous 'Kefauver Hearings.'

Maigret voit rouge (Maigret Sees Red, 1963), never theatrically released in the United States, is one of six Jean Gabin films which have newly been subtitled into English. You can catch its North American, English-subtitled premiere on the cable channel TV5 Monde, on January 27, 2012. In this scene, some American hoods follow Gabin's inspector Maigret into a bar, so he calls down to HQ for backup.

But really, “The Jean Gabin Find of the 2011,” is a newly-English-subtitled print of 1932’s Les Gaites de l’escadron, or Fun in the Barracks, a brisk, hilarious, slobs-in-the military farce that pre-dates movies like M*A*S*H and Stripes by forty and fifty years, respectively. Gaites, an ensemble film, presents us with a platoon full of hilariously ragtag misfits who laze around, during World War I, waiting, in vain, to get called to the front. The film has quite a pedigree, because not only do we get to see a very young (age 28) Jean Gabin, playing a surly private -- a private who, like other Gabin characters, is not afraid of authority -- but he is teamed up with his real-life lifetime friend Fernandel, the great, horse-faced French movie comedian who had himself starred in 150 movies during a career which spanned around forty years. The first-billed star of the movie, however, is the corpulent, and singularly-monickered Raimu -- he plays the unit's hapless, and ultimately good-hearted sergeant -- who was France’s number one box-office draw of the early thirties immediately before younger actor/stars like Gabin and Louis Jouvet arrived on the scene, and Gaites is also of interest because it was directed by Maurice Tourneur, the father of Jacques Tourneur – and Jacques Tourneur, of course, moved to America in the 1940s, where he gave the world great classics like Cat People and Out of the Past.

Even though, by the time Les Gaites de l’escadron was made, young Jacques Tourneur had directed a few films of his own, including the previous year’s light comedy Tout ca ne vaut pas l’amour which had also featured Gabin (this title is not yet available with English subtitles), he was, at his father Maurice's behest, the credited film editor of Gaites. And not only does the film have a great pedigree both behind and in front of the camera, but it is notable for yet another reason: About half of the movie is presented in a very early color process, applied during post-production, called Pathé Stencilcolor, a process which pre-dated the similar looking computer colorization of the 1980s, the difference being that every frame of Les Gaites de l’escadron was colored by hand, and it looks a lot better than computer colorization. (After the film had finished production, the producers knew, correctly, they had such a big hit on their hands, they decided to add color to about half of the film, most notably during a few parade sequences and a vaudeville sequence.)

The best place to acquire your English-subtitled DVDs of Le Rouge est mis, La Marie du port , Maigret tend un piege, and Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre, is from a seller on the internet auction site – just do a search for each film by title, or by the film’s seller, “Movie Detective” (Chris), who is based in Los Angeles.

If you live in the U.S. and Canada and you like French culture and French movies, you should think about adding the channel TV5 to your cable line-up... it's available through most cable systems for about $10 per month. TV5 shows a lot of English-subtitled French movies, from the '30s through today, that have never been subtitled before, plus a lot of other great programming. It is utterly worth it.


The English subtitles to the Jean Gabin films Les Gaites de l’escadron and Maigret voit rouge were not, unlike the other films I have mentioned, made by fans. Les Gaites de l’escadron premiered on October 28th, 2011 and Maigret voit rouge will make its English-language, North American premiere on January 27, 2012, on the cable channel TV5 Monde Etats Unis, which is available as an optional ‘add-on’ channel, for around an extra $10 per month on most North American cable providers – Dish Network, DirecTV, Time-Warner, etc. If you are a fan of French movies, you might really want to add TV5, anyway, because every month, the channel is subtitling even more great genre films from the 1930s up through today into English and broadcasting them to North America, sometimes at a rate of three or four films per month. Besides Les Gaites de l’escadron, Maigret voit rouge, and other Jean Gabin pictures -- Le Chat, La Traversee de Paris -- TV5 has recently broadcast retrospectives of the comedian Louis de Funes and Yves Montand, and the channel even presented, just this past November, a pretty incredible 1946 film called L’Etoile sans Lumiere, or Star without Light, a film of which I had never heard, but which is now, nevertheless, burned into my retinas and corneas forever; L'Etoile sans lumiere is kind of a French Star is Born, but with more edge than the American versions, and it is also one of the few films to star Edith Piaf, who sings in the film. TV5 also presents a lot of wonderful English-subtitled programming, including great news programs, a show I saw in which great American/N.Y.-based authors (Jay MacInerney) were interviewed by a French journalist, and a one-hour special dealing with the censoring of some Marvel Comics in France. You should definitely subscribe to TV5 Monde Etats Unis, if you're not receiving it already. (PS, I don't want to give short shrift to UK-based Jean Gabin fans: If you live in Great Britain, you are eligible to receive a cable channel called Cinemoi -- -- which, like TV5, presents English-subtitled French movies -- including Jean Gabin's movies.)

If you don't feel like adding TV5 to your cable channels, check with Chris,'s "Movie Detective," because he might have DVDs of those films, recorded from TV5, even if he is not listing them. If he doesn't have them, also do a search for those titles at and Eventually, somebody is usually selling them, and there are new sellers every day.

So how about that – since my last entry six months ago, six more Jean Gabin movies are now available for you to see with English subtitles.

At a Serge Gainsbourg tribute concert, held on August 28th at the Hollywood Bowl, artists performed music from two Jean Gabin movies, Le Pacha and La Horse.

AUGUST 28, 2011:

On Sunday, August 28th, as the summer came to a close, the Hollywood Bowl honored the legendary French musician, and sometimes filmmaker and actor, Serge Gainsbourg, who passed away prematurely – at the age of sixty-two, in 1991 – with his very first ever American tribute concert. While Gainsbourg, like Jean Gabin, has always been treasured throughout Europe, he continues to remain a cult figure in the U.S., although he is definitely appreciated by the musicians who performed his rock and jazz songs, and his scores to famous French movies, at the Bowl concert – including Beck and his band, Sean Lennon with his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp-Muhl, Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Zola Jesus – she’s kind of very talented Russian Lady Gaga – Victoria Legrand (daughter of French composer Michel Legrand), and the young actor Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Levitt, like Mike Patton, was able to capture Gainsbourg’s signature gravelly voice to perfection. It was eerie and great.

Aside from writing and recording his own great music, Gainsbourg was involved in three of Jean Gabin’s later films. Gainsbourg, as an actor, portrayed a party photographer in a wonderful color comedy that has never been released in the U.S., 1966’s Le Jardinier de l’argenteuil . In the film, Gainsbourg portrays a ‘groovy’ Austin Powers-like photographer on a hippie party boat, whom Gabin stares at with horror. As a musician, Gainsbourg composed music for two additional Jean Gabin films, 1968’s actioner La Pacha (The Showdown) and 1970’s La Horse.

I was over the moon when Gainsbourg’s musical contributions for La Pacha and La Horse , two films which continue to be unknown in the U.S., were played at the Hollywood Bowl concert: Near the beginning of the show, Mike Patton performed a searing cover of Gainsbourg’s 1968 hit, “Requieum pour un con” (“Requiem for a Jerk”), which Gainsbourg himself had performed in the Le Pacha:

Here is Gainsbourg performing "Requiem pour un con" in the film Le Pacha, in which he turns up as "himself," and watch for Jean Gabin the end of the clip! In the film, Gabin's police inspector is searching for a murder, and one of the suspects is Gainsbourg's drummer!

