Thursday, December 29, 2011
By Charles Zigman,
WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO (Allenwood Press). www.jeangabinbook.com
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:
TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES’ JEAN GABIN MARATHON HAS COME AND GONE:
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.
A ONE-HOUR RADIO BIOGRAPHY OF JEAN GABIN PREMIERED ON GERMAN RADIO, ON NOVEMBER 6th, 2011:
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 email@example.com, 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)."
"IF GABIN DOESN'T DIE (THEN THE MOVIE'S NO GOOD)": A CANADIAN BAND'S NEW SONG IS INSPIRED BY JEAN GABIN!
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 FIVE MONTHS, SIX MORE JEAN GABIN MOVIES HAVE BEEN SUBTITLED INTO ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME!
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 eBay.com, iOffer.com, and ecrater.com.
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 www.ecrater.com – 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.
TV5 MONDE ETATS UNIS: A FEW WORDS ABOUT A GREAT FRENCH-LANGUAGE/ENGLISH-SUBTITLED TELEVISION CHANNEL THAT IS AVAILABLE THROUGH MOST U.S. CABLE PROVIDERS:
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 -- www.cinemoi.com -- 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, www.ecrater.com'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 eBay.com and iOffer.com. 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:
HOLLYWOOD BOWL CONCERT TRIBUTE TO FRENCH MUSIC LEGEND SERGE GAINSBOURG INCLUDED SELECTIONS FROM TWO JEAN GABIN FILMS.
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:
GABIN’S CO-STARS WERE STILL GOING STRONG IN 2011:
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.
GABIN’S KIDS ON FRENCH T.V.:
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 Amazon.com. (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.)
LATE BREAKING NEWS:
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).