History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Boulevard of the 20th

In boulevard theatre, Georges Feydeau (1862-1922) continued his popular series of plays, notably "Une puce à l'oreille" (A flea in her ear, 1907). He may still be considered dominant in the 20th century, bitingly satirical and with elements of cruelty most of the genre lack. The most important figure in the 1915-1945 span is Sacha Guitry (1885-1957), with comedy-dramas such as "Deburau" (1918) and "Le nouveau testament" (The new testament, 1934). "Deburau" concerns the life of Jean-Gaspard-Baptiste Deburau, a 19th century pantomime under the stage-name of Baptiste. "The new testament" concerns what happens when a man's coat is found with his testament in one pocket, so that he is falsely declared to be dead. Other comic playwrights rising to the fore include Jules Romains (1885-1972) for his medical satire, "Knock" (1923), and Jacques Deval (1890-1972) for his immigration satire "Tovarich" (1933). "Patate" (Potato, 1957) by Marcel Achard (1899-1974) satirizes boyhood friendship. Gaston Arman de Caillavet (1869-1915), Robert de Flers (1872-1927), and Emmanuel Arène (1856-1908) drew plaudits for "Le roi" (The king, 1908).

More modern and tremendously popular farces include "Boeing Boeing" (1960) by Marc Camoletti (1923–2003), "La cage aux folles" (The faggot cage, 1973) by Jean Poiret (1926-1992), and "Le dîner de cons" (The dinner game, more precisely The idiots' dinner, 1993) by Francis Veber (1937-?)..

Boulevard drama is provided by Marcel Pagnol's (1895-1974) "Marius" (1929). Edouard Bourdet (1887-1945) contributed a strong drama with "Vient de paraître" (Hot off the press, 1927) about the seedy side of fiction writing. Likewise, Marcel Aymé in "La tête des autres" (Other people's heads, 1952) presented the seedy side of criminal investigations. Boulevard grimness achieves a sort of peak with Henri Bernstein (1876-1953)'s "Samson" (1907), when an investor dilapidates his fortune because of a woman. Although no typical boulevard author, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) contributed one important play of the genre: "Les parents terribles" (Intimate relations, more precisely The terrible parents, 1938).

Georges Feydeau continued to excel in Boulevard theatre during the early part of the 20th century. Portrait by Carolus-Duran (1837-1917)

"A flea in her ear"Edit

"A flea in her ear". Time: 1900s. Place: Paris, France.

"A flea in her ear" text at


Because of her husband's impotence, Raymonde has a flea in her ear and elsewhere. Painting by Georges de La Tour (1593-1652)