Also at the Hollywood Bowl concert, Beck’s band, sans Beck, performed Gainsbourg’s signature opening credit score for Jean Gabin’s 1970 thriller La Horse, a ruthlessly entertaining vigilante film which pre-dated Charles Bronson’s Death Wish by four years.

Here is Gainsbourg's original version of the theme from La Horse, from the film's original soundtrack album:


A few of Jean Gabin’s legendary co-stars were still "going strong” in 2011, and “going strong” aptly describes French superstar Gerard Depardieu, who made the news a few months ago for micterating – per the Coen brothers in Big Lebowski – on a plane. I am mentioning Depardieu here, because in the ‘70s, a twentysomething Depardieu made his screen debut in two Jean Gabin films, 1973’s L’Affaire Dominici, a really outstanding true story that has never been released in the U.S., and 1974’s taut drama Deux hommes dans la ville, which is readily available on an English-subtitled DVD through Kino Home Video.

Speaking of Depardieu, there is a charming new 82-minute film which opened in L.A. and N.Y. at the end of the summer. It's called My Afternoons with Margueritte (La Tete en friche), and not only does this new film star Depardieu, but it co-stars him with 97-year-old Gisele Casadesus, who played Jean Gabin’s wife in the 1974 film Verdict, and Verdict, of course, also happened to have been the only film to team Jean Gabin with Sophia Loren. The Casadesus family is very famous in the world of French acting – they are similar to the Barrymore family in the U.S. or the Redgrave Family in the UK – and My Afternoon with Margueritte is directed by 77-year-old Jean Becker, who has directed a mere fourteen films since 1961, one of his earliest and best titles being 1964’s very fun widescreen caper comedy Echappement Libre, which re-teamed Breathless’s Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. (Jean Becker also happens to be the son of Jacques Becker, who directed Jean Gabin's 1954 film noir sensation, Touchez pas au grsibi.)

In My Afternoons with Margueritte, Gerard Depardieu is an illiterate man who befriends kindly senior Gisele Casadesus. It's a very good film -- much less cloying than the inspid trailer would lead you to believe (why have American movie trailers become so treacly?), and much better than moviedom's previous adult illiteracy epic, the 1990 weepie Stanley and Iris, which starred Robert De Niro and Jane Fonda. (Remember the cringe-worthy bit where Jane Fonda tells De Niro, "That's the library," and De Niro responds, "It's MY library!")

Another magnificent co-star of Jean Gabin's, the luminous French actress Micheline Presle, 90, who co-starred with Gabin in a very good caper comedy, 1960’s Le Baron de l’ecluse (Baron of the Locks) – in that film, she and Gabin played Deauville-based grifters in that proto–Dirty Rotten Scoundrels comedy – stars in a new, Belgian-made mock-documentary called Hitler in Hollywood, directed by Frederic Sojcher, which made its North American premiere at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. In Hitler in Hollywood, Presle, playing herself, is on a quest to find a missing film she made when she was younger, and this leads her to a very sinister discovery. Like Jean Gabin, Micheline Presle, an actress who was discovered by G.W. Pabst when she was a young ingenue, deserves to be more known in the U.S., and on line DVD vendors sell what many consider to be Presle's best film, director Jean Gremillon's 1953 weepie L'Amour du femme, in which she portrays a city doctor who is transferred to the country. (In that film, Presle even performs a graphic hernia surgery in a lighthouse, during a violent storm!) L'Amour du femme is a very early feminist film, in which Presle's character is forced to choose between love and career in what was, at the time the film was made, considered to be a very revolutionary way. You can find fan-subtitled versions of L'Amour du femme online, and Gremillon, who directed it, helmed two Jean Gabin features, Gueule d'amour and Remorques.)

Here is Micheline Presle with Pulp Fiction's Maria de Medeiros in the new film Hitler a Hollywood (2010):

And here is Ms. Presle with Jean Gabin in Le Baron de l'ecluse (1960):

Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich, Los Angeles, 1942.

Florence Moncorge and Mathias Moncorge, Jean Gabin's kids, photographed 9/2011.


I almost forgot to mention that my friend Laurence Bardet, in Paris, reported to me that, on Friday night, September 16th, Jean Gabin’s adult children, Florence and Mathias Moncorge, appeared on France’s Television 3, alongside actor Laurent Ferra, co-hosting Ferra’s favorite Jean Gabin/Alain Delon heist film from 1963, Melodie en sous-sol (Any Number Can Win). Florence and Mathias reportedly talked with Ferra about what it was like to grow up as Jean Gabin's children, and you can find a very good English-subtitled DVD of Any Number Can Win on (It was issued a few years ago by Image Entertainment, and it's currently out of print, but you can occasionally find copies on eBay.)


Finally, as I am about to "go to press" with this posting, I have just learned that, on October 26th, France's Television 2 premiered a ninety-minute Gabin documentary, directed by Serge Khalfoun, entitled Jean Gabin: Un Jour, Un Destin (Jean Gabin: One Man, One Destiny), a look at Gabin's life when he wasn't in front of the camera, including an examination of his sojourn in the Free French Navy and Army.

In my next blog posting, whenever that will be -- at the rate I’ve been going lately, it could be five years from now! -- I hope to be able to uncover some new behind-the-scenes information with which I have recently become acquainted regarding Moontide, Gabin’s American-made/English-language film from 1942. If you are a fan of Jean Gabin, and of Salvador Dali (You gotta love Midnight in Paris: "I am Dali!"), get ready for something relentlessly cool.

Thank you for reading this blog posting, and thank you, yet again, for supporting my book WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUME ONE (ISBN 978-0-9799722-0-1) AND VOLUME TWO (ISBN 978-0-9799722-1-8).

Charles Zigman

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your TiVo's: Turner Classic Movies Presents a 24-Hour/13-Film Jean Gabin Marathon on Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Turner Classic Movies 24-Hour/13-Film Jean Gabin Marathon, on Thursday August 18th, 2011, features the North American premiere of the actor's fast-paced 1953 crime drama Leur derniere nuit (Their Last Night). Columbia Pictures produced this film specifically for the French market.

If you live long enough, everything happens:

This Thursday, August 18th, for the first time in the history of American television, a twenty-four hour/thirteen-film Jean Gabin Marathon is happening on Turner Classic Movies. When you see this great French actor's films, you will immediately understand why I spent more than ten years writing and researching a two-volume biography and filmography of Gabin, World’s Coolest Movie Star (

Turner Classic Movies has even designed a new, temporary Jean Gabin website, in honor of this historic day. The website reflects Gabin's boyhood interest in trains, as well as the fact that he had portrayed train engineers in two films, 1938's La Bete humaine (The Human Beast) and 1950's La Nuit est mon royaume (The Night is My Kingdom). If you click on the title of this article, you will be immediately whisked away to this website.

In America, Gabin – Europe’s #1 movie star of all time – is today principally known only for a small handful of movies: 1937’s double-header of La Grande illusion and Pepe Le Moko, 1938’s La Bete humaine, 1939’s Le Jour se leve, and 1954’s Touchez pas au grisbi. Those five films will be a part of TCM's Marathon, as well as seven additional Gabin films which have not been screened with English subtitles, or presented in America, since the 1950s, plus one title -- 1953's film noir thriller Leur derniere nuit (Their Last Night) -- which has never before had English subtitles and never been seen in America.

You should definitely plan on TiVo-ing all thirteen of these films, so you can watch them at your convenience. Each and every film is wonderful, and this, as you will see when you watch the films, is not hyperbole.

If you are new to the world of Jean Gabin, you might want to start with the acknowledged favorites, director Jean Renoir’s anti-war classic from 1937 Grand Illusion, and that same year’s Pepe Le Moko, Gabin’s gangster classic, which was also the basis for the famous line, “Come with me to the Casbah, we will make ze beautiful muzeek togezaire.” (Just as Cary Grant never actually said, "Judy, Judy, Judy," Gabin doesn't actually utter this line in Pepe Le Moko, although everybody thinks he did.) During the Second World War, Jean Gabin's French films were so popular in America, that Warner Bros. created its famous cartoon skunk, Pepe Le Pew, based on the actor's voice and likeness.

My personal favorite films in this one-day festival are director Jean Gremillon’s double-header of Gueule d’amour (1937) and Remorques (1941). Gremillon is one of France's finest directors yet, like his countryman Gabin, he continues to be mostly unknown in the U.S. Jean Gabin is famously stoic in his films, but in his two Gremillon entries, he is decidedly "un-stoic." The festival is great because you get to see Gabin in his pre-World War II films, in which he typically plays young tragic drifter, and his later, 1950s films, in which he portrays wizened gentleman-gangsters.

I am currently re-writing, re-editing, and revising my book about Jean Gabin for a possible new, 2012 edition -- I have been re-visiting many of the films recently, and rewriting many chapters from scratch -- and I will let you know, on this blogsite, when it is available. (The edition of the book which you can currently purchase on and is the most current, 2009 printing. You can't pre-order the new edition yet, because I'm still writing it!)

Thank you again for your interest in film history's greatest actor, Jean Gabin.

Scroll down, and you will find TCM'S Jean Gabin Schedule for Thursday August 18th in both Pacific Standard Time (PST) and Eastern Standard Time (EST). If you’re on something offbeat and perverse like “mountain time,” you’ll have to figure it out for yourself, because there is absolutely no way human beings can ever estimate or calibrate something that arcane.

Charles Zigman,
World’s Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, Volumes one and


3:00 AM PST,
6:00 AM EST
An AWOL legionnaire discovers the woman who won his heart was just in love with the uniform.
Dir: Jean Gremillon,
Cast: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin.
BW-88 mins.

5:00 AM PST
8:00 AM EST
A married tugboat captain falls for a woman he rescues from a sinking ship.
Dir: Jean Gremillon.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Michele Morgan.
BW-83 mins.


6:30 AM PST
9:30 AM EST
A young factory worker loses the woman he loves to a vicious schemer.
Dir: Marcel Carne.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty.
BW-90 mins.

8:00 AM PST
11:00 AM EST
An over-the-hill boxer stakes his fortune on training a young railroad-worker. This film re-teams Gabin, for the first time in fifteen years, with Marcel Carne, who had previously directed him in Le Quai des brumes and Le Jour se leve.
Dir: Marcel Carne.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Arletty, Roland Lesaffre.
BW-104 mins.

10:00 AM PST
1:00 PM EST
A schoolteacher falls for a librarian who's secretly the head of a criminal ring.
Dir: Georges Lacombe.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Madeleine Robinson.
BW-91 mins.

11:45 AM PST
2:45 PM EST
A homicide detective tries to protect a pretty drug addict implicated in a murder.
Dir: Gilles Grangier.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Danielle Darrieux, Nadja Tiller, and Hazel Scott.
BW-91 mins.

In the 1950s, it was difficult for the great African-American songstress Hazel Scott to obtain film roles in her home-country of America, so Gabin, a major fan of Scott's, personally invited her to portray a lounge singer in his film noir masterwork, Le Desordre et la nuit. (Twenty-four years earlier, Gabin had extended the same offer to another legendary African-American entertainer, Josephine Baker, who appeared with him in 1934's Zouzou.)

1:30PM PST
4:30 PM EST
A Canadian frontierswoman must choose from among three suitors.
Dir: Julien Duvivier.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Jean-Pierre Aumont.
BW-72 mins.

3:00PM PST
6:00 PM EST
A murderer escapes France to join the Spanish Foreign Legion, where he finds love while pursued by the law.
Dir: Julien Duvivier.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Pierre Renoir, Annabella, Robert Le Vigan.
BW-97 mins.

Drunken barfight in La Bandera!

5:00PM PST
8:00 PM EST
In the mysterious Casbah section of Algiers, love for a beautiful woman draws a gangster out of hiding.
Dir: Julien Duvivier.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Gabriel Gabrio.
BW-94 mins.

"Come with me to the Casbah..." Pepe Le Moko, starring Jean Gabin, is one of the most atmospheric, and purely enjoyable, films ever made. Gabin even sings in the film!

7:00PM PST
10:00 PM EST
French POWs fight to escape their German captors during World War I.
Dir: Jean Renoir.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Marcel Dalio, Erich von Stroheim, Gaston Modot.
BW-113 mins.

Here is director Jean Renoir, telling American audiences, in English, about his film Grand Illusion, for the film's North American re-release in the 1960s. Grand Illusion is part of the American Film Institute's list of the Best 100 Films Ever Made. Orson Welles once told Dick Cavett that if only one film could be saved for posterity, it would be Grand Illusion.

9:00PM PST
12:00 AM EST
A railroad engineer enters an affair with his friend's amoral wife. From the novel by Emile Zola.
Dir. Jean Renoir.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Simone Simon.
BW-97 mins.

Riveting from start to finish: La Bete humaine.

11:00PM PST
2:00 AM EST
An aging gangster comes out of retirement when his best friend is kidnapped.
Dir. Jacques Becker.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, Jeanne Moreau.
BW-96 mins.

Here is a trailer for Touchez pas au grisbi (1954), one of Roger Ebert's favorite French gangster films.

1:00 AM PST
4:00 AM EST
An unhappy waitress starts an affair with a married truck driver.
Dir: Henri Verneuil.
Cast: Jean Gabin, Francoise Arnoul.
BW-99 mins.

During the Second World War, Jean Gabin lived briefly (1941-1943) in Los Angeles. Here is a portrait, photographed in Laurel Canyon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Lithograph "Jean Gabin" (1982) by Raymond Moretti (1931-2005).
Available to purchase at:


MAY 30th, 2011
This is my first blog entry in almost four months – I wrote my previous posting all the way back on February 1st. I apologize for my lack of new entries. Besides editing my text for a possible future edition of World’s Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, a never-ending process, I am also completing work on my first chldren’s book – which should be out this fall.