As a result of her husband's impotence towards her, Raymonde Chandebise suspects him of having adulterous relations. With the help of her friend, Lucienne, she composes a letter from an unknown woman for a lover's rendezvous at the Minaret Galant. Chandebise cannot believe the letter is meant for him, but rather for his friend, Tournel. When Homenidès, Lucienne's husband, arrives, Chandebise shows him the letter. "Caramba!" cries he, "My wife's writing!" Tournel is warned not to go. When Raymonde arrives at the Minaret Galant, she asks for Chandebise's reserved room. Despite the warning, Tournel also shows up and asks for Chandebise's reserved room as well. While sitting on the bed, he draws the curtain as Raymond enters hastily from the changing room. She slaps his face before recognizing him. Tournel seeks to take advantage of the situation. While Raymonde hesitates, she presses by mistake a button which turns the bed around in the next room while the revolving one is occupied by an old man, Baptistin, complaining of rheumatism, serving as a front in case the police appear. In fear, Raymonde rushes from the room and heads downstairs, then runs upstairs four steps at a time when she thinks she sees her husband disguised as a servant. She precipitously enters a room with an open door, that of a lusting Englishman, Rugby, and comes back out struggling with him, intent on slapping his face which Tournel, trying to help her, receives in his place. Seeing Baptistin and wishing to rid themselves of him, they press the bed button again and see on the revolving bed a servant, Poche, with the same costume as her husband and closely resembling him. In fear, Tournel cries out: "My friend, my friend, don't believe what you see". "Pity! Pity! Don't condemn until you hear me," Raymonde cries out. Both fall at his feet and beg to be beaten, but get no response. "Anything is better than that frightening calm," says Raymonde. When he appears forgiving, Raymonde asks for a kiss, as does Turnel. Informed of the letter, Chandebise's nephew, Camille, arrives and asks for his usual room under the assumed name of Chandebise. Seeing Poche, he also takes him for Chandebise and runs quickly inside Rugby's room. To rid themselves of Baptistin a second time, Raymonde presses the bed button and beholds Camille on the revolving bed. Raymonde and Tournel run away from him, but run back up again after seeing Etienne, her servant, arrive. He warns her that Chandebise knows everything. Rugby pushes Camille out and hits him on the mouth, so that the latter loses sight of the speaking apparatus he needs to be understood. Etienne knocks and enters inside Rugby's room, where he discovers his wife in bed with an unknown man. Thinking he is Chandebise, Etienne stops Poche in the corridor and complains of being a cuckold. Lucienne arrives, followed shortly after by Chandebise, who admits having shown her letter to Homenidès. They run downstairs but run back up again on seeing Homenidès with a revolver in his hand. Chandebise is pushed out of his room by Rugby and confronted with the hotel manager, Ferraillon, who, thinking he is Poche, verbally and physically abuses him. When Chandebise sees his wife and Tournel, he seizes him by the throat, until Ferraillon returns and abuses him again as Turnel disappears. Homenidès forces his way inside Camille's room and accidently turns the bed button, so that on the revolving bed Lucienne and Poche appear, both disappearing after seeing the revolver. At Chandebise's house, Poche asks Raymonde to see her husband. She, Tournel, and Lucienne believe Chandebise is mad or drunk. Poche is taken away to sleep in Chandebise's bathrobe as Chandebise himself returns, asking Tournel once more the reason why he found him with his wife at the hotel. Disgusted at these confusions, he chases them away. Ferraillon enters to give back Camille's speaking apparatus. Thinking he is Poche, Ferraillon heaps further abuses on Chandebise, who disappears, then on returning, finds the threatening Homenidès and disappears again. Homenidès finds a copy of the letter among Raymonde's papers, and asks her the meaning of this, a question finally resolved by Lucienne. Chandebise returns to say he saw his own person in his bed while Ferraillon returns and starts abusing him again, until Raymonde reveals he is her husband, all this trouble because her husband's impotence had put a flea in her ear.

Sacha Guitry was the dominant playwright of Boulevard theatre in the 1920s and 1930s, 1931

"The new testament"Edit

"The new testament". Time: 1930s. Place: Paris, France.

"The new testament" text at ?

After finding a new position for his secretary, John, a doctor, has must find another one. His wife, Lucy, suggests Fernando, son to a friend of his, Adrian, a radiologist, but he refuses and instead hires Juliette, whom Lucy immediately detests, provoking her in the hope that she will lose her place. John is late to dinner at his house on a night when Adrian and his wife, Margaret, are invited. A messenger leaves behind a coat, inside which a worried Lucy looks in discovers an envelope addressed to his notary and containing his last testament. She faints, revived by her friends. According to this new will, Lucy gets only one third of his fortune, the other parts going to Madeleine and Juliette Courtois, two women whom she has never heard of, one of the two being his mistress, the other his mistress' daughter. That Juliette is clearly the secretary her husband just hired. Lucy is all the more upset on reading the written date: 25 April 1934, thinking her husband probably committed suicide on this very day. In addition, the will also mentions "a son, who, without knowing it, avenges his father's honor", by which she finds out that her husband knew about her own adulterous relation with Fernando. It is Margaret's turn to faint when her adultery with John from 25 years ago is mentioned. Suddenly John enters amid the distraught group and finds his coat left by mistake at his tailor's, but without the envelope, hidden underneath Lucy's dress. The following morning, John learns from Margaret, veiled like a widow for the sake of secrecy, the entire story of last evening's events. Despite the awkwardness of the discover, Margaret says that their relation together was "the only agreeable moment of my existence". John does not reveal to her whether Juliette is his mistress, or else her daughter, neither does he say to Juliette who her father is, but she guesses it is he. Later, Lucy, joined again with their friends, sees the butler wearing John's coat, a sign which prompts her to think her husband has committed suicide. But once again he enters in great form, revealing that he has decided to take part in a foreign delegation of doctors, with Juliette as his secretary. Lucy looks at Fernando, for them a good opportunity to continue their relation, she considering that to cheat in love "is to wish for happiness". Before going away, John lets her know that Juliette is indeed his daughter.


"Deburau". Time: 1830s and 1840s. Place: Paris, France.