First, I would like to wish Happy Birthday to Jean Gabin, because May 17th would have been his 108th birthday. Gabin, of course, passed away in November 1976, at the relatively young age of seventy-two, after completing his ninety-fifth and final film, director Jose Giovanni’s exceptional Deux hommes dans la ville (Two Men in Town), in which he co-starred with Alain Delon. This is a great movie about the justice system which is pretty easy to find on

Charles H. Meyer reported in the May 11th issue of the on-line magazine Cinespect that the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival, which was held between May 11th and May 22nd this year, chose to honor Jean Gabin’s birthday this year, by selecting the legendary performer as the face of the 2011 Festival. Guests of this year’s Festival who arrived by train at the Cannes train station were met by a huge mural of Gabin, and in the photograph used to make this mural, Gabin is Jacques Lantier, Emile Zola's doomed anti-hero from Marcel Carne's haunting 1938 classic La Bete humaine.

Link to Article:

My friend Cecile Downs, who runs the Sacramento French Film Festival each June, wrote an article for the May 27th issue of the on-line magazine France Today, in which she handpicked Jean Gabin’s character of Inspector Maigret – Gabin portrayed Maigret in three wonderful films – as the Greatest French Movie Detective. Here is the article:
Cecile's 10th Annual 2011 Sacramento French Film Festival will be held from June 17th to June 26th, and the schedule’s just gone up. I went last year to present a weekend of Gabin films, and the selection of new films and old ones was fantastic.

Jean Gabin played author Georges Simenon's legendary Inspector Maigret in three films. Here is a poster for the American release of the first one, 1957's Maigret tend un peige (Maigret Sets a Trap). United Artists, the film's American distributor, worried that Americans wouldn't know who Maigret is, so for it's U.S. release they luridly re-titled the picture Woman Bait, which isn't exactly incorrect because in the film, Inspector Maigret uses a woman as 'bait,' in order to lure the killer into his trap.

I have been corresponding recently with Dr. Christian Buckard in Berlin. Dr. Buckard is currently preparing a one-hour biography of Jean Gabin for German radio, which should air either later this year or at the beginning of next year, and he told me that he would be very interested in preparing a simultaneous English-language version of the radio program, for which he is interviewing Gabin’s friends and family, but I am at a loss at trying to help him because I don't know anybody here in the U.S. who produces one-hour radio biographies. If anybody who is reading this knows anybody, at any radio organization, that might be interested in helping Dr. Buckard to subsidize an English version of such a program, please email me at, and I will pass the information along to him. Years ago, one-hour radio biographies seemed to be very prevalent on American public radio, but I haven’t heard too many of them lately.

In my February 1st blog posting, I neglected to mention something that I had just read on On December 29st, 2010, Indiewire posted that HBO’s three-hour Marlene Dietrich biopic was being fast-tracked for production, that Gwyneth Paltrow had been chosen to portray Dietrich, and that an unnamed actor has already been chosen to play Dietrich’s lover, Jean Gabin. As Gabin and Dietrich fans know, Dietrich dated thousands of people in her life, but she always considered Gabin to be the one, true love of her life, and they even co-starred in a movie together, 1946’s criminally unknown Martin Roumagnac.

I think the reason I didn’t mention this ‘news’ back in February, is because the same announcement was made back in 2006; in 2006, Dreamworks announced that it was about to star Paltrow in a Dietrich biopic for theatrical release – but it didn’t happen. I think that Paltrow, if the film ever gets made, will be a fine Dietrich – she doesn’t look exactly like Dietrich, but I think she can really ‘convey’ the Dietrich persona, and if you saw Country Strong or watch "Glee," you already know that she sings really well – but I confess to being a bit concerned about how the Gabin character will be treated in the film. Since most Americans still aren’t too familiar with Gabin, I am sure that the Gabin role in this telepic will be some kind of generic ‘French lover’ role, even though Gabin always abhorred that kind of caricature and rejected it when it was offered to him. But I suppose I shouldn’t nitpick. We should be thankful that there will be a Gabin character in the HBO film at all, no matter how small the part will inevitably be. Some Gabin is better than no Gabin...

Below, are eight minutes and twenty-one seconds of real-life lovers Marlene Dietrich and Jean Gabin in the only film they made together, director Georges Lacombe's Martin Roumagnac (1946). The film has an undeserved bad reputation in the United States, because back in 1948, the film's American distributor, offended by the fact that Dietrich's character was a prostitute, cut the film by more than 40 minutes, apparently rendering it incomprehensible. The film has not been shown in the United States, in any form, since 1948 -- it has never been revived on television, or in retrospective theaters, or on bootleg videos, or anywhere. I hope that soon one of those dedicated film fans who makes 'fan subtitles' will issue an English subtitled DVD of the uncut French print, because Martin Roumagnac, in its uncut state, is a truly magical film, another of Gabin's best.

The link to Indiewire’s Paltrow/Dietrich/Gabin article is:

In February 1976, France held its first annual nationally televised film awards, the Cesars, and that first broadcast was co-hosted by Jean Gabin, only nine months before his death, and actress Romy Schneider. Between 1981 and 2006, the award given to each year's Best New Actor was called the Jean Gabin Award, and some of its notable recipients have included some names who are familiar to American viewers of contemporary French cinema -- Thierry Lermitte, Tcheky Karyo, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Vincent Perez, Olivier Martinez, Matthieu Kassovitz, and Yvan Attal.

In 2007, organizers of the Cesars changed the name of this award to the Patrick Dewaere Award, re-naming it after Dewaere, the sensitive young French actor who took his life in 1982, at the age of thirty-five. Dewaere will be known to U.S. audiences for having starred in director Bertrand Blier’s international hit from 1977, Preparez vos mouchoirs (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) in which he had co-starred with Gerard Depardieu and Carol Laure. (I snuck into a theater to see Handkerchiefs when I was eleven years old, and I am forever haunted by the scene in which the bullies taunt a little boy by chanting, "Dip his d**k in shoepolish!" over and over...)

It was reported on April 20th, 2011 by the French wire service AFP that Jean Gabin’s children, Florence Moncorge and Mathias Moncorge, are currently lobbying to get their father’s name restored to this award. This blogsite firmly supports this action, and if you agree that Jean Gabin’s named should be restored to the award, you might want to shoot an email, send a letter or fax, or make a phone call to either the President of the Cesars, Alain Terzain, or the Vice-Secretary, Gilles Jacob. (Everybody who knows me knows that I am an enemy of subtlety in all of its pernicious forms; I have already done all of the above, and more than once. To make any changes in this life, you really have to hit people hard. Let subtlety be your enemy, too.)