"Deburau" text at http://www.archive.org/details/deburauacomedya00grangoog

Photograph of Charles Deburau by Félix Nadar (1820-1910), ca 1858

Jean-Gaspard Deburau is a successful pantomime at the Funambules Theatre under the stage name Baptiste. There is a bouquet of carnations for him, sent by one of his fans. A lady arrives to take him away from the theatre and speak with him, but, after he takes out his wife's picture, she abandons the plan. A second woman arrives, roped with diamonds and a camelia on her belt, Marie Duplessis, a noted courtesan. To her, he does not show his wife's picture, but she is not the one who sent him flowers. It is the employee at the cashier's desk, pining for him uselessly. Deburau is taken with Marie. "I adored the sun," says he, "I like today the rain as much as the sun." Deburau is constrained in an unhappy marriage and, were that possible, wishes to marry Marie instead, his lady of the camelias. She answers yes because it is impossible. After he leaves, Marie admits to a conjurer friend of hers that she loved Deburau for a day or so. His wife having left him, he joyfully returns with his ten-year-old son, a dog, and a bird-cage at the very moment she is already in the arms of a new-found love, Armand Duval, yet he expects to see her again. Seven years later, Deburau is still expecting Marie to come back to him. His son, Charles, confesses he would like to become a mime like his father. He disagrees with that choice, emphasizing the difficulty inherent in making a living out of that art, encouraging him to be an actor at worst. Surprisingly, Marie returns, the result of a friend's intervention on his behalf since he leads such a hermit's life and appears to be sick. When he discovers she came only to look after his health, he loses interest in her. A doctor arrives to encourage him to take up various hobbies. Reading? "I prefer death without words," he answers. At last, he decides to return to the stage, but, older now, he is unsuccessful. He is about to speak to his disgruntled public, but is unable to. He kisses them goodbye instead. The curtain closes him on him sadly and slow. The last curtain fell on him like the guillotine, "for a soldier, it is the flag that one throws on his coffin," he says. The theatre director must replace him with a journeyman. Deburau has a better idea: put Charles on, whom he coaches on the spot.

Jules Romains showed that a clever quack can go very far, 1934


"Knock". Time: 1920s. Place: France.

"Knock" text at ?

Dr Parpalaid is leaving a small town to practice medicine in a larger city, handing over his patients to Dr Knock, dismayed to learn how rarely the townspeople consult their physician. He first presented this viewpoint in his medical thesis, emphasizing that healthy people are the sick who ignore their true state. He began to practice medicine without the required degree as a ship doctor and, soon successful, is determined to succeed here as well. His first new idea is to advertise free consultations once a week by the town crier, who mentions in passing how his throat is bothering him. Dr Knock asks him to specify whether it is a tickling sensation or a scratching sensation and further asks even more perplexing questions, so that the crier wonders whether he should go to bed at once, but the doctor assures him that he can wait till evening. He asks to see a schoolteacher and is astonished to learn that he and Dr Parpalaid were not in the habit of warning people about the multitudinous dangers inherent in not consulting their doctor regularly. Knock explains the many functions that can go wrong inside the body and is confident that with the teacher's help the townspeople will be unable to sleep at night. Knock then informs the local pharmacist that his revenues are likely to increase. The pharmacist is dubious, since, to require his services, a man must first become sick, an old-fashioned viewpoint according to Knock. "For my part," Knock says, "I know only people more or less stricken with illnesses more or less plentiful progressing at a more or less rapid rate." His first patient is a woman complaining of constipation. After briefly examining her and although she does not remember it, he concludes that she fell from a ladder "about three meters and a half high, against a wall." "You fell backwards," he specifies, "luckily on the left buttock." He recommends no solid food for one week, warning her that the treatment is likely to be costly. His second patient is a woman complaining of insomnia. He convinces her of the seriousness of her condition, explaining in detail the many malformations of the nervous system that can occur in such cases, until she is ready to submit to any treatment if only he can save her. In such a manner, Knock's private practice, to the pharmacist's content, grows enormously. He waxes lyrical in contemplating the lights on at night of his many anxious patients. "The canton cedes her place to a sort of firmament, of which I am the continual creator," he says. Learning of this surprising turn of events, Dr Parpalaid offers him to exchange his present practice with the old one, but Knock refuses, although fully cognizant that his talents must eventually reach a broader stage. A tired-looking Parpalaid wonders whether Knock was joking in suggesting that his predecessor appears to need a day of rest. Knock answers that they can see about that later in such a tone that Parpalaid starts to worry about his present state of health.


Time: 1930s. Place: Paris, France.

"Tovarich" text at ?