Contact information for the muckimucks/wheels of the Cesar Awards is as follows:

M. Alain Terzain or M. Gilles Jacob
Cesar Awards
16, avenue Elisee reclus
75007 Paris
Phone: + 33 53 64 05 25
Fax: + 33 1 53 64 05 24

Link to this article:,206734

Here is Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, starring Patrick Dewaere, in its entirety:

In my last blog entry, dated February 1st – four months ago – I mentioned that ten Jean Gabin films had just been issued on DVD, with English subtitles for the first time. Those titles were Du haut en bas (1933), La Belle equipe (1936), Gueule d’amour (1937), Des gens sans importance (1956), Voici le temps des assassins (1957), Le Desordre et la nuit (1958), Le Cave se rebiffe (1961), Le Soleil des voyous (1966), Le Pacha (1968), and Le Tueur (1972). As I also mentioned in that posting, these are not ‘legitimate’ DVD releases from major home video companies, and you won’t find them for sale on Rather, these are ‘fan-subtitled’ videos. Thanks to some very recent digital technology, fans of foreign-language movies are buying non-English-subtitled DVDs from Europe, and making their own subtitles on their home computers; and as I mentioned in the previous posting, the quality of many of these titles, both pictorially and as far as the quality and accuracy of the subtitles, is often brilliant – sometimes, it’s even Criterion Collection quality. Can you imagine subtitling an entire two-hour film just for “fun?” These dedicated film fans do it, and they sell or trade the finished product on-line, on auction websites like and – ioffer and ecrater go deeper than eBay, when it comes to offering the really rare stuff. The two specific links you need to find these rare Gabin titles are: (based in the UK) and (based in the US), although both sellers will send you DVDs that are region free, so that you can play them on either a PAL DVD player, if you live in Europe, or an NTSC machine, if you live in North America. These sellers also offer a number of French and Italian genre pictures from the 1920s up through today, sans Gabin, which fans have also subtitled into English for the first time, and fan-subtitling, as I mentioned in my previous posting, is great, because it really democratizes film distribution for the first time, in the sense that,if you want to see a movie and it's not available with English subtitles, you can simply make your own! These sellers additionally sell a great many fan-subtitled movies that do not have Gabin, wonderful genre movies from France, Italy, and Germany.

Anyway, now it is the end of May, and I am happy to report that two additional Jean Gabin movies have just been released on ‘fan-subtitled’ DVDs this month, and the quality of both titles is great.

The first Jean Gabin movie to arrive on a fan-subtitled DVD this month, is another of the actor's great and atmospheric noirs, 1955’s Le Port du desir, which was released in North America as House on the Waterfront in 1958, and which has never revived in the US subsequently to 1958. This film is a kind of a waterfront Casablanca, in which Gabin’s ‘Rick’ character, who is called LeQuevic, owns a waterfront cabaret/bar in the French port of Brest. A stripper has disappeared and it’s up to Gabin to find her before the mob gets to her first. In the film’s most amusing sequence, we actually get to see Gabin in full deep sea-diving gear, and when his crew lifts his heavy steel diving helmet off of his head, he’s got a cigarette dangling from his maw. (Only in France!) Le Port du desir is the only Gabin film to have been directed by Edmond T. Greville, who was equally at home making French-language movies in France and English-language movies in England, and if you’re an American or a Brit, you might already be familiar with Greville, because he directed the 1962 British cult-classic Beat Girl, which starred Adam Faith and Oliver Reed. Le Port du desir is fast paced, Gabin is great in it, and it’s one of those films which definitely deserves to be better known. (And: The film’s underwater sequences are credited to a very young Louis Malle!)

The second Gabin title to be released this month on DVD with English subtitles, is director Henri Decoin’s ultra-weird 1952 film noir offering, La Verite sur Bebe Donge (The Truth About Bebe Donge), from a novel by Maigret creator Georges Simenon, in which Jean Gabin’s captain of industry, Francois Donge, marries Bebe, one of the craziest femmes-fatales you’ll ever see, and she’s played by another French film legend, Danielle Darrieux, an actress who is still appearing in movies to this day – in fact, in 2009, Darrieux supplied the voice of the grandmother to director Marjane Satrapi's feature-length French animation Persepolis, a film which is so gut-wrenchingly heart-breaking, you forget you're watching animation. Danielle Darrieux would appear opposite Gabin later in 1952, in Marcel Ophuls' anthology tryptych Le Plaisir -- the uncut version of Le Plaisir just appeared on Turner Classic Movies on May 21st -- and the actress would also appear opposite him in 1958’s noir Le Desordre et la nuit, which was released on a fan-subtitled DVD back in February.

In La Verite sur Bebe Donge, Darrieux’s Bebe insinuates herself into Gabin’s life, and since she can’t wait to get her meathooks on his fortune, she does the only thing that a proper femme-fatale can do -- she poisons him with mercury! Therefore, the entire movie is narrated by Jean Gabin’s Francois character as he languishes in a coma, in the hospital. If this narrative device seems a bit odd, it's not the first time that such a device had been utilized: Two years prior to Bebe Donge, in 1950, in Billy Wilder’s classic Sunset Blvd., William Holden narrated the whole movie from beyond the grave as he lay dead in Gloria Swanson’s swimming pool. (Movies with ‘unreliable narrators’ are interesting enough, but movies with ‘unconscious narrators’ are way more interesting.) I don’t know if I would consider Bebe Donge to be one of Gabin’s best movies, but it is certainly one of his most offbeat entries, and it is definitely worth a view. This film was never released theatrically in America.

And speaking of Bebe Donge, as I was about to publish this posting, I learned something new about it, so here is a new/late-breaking/related story:

In my 2008 book World's Coolest Movie Star: The Complete 95 Films (and Legend) of Jean Gabin, I mentioned that there are two musical artists in Europe who have been so inspired by the French actor, that they have named their acts for him -- specifically, in the book, I mentioned the Italian techno/dance band Gabin (you can see their videos on YouTube) and the French rapper MC Jean Gabin.

Well now, as of 2011, there is a brand new Italian band, based in Rome, called "Bebe Donge!" The band's frontwoman, singer/songwriter Fiammetta Jahier, is such a fan of the 1952 Jean Gabin/Danielle Darrieux film La Verite sur Bebe Donge, which is apparently considered to be a cult film in Italy (I didn't know that!), that she has named her group after the film. Here are Fiammetta, Max, Alessio, Federico, Francesco and Tommaso performing their new track "Sono Sola," which contains clips of Gabin and Darrieux from the Bebe Donge film:

Bebe Donge, "Sono Sola," Copyright 2011 by Il Sid Records.


I live in Los Angeles, and it bothers me to no end that Jean Gabin's name does not appear on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on Hollywood Blvd. (Gabin's co-stars from 1942's Moontide, Ida Lupino and Thomas Mitchell have stars, but Gabin does not have one.) I have been doing a bit of research into the process of how to make this happen. As a layman, I -- or you -- can download a form from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and nominate Gabin for a 2012 Star. If the Chamber of Commerce votes "yes," then, at that point the nominating committee (me and whoever else might be interested in working with me on the project) would be responsible for sending the Chamber of Commerce a check for $25,000.00, which is the cost of a star -- this money also pays for permanent maintenance of the star as well as the ceremony on Hollywood Blvd. when the star is unveiled to the public. Yes, you have read it correctly: It costs twenty-five thousand dollars to have a star's name added to the Walk of Fame and, apparently, the Chamber of Commerce distributes every penny of this 25K among local charities. Does anybody have any interest in helping me to make this happen, either this year or next year? Let's discuss, at (PS, Don't send me any checks just yet, because, as David Letterman used to say back in the '80s, if you do, I'll just use them for candy and gum.)

Thank you again for supporting my two-volume book WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN ( I am currently editing the text for a possible new edition – I’ve been working on this for about a year-and-a-half – so if you have any comments or suggestions, please email them to me.

Jean Gabin, Circa 1936.

Have a great Memorial Day.

-- Charles Zigman,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Begins with Ten (10) Jean Gabin Movies, on English-Subtitled DVDs for the First Time

Did you know that the legendary filmmaker G.W. Pabst directed Jean Gabin and Peter Lorre in a 1933 ensemble comedy, Du haut en bas, which was styled after the American film of the previous year, Grand Hotel? You probably didn't, because it has been "missing" for more than seventy years, even in France, the country of its production. But as of January 2011, a rediscovered Du haut en bas (pictured, top) and eight other Jean Gabin are now available on DVD, with English subtitles for the very first time.

Hope everybody is having a very good New Year. Thank you again for supporting my book WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN. At some point in 2011 or 2012, I hope there will be a newly updated Third Edition. I have spent the last year-and-a-half engaging in a good deal of re-writing – writers are never happy, especially me – and I will probably also be adding additional information, and more photographs, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, as 2011 begins, there is fantastic news afoot for all English-speaking Jean Gabin fans – not one, not two, not three, but TEN (10) Jean Gabin movies have suddenly become available on DVD with English subtitles for the very first time. In WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, I bemoaned the fact that many of Gabin’s movies have never been available with English subtitles, but thanks to some very recent digital technology which has emerged only over the last two years, and thanks to some rather enterprising classic movie fans, this is no longer the truth.

Understand: These are not legitimate releases from the major home-video distribution companies. These ‘bootleg’ DVDs are made by fans, and the quality of most of them – and here I an referring to both pictorial image as well as to the quality of the digital English subtitles – is almost uniformly very good. In a few cases, I would even say the quality is commensurate with DVDs being offered by the Criterion Collection.

Over the last two years, some very dedicated and polylinguistic fans of classic movies have been purchasing DVDs of foreign-language films which are not subtitled into English and, thanks to some new ‘bit-torrent’ software (don’t ask; I’m practically Amish when it comes to anything technical) are adding their own digital English subtitles. Can you imagine subtitling an entire movie, just for enjoyment? Many do.

All of these ‘fan-subtitled’ films are currently available for you to buy on-line, but you won’t find them at or Barnes and Since these are privately made DVDs, which are exchanged privately from collector to collector, you will have to go to the two main auction sites, eBay and iOffer – and iOffer, which is a kind of ‘extreme eBay’ for super hard to find curios – is your best bet. On iOffer especially, the individual sellers often change – one week one seller might offering a particular film and the following week, that seller might not be offering it but three other sellers might have it in stock. So I won’t list the names of the individual sellers in this post, but you will definitely find English-subtitled versions of these films if you head over to iOffer or eBay and type the names of the following films into your search. What is even more amazing, is that new foreign-language titles, from all over the globe, are being painstakingly subtitled into English, by fans, every month.

Two of the films in this list, 1936’s La Belle equipe, directed by Julien ‘Pepe Le Moko’ Duvivier and 1937’s Gueule d’amour, directed by the highly underrated Jean Gremillon, a filmmaker who deserves some serious study, are worth a special mention: In France, they are considered to be two of Gabin’s very best films from Gabin’s very important Poetic-Realist period of the mid-to-late 1930s – in France they are part of that same pantheon which includes Pepe Le Moko, La Grande illusion, La Bete humaine, Le Jour se leve, and Le Quai des brumes – yet this is the first time we are seeing them on home video with English subtitles.

Here are the ten newly-subtitled-into-English Jean Gabin movies which I have been able to purchase from private, on-line sellers over the last month:

1. Du haut en bas (From Top to Bottom, 1933): Did you know that Jean Gabin, early in his career, was directed by the legendary German Pandora's Box filmmaker G. W. Pabst? It’s true. This rare early comedy – I would characterize it as being a kind of Grand Hotel set in a socialist-utopian apartment complex in which rich and poor live together in peace – is so rare today, in the sense that there aren’t even any prints of the film France, that when I initially saw the film, back in 2004, I had to go all the way to Belgium to see the only remaining print, at the Royal Cinematheque of Brussels, and because the print did not have English subtitles, I needed to have a human translator sit with me and tell me what the characters were saying. Incredibly, just over this past year, somebody in Germany actually found an ancient 35mm print of Du Haut en bas in the original French, with German subtitles! Whoever discovered the print had the foresight to film-chain a DVD copy and he has been circulating it among classic movie lovers, and on-line movie fans have now, just over the last several months, created their own digital English subtitles for the film, which are very clear and easy to read. As far as visual quality, the print itself hasn’t been restored – the DVD is made from an original 1934 film print, so it has a fair amount of scratches and pops – but it is an uncut print, and what it lacks in visual perfection, it more than makes up for in rarity.

Jean Gabin is endearingly funny as the building’s favorite resident, Austria’s Number One soccer player Charles Boulla, and you might call Boulla ‘The David Beckham of 1934.’ You’ll also see another French acting legend in Du haut en bas – it’s Michel Simon, France’s very famous answer to Charles Laughton, playing one of his great slovenly eccentrics, and five years after Du haut en bas, in 1938, Gabin and Simon would, of course, star together in Marcel Carne’s haunting Poetic-Realist classic, Le Quai des brumes. And if the combination of G.W. Pabst, Jean Gabin, and Michel Simon isn’t enough to grab you, what if I sweeten the deal and tell you that the film also features Peter Lorre, in just a few scenes, as a silent, stumbling vagabond. Du haut en bas was made a few years after Lorre had starred in Fritz Lang’s M, but because the actor was apparently addicted to morphine, directors would only hire him for small roles, including his small-but-important role in this film. I received my English-subtitled copy of this film from an iOffer seller, and if you don’t see it listed on the website, place a free want ad on the site asking for it and, spy-movie like, “someone will be right with you.” You will really enjoy all seventy-nine minutes of Du haut en bas.

Here's the poster for 1933's Du haut en bas. Jean Gabin was about one year away from becoming France's number one mega-star, so even though he is first billed in the film itself, it's Gabin's co-star Michel Simon, "the French Charles Laughton," who appears on the poster. Of course, Simon will co-star with Gabin more famously in 1938's Le Quai des brumes, in which Simon will play the sadistic Zabel.

2. La Belle equipe (The Good Team/They Were Five, 1936): In WORLD’S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, I lamented the fact that it is beyond tragic that Julien Duvivier’s great 1936 ensemble comedy La Belle equipe has not been shown with English subtitles since its brief American theatrical release, as They Were Five, seventy-three years ago, back in 1938. Thanks to a digitally and polylinguistically-inclined Jean Gabin fan who has made his own digital English subtitles and married them to a French-language DVD copy of the film, it finally, as of January 2011, exists in an English-subtitled version and, as with Du haut en bas, I obtained my English-subtitled DVD of La Belle equipe from a seller on La Belle equipe goes against the grain of Gabin’s other films, because it is a comedy. Not only are the subtitles accurate and easy to read, but this DVD is made from a restored print.