Mikail and Tatania, escaped prince and princess respectively in the aftermatch of the 1917 Russian revolution, have difficulty in meeting ends meet in a Paris hotel. The former prince refuses to yield an immense sum of money given to him by the former czar to the heir to the throne, "What a crowned czar gave me, I will return to a crowned czar," he specifies. The couple succeed in obtaining employment in the house of a banker, Charles Arbeziat, and his wife, Fernande. To Charles, the ideal servant is characterized by "punctuality, silence, deference." To his surprise, Charles is extremely pleased at the kind of service Mikail renders, but taken aback at his manner of thanks, kissing him on the shoulder in the Russian manner. To help her mistress economize after buying some expensive hats, Tatiana sends away the employee waiting for her money. "I can assure madam by St. Peter and St. Paul you will see no bill for the next three months," she announces. But Fernande will have none of that. Nevertheless, the entire household is pleased with their new servants, including the son of the family, George, in the habit of fencing with Mikail, and Helen, the daughter, who learns Russian songs from Tatiana. George is so taken with Tatiania that he starts to flirt with her but is repulsed. One evening, the Arbeziats have over to dinner important people involved in an oil deal with Russia, including the people's commissar for petrolium, Dmitri, who, during the revolution, tortured Mikail and raped Tatiana when held in custody. One of the guests, Lady Kerrigan, recognizes Tatiana as the former czar's niece and a bank official recognizes Mikail, to the amazement of the Arbeziats. Dmitri also recognizes Mikail and coolly asks for a light. To Tatiana he asks for a glass of water. After drinking form the glass, she casually mentions she spit on it. To their grief, Mikail and Tatiana learn that the Arbeziats are unable to keep them further in their employ. Dmitri enters the kitchen to tell them he refuses to finalize the deal, to prevent French, British, and American influence on Russian soil. Instead, he asks Mikail to deliver the czar's money. Otherwise, a great famine is likely to ensue. Reluctantly, Mikail and Tatiana yield. Dmitri thanks Tatiana kissing her reverently on the shoulder.


"Potato". Time: 1950s. Place: France.

"Potato" text at ?

Leon asks his old school-friend, Noel, for a large loan, who at first refuses but then accepts to buy off his idea of predicting the future with the help of dice. At home, Leon's wife, Edith, is shocked to discover that their adopted 12-year-old daughter, Alexa, is having an affair with a married man. When Edith asks who he is, Alexa answers: "Authority comes too late, poor dear." When Edith opines Alexa may not find happiness in this way, she answers: "Happiness is perhaps not indispensable." When she insists that Alexa will be unable to have a life with him, she answers: "My life! You know well that we, the young, have no future." Mother and daughter are unable to hide the adulterer's letters from Leon, who at first believes them to have been written to his wife' "I adore to see you lift your skirt to prove you are right," he reads aloud in a shocked voice" At last, Alexa reveals the letters apply to her. After much effort, Leon discovers who he is, Noel, on whom he plans to avenge himself for a lifetime of torment, laughed at since school-days as a potato-like individual. Edith is revolted at this plan. Nevertheless, when alone with Noel, Leon threatens to reveal the content of the letters to his wife, Veronica, who in the event of a divorce would make him penniless. Leon jubilates at the thought, now considering himself "a potato that is choking you". But Noel surprises Leon by announcing he will commit suicide, his wife in possession of letters proving the existence of some illegal transactions of his. Leon is forced to desist. So does Alexa on learning of the situation, deciding to "put a boy between herself and the man". They burn the letters. Despite this, Veronica guesses the truth, but nevertheless chooses to remain with her husband.

Robert de Flers described how a king's visit to another country can cause havoc among the hosts

"The king"Edit

"The king". Time: 1900s. Place: Paris, France

"The king" text at ?