In the late 1930s, Gabin played a tragic figure in a number of his films, but in La Belle equipe, he is part of a warm ensemble comedy, in which five out-of-work factory employees win the lottery on a ticket they purchased together and use their earnings to restore, and open, a beautiful country guinguette (hotel/restaurant/holiday camp), with results which are both happy and tragic. I say both happy and tragic, because the film has always had, and this is quite uncharacteristic for Gabin’s mid-to-late 1930s films, a happy ending – but last year, in Germany, a sleuthing film fan actually found an original pre-release print featuring director Julien Duvivier’s original tragic ending, which was deemed too upsetting for general release, and which was shelved, and presumed to be lost for more than seven decades. The very good print on the English-subtitled DVD ends with the director’s newly-discovered, original tragic ending – it was screened at the Museum of Modern Art for the first time in 2010 – and, after the film is over, you will also get to see the happy ending by which the film has always been known. After you see the film and watch both of the endings, please email me – – and tell me which ending you prefer; I think we can get some pretty healthy debate going over this one, because the ending I like better is not necessarily the correct choice!

The fan-subtitled DVD of La Belle equipe features the director's original ending, not seen since 1936!

3. Gueule d’amour (Lady Killer, 1937): When I wrote about this extraordinary film in the First and Second Editions of my book, in 2008 and 2009, I think I gave it rather short shrift. I mentioned that, when I first saw Gueule d’amour in 2002, I had enjoyed it, but I didn’t give it too much thought, nor did I go into the film too deeply. Now, in 2011, I have revisited the film for the first time in nine years, on a great quality fan-subtitled DVD, which I found through a seller on, and it is truly another of Gabin’s best films. In most of his movies from this time period of the mid-to-late 1930s, Gabin’s tragic drifter characters are always quiet and stoic, heading off peacefully to their unpleasant fates without complaint, but in this picture – without giving anything away – director Jean Gremillon really pulls an incredible, non-stoic, full-of-feeling performance out of the typically laconic actor. I guarantee that even the steeliest viewers will shed a tear during the last several minutes of this film, and if you are familiar with Edvard Munch’s painting “The Screamer” – that’s Gabin at the end of this film.

In Geule d’amour, Gabin is freewheeling Lucien Bourrach, member of the SPAHI, the elaborately costumed French cavalry, and he is known, by the characters in the film, as ‘Lady Killer.’ Lady Killer is a man who has no problem getting any woman he wants, but he is unable to get the one woman he has ever actually loved, the beautiful society woman Madeleine, as played by Mireille Balin – she will of course deign to have a brief, torrid affair with him, but she’s not interested in a long-term coupling with him because of what she perceives to be his lowly social class. Madeleine taunts Lady Killer into committing the hauntingly savage act which will up the film. Previously in the same year of 1937, Balin, one of France’s most popular pre-War actresses, had appeared opposite Gabin in Pepe Le Moko, and in Le Moko, of course, it was Gabin’s smooth criminal character who held the cards in the on-screen Balin-Gabin relationship.

4. Des gens sans importance (People of No Importance, 1956): Last year, on this blog site, I mentioned that a fan-subtitled version of the 1955 thriller Gas-Oil, which co-starred Gabin with Jeanne Moreau, in which Gabin played a laconic truck-driver, had been released in a very good quality bootleg DVD, with fan-made English subtitles. Gas-Oil was so popular in France when it was first released that, one year later, Gabin played a laconic truck-driver one more time, in director Henri Verneuil’s atmospheric Des gens sans importance, or The People of No Importance, and this film is now available – you can find your very good, English-subtitled copy from sellers on – as well. In this film, Gabin’s trucker character, Viard, carries on a relationship with a young barmaid who is played by Francoise Arnoul – Gabin and Arnoul had previously, five years earlier, appeared in Jean Renoir’s French Cancan – and the results are bittersweet. In Des gens sans importance, Gabin fears that is trucking company is phasing him out and, to that extent, this is one of the best films on the subjects of ageism and aging that you will ever see. Very highly recommended.

5. Voici le temps des assassins (Time of the Assassins, 1957): If you mixed a Jim Thompson novella with a Russ Meyer movie, you would get the incredible, fast-paced noir, Voici le temps des assassins, in which Gabin is a middle-age chef who gets grifted by a team of hophead mother-daughter prostitutes! It’s fast-paced, thought provoking, dark, and another of my very favorite Jean Gabin movies. It even boasts a couple of rather ‘kinky’ touches which seem like they might be more at home in a Russ Meyer movie than in a Jean Gabin movie, and the film is especially memorable for its “Did that really just happen?”-ending, an ending which, without any exaggeration, you will not get out of your head for the rest of your life.

6. Le Desordre et la nuit (Disorder in the Night/Night Affair, 1958): Another very cool Gabin noir from the ‘50s features Our Anti-Hero as Inspector Vallois, a middle-aged police inspector who falls in love with a twentysomething hophead prostitute, played by Nadja Tiller. This wonderful movie is also important because it features, in a supporting role, Hazel Scott, the dynamic African-American singer who, like Josephine Baker twenty or thirty years before, also caught many of her best breaks in Europe, rather than in her home country of the U.S. It is available as a DVD, with fan-made English subtitles, through sellers on

7. Le Cave se rebiffe (The Counterfeiters of Paris,1961): In 1964, MGM released director Gilles Grangier’s outstanding widescreen thriller, in North America, as The Counterfeiters of Paris. While MGM apparently continues to have an English-subtitled print of the film in its vault, the studio is not permitted to screen it in North America, because shortly after the film’s initial American release forty-six years ago, the rights reverted back to the film’s French production company, Cite Films. However, here comes some good news: Thanks to some fans who have made their own digital, English-language subtitles, you can now, as of the beginning of 2011, obtain a really great widescreen print from various iOffer sellers. In Le Cave se rebiffe, Gabin portrays the world’s greatest counterfeiter, Le Dabe, which translates into English as, “The Dude:” Yes, thirty-seven years before Jeff Bridges played a character called “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski, Gabin had played a character with that very monicker! Le Cave se rebiffe has a lot of humor, too, thanks to dialogue by the prolific French screenwriting genius Michel Audiard, and as far as tone in concerned, I would compare it to two great French thrillers from 1964 which do not feature Gabin, director Georges Lautner’s double-header of Les Tontons flingueurs and Les Barbouzes, two Lino Ventura-starring films which you can also find on iOffer as a fan-subtitled DVDs. The plot, in brief, is that Gabin is France’s most successful counterfeiter of all time. He’s retired to Venezuela, and is pulled out of retirement to supervise ‘one more job’ in Paris. This film is a successful mélange of action and humor, and it’s got all the double and triple-crosses you can handle, and then some.

8. Le Soleil des voyous (The Sun Shines Over the No-Goods/Action Man,1966): Le Soleil des voyous is a fun, candy-colored – it was filmed in the old IB Technicolor process – heist movie, and it is the only movie to co-star Jean Gabin with American television’s Elliott Ness, the one and only Robert Stack. In this fun film, Parisian bar-owner Gabin and American mercenary Stack team-up to rob a U.S. Army payroll truck. In 2009, Image Home Video released a legitimate DVD version of Le Soleil de voyous on the North American market, which I wrote about it in an earlier posting on this blogsite, and while the good news is that the Image Entertainment print is uncut and letterboxed, the bad news is that it is dubbed into English, so you’re not hearing Gabin’s real voice – one of the basic pleasures of watching a Gabin movie is hearing his legendary voice – or Stack’s real voice, and what is particularly annoying about seeing a dubbed version of this film, is that it is the only film in which Robert Stack, who grew up on French military bases, speaks all of the film’s dialogue in perfect French! Well, thanks to a fan who has made his own English subtitles, I have just been able to obtain, from an iOffer seller, a great quality DVD of Le Soleil des voyous in its original French language, with excellent digital English subtitles. In the case of Le Soleil des voyous, skip Image Home Entertainment’s dubbed version, and head for the original French-language version with English subtitles. Robert Stack’s French is impeccable, and because the film was clearly made to capitalize on the James Bond craze, Stack does some amazing Kung-Fu in the film, as well.

One day I prayed to God, and I asked Him, "Dear God, could you please put Jean Gabin and Robert Stack in a movie together?" He did, and it was good. So mote it be.

9. Le Pacha (The Showdown, 1968): In this very decent Technicolor policier, Jean Gabin’s crusty old police inspector, Joss, avenges his partner’s death in the way in which Charles Bronson would also gain revenge in American cinema ten years later. The film is occasionally available in an English-dubbed version on VHS – I found mine on eBay about eight years ago, and I obtained it from a seller in Greece – but now, as of 2011, an original French-language print, with excellent, fan-made English subtitles, is available from an iOffer seller. A high-spot of the film is that Inspector Joss happens upon a pretty unusual murder lead: One of the murder suspects is the drummer in Serge Gainsbourg’s band, so Serge makes an appearance, performing the hip tune “Requieum pour un con,” which the film made successful in France. Georges Lautner, born in 1926, is the director of this film, and while I would not rank Le Pacha as one of his best films, he did direct a number of excellent thrillers, many of them seasoned with droll humor, in a career which has spanned forty years. He hasn’t directed a film in ten years – his last project was a few episodes of a French t.v. series, in 2001 – but here’s hoping that, if he is able, he will give us one more classic.

10. Le Tueur (The Killer, 1972): In my Jean Gabin book, I mentioned that most of Jean Gabin’s movies are great, but there are just a few which aren’t so hotsy-totsy. Director Denys de La Patelliere's Le Tueur is one of these forgettable efforts, and it is a pretty sub-standard procedural in which Gabin plays an almost-ready-for-retirement police inspector who is searching for a psychotic killer, as played by the Italian '70s action hero with the most masculine name I've ever heard, Fabio Testi. (I wish my last name could be ‘Testi!’) It’s one of the few movies in which Gabin looks not just stoic and laconic, but actually exhausted, as though he would rather be home at his farm in Normandy than making this movie. Still, for Gabin completists, you might want to check this French-German co-production out, due to its rarity in North America. (Horrible, flat cinematography in this film: In one sequence, set in police headquarters, it appears that the filmmakers couldn’t afford ‘fill’ light, and the actors cast inept looking shadows on the walls behind them, as you might find in somebody’s uncle’s bad home movies from the ‘70s.)

Also, don’t forget the fan-subtitled DVDs which were released last year, 1955’s fantastic noirs Razzia sur la chnouf (if you like Touch of Evil, you'll love Razzia sur la chnouf) and Gas-Oil.

Additionally: There are six Jean Gabin films which used to be available from eBay sellers as VHS tapes with English subtitles,but they are now out of print, and iOffer sellers are now offering some good quality English-subtitled DVDs. The titles are: 1934’s Marie Chapdelaine, which stars Gabin as a Canadian fur-trapper; 1959’s Un Singe en hiver, which is the only film to co-star Gabin with Jean-Paul Belmondo; 1961’s Le President, featuring Gabin as the French Prime-Minister; 1962’s Le Gentleman d’Epsom, starring The World’s Coolest Movie Star as a racetrack grifter; and 1968’s Le Tatoue, a madcap comedy starring Gabin with rubber-faced comedian Louis de Funes, who is sometimes called the French Jerry Lewis.

Remember, all of the titles I have just mentioned are available from sellers on either or, but iOffer is actually a better place to check for them than eBay. iOffer works the same way as eBay, in the sense that one must sign up in order to use it, but it is free. A special trick, is that if you don’t see a particular film title listed on iOffer, just place a free want ad, asking for it, and you will be surprised how quickly somebody who has the title in stock will get back to you. Some of the people on iOffer who are offering these fan-subtitled Gabin DVDs are traders instead of sellers, and they will not accept money for the films they are offering, but they will ask you to trade hard-to-find films from your own DVD collection for them. That’s not a problem, though, because if you’re a serious collector of classic movies on DVD, your present collection is sure to contain a few rarities.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTES: Many of these fan-subtitled DVDs will be in the European 'PAL' format, which means that they won't play on most North American 'NTSC' format DVD players, however for between $80.00 and $200.00, you can purchase an international, 'codeless' or 'region free' DVD player which will play both NTSC and PAL format DVDs. You won't find these machines in a brick-and-mortar store, but if you Google "codeless DVD player" or "region free" DVD player, you will find some good ones available from on-line sellers, and the $80.00 machines work just as well as the more expensive units. I personally own two codeless DVD players, and I bought them both here: And don't be scared if you don't see the English subtitles immediately when you slide your disc into the tray: Just click on the 'subtitle' key on your codeless DVD player's remote control, turn on the English subtitles and, like magic, they will appear... And here is some good news for those who don't want to spring for a new DVD player: Both NTSC and PAL DVDs will play on your computer's DVD drive, no matter what country your computer is from.

Also, for U.S. Gabin fans who subscribe to Dish Network or DirectTV, there is an optional French-language, English-subtitled cable station which you can add for a one-time extra fee of about $100.00, and thereafter, you pay about $10 a month for it, but it is supremely worth it: It’s TV Monde 5, and this French-language/English-subtitled channel frequently broadcasts rare French movies with English subtitles, in addition to French news and entertainment programming. Last year, in 2010, I noticed that TV5 presented three Jean Gabin movies which are not shown with English subtitles too much: 1971’s Le Chat, the only film to co-star Gabin with Simone Signoret, as well as 1958’s Maigret Tend un piege and Le President.

Ten new Jean Gabin movies on DVD, with English subtitles for the very first time? Yes! They are made by fans and for fans, and so while you won’t find any fancy packaging – although some of the sellers have been known to make their own cover-art – you will be seeing wonderful movies which have not been seen in the U.S. in decades, or ever. In addtition to subtitling Jean Gabin movies, these classic movie superfans are subtitling decades worth of other French (and German, and Italian, and Spanish, and any other language you can think of) movies into English for the first time, and they are providing a truly revolutionary service, because they are opening up a whole new world of classic films to people who would otherwise, due to the language barrier, have no way to see them. Some of the legitimate home video companies will never subtitle these 'deep inventory' films, which they consider to be a very small niche, into English, because they might feel there is not enough profit to be made from doing so, but the language barrier is now crumbling, and home video is quickly becoming democratized, due to the brand new and exciting world of fan-subtitled DVD.

Happy 2011 from

UPDATE, 2/5/11: Because a few readers have asked me, if you click on the title of this article, it will take you directly to the store for the gentleman who is offering many of the abovementioned films on DVD, with fan-made English subtitles. The quality is uniformly excellent.

He loves her and she loves somebody else. Such is life. Jean Gabin and Mireille Balin in the terrific Gueule d'amour (1937). This YouTube clip doesn't have any English subtitles, but the DVD does. The film is directed by the criminally underrated Jean Gremillion.