Emile Bourdier, industrialist, mayor, and socialist member in the house of Commons, is expecting to be invited to a hunting trip organized by the marquis of Charamande, acting as host during King John IV of Serdania's visit in France, but he is disappointed. He is also disappointed after the marquis refuses to a marriage between his daughter, Suzette, and the marquis' son, Count Serin. To avenge himself, he attempts to seduce the marquis' mistress, Theresa, an actress. After obtaining a rendez-vous with her, he is so overjoyed that he rushes into the next room to kiss his wife, Martha. In Theresa's boudoir, Blond, in charge of the king's safety, enters disguised as a hairdresser to announce his imminent visit. Having slept with her eight years ago, the king intends to relive that experience. Despite Blond's interference, Emile returns to find her in bed with the king. To mitigate her friend's anger, she announces that the king intends to hunt on his castle grounds instead of the marquis'. Overjoyed, the socialist politician kisses the king's hand. At his residence, Martha is nervous about the reception and asks for Theresa's advice about how to salute his majesty. "One must sense deference at the calf but dignity at the torso," she recommends. When Theresa prepares to leave, Martha insists on having her stay, to Emile's disgust. After the ceremonial duties are over and everyone has gone to bed, the king unexpectantly encounters Martha late at night. Eight years ago while he was parading down a street, she threw at him an apple turnover instead of flowers and hit him in the eye with it. He pardoned this excessive show of enthusiasm by sleeping with her. He does so again at her home. The next morning, Emile discovers his wife in bed with him. To appease his wrath, Theresa proposes to a round of politicians that they give him a new political appointment. They agree in conferring him with a minister's post. In gratitude to her, the king signs a commercial agreement between their two countries. Emile beams with pride amid his colleagues at his first success as minister.

Marc Camoletti showed that keeping ongoing relations with three women is sometimes unsettling

"Boeing Boeing"Edit

"Boeing Boeing". Time: 1960s. Place: Paris, France.

"Boeing Boeing" text at ?

Trouble starts when stewardesses change their flight schedules

At his apartment, Bernard cheerfully says goodbye to Janet, an American airline stewardess. After she leaves, he greets Jacqueline, a French airline stewardess. She, in turn, is replaced by Judith, a German airline stewardess. But Bernard is abashed on learning that Jacqueline's schedule is altered so that she returns to his apartment with Judith still present. Bernard suggests they go in the country, his friend, Robert, to stay with Judith. With Judith in another room, Robert is stunned on seeing Janet enter, her plane being forced back because of a snowstorm. As she goes into the kitchen, Judith enters and is puzzled at seeing Janet's travel bag, which Robert explains by saying it is his. When she leaves, Janet re-enters and wonders why he is holding on so tightly to her travel bag, then she finds Judith's bag, which Robert explains by saying it is his. Bernard returns alone because he and Jacqueline quarreled in a restaurant and he does not know where she is. He proposes to Janet the same thing he proposed to Jacqueline. When Jacqueline suddenly returns, Bernard quickly ushers Janet out into another room. Jacqueline is also puzzled at seeing Judith's travel bag, which Robert explains by saying it is his. With Judith out for a walk and Janet in the bathtub, Jacqueline proposes to take a bath, too, but is prevented by Robert, who says it his turn, at which Bernard agrees. After they successfully usher Janet in the adjoining room, Judith surprises both men by saying she loves Robert just at the moment when Jacqueline returns from her bath. To her, Bernard introduces Judith as Robert's betrothed and Jacqueline as his. When Judith wants to know more about this, she is interrupted. After the two other women leave, Janet declares she received a letter from a millionaire, offering to marry her, and so for once Bernard remains alone, but, to his regret, soon to be married.

"The faggot cage"Edit

"The faggot cage". Time: 1970s. Place: St. Tropez, France.

"The faggot cage" text at ?

Havoc arises when an owner of a homosexual night-club hosts a conservative couple

Larry asks his father, George, owner of a homosexual night-club, to transform his apartment into a more austere one, because he plans to marry a woman whose parents, the Faithingods, have ultra-conservative views and he has invited them over. George asks his friend, Albin, to adapt his behavior to a more virile type, like their butcher's, but he is unable to and is ordered to stay away. When Mr Faithingod arrives, he notices the night-club sign outside and remarks: "Freedom, granted, but freedom with decency." "Absolutely," George concurs. At the supper-table, Mrs Faithingod asks about the figurines on their plates: "Are these young men playing together?" she naively asks. George reassures them on this and other matters, but is disagreeably surprised to find Albin entering as his wife. The Faithingods are surprised at seeing the soup-bowl in the form of a man's breast. George and Larry have a hard time controlling Albin, who is very close to compromising them several times. When a knock on the door is heard and the doorbell rings, George tries to camouflage the sound, but finally his estranged wife, Simone, enters, whom he introduces as the cleaning woman. Although their guests retire for the night, Mr Faithingod, finding his room too hot, comes out again to find Albin as a man, introduced as George's brother-in-law in a beach attire. "Was the sea nice?" asks Faithingod. Albin compromisingly responds: "O, like a caress." Mrs Faithingod then comes out for the same reason, at a time when the apartment is being invaded by employees from below, which George explains by announcing he is organizing a masked ball. At last the Faithingods discover the truth, but are prevented from leaving on seeing journalists enter to take photographs of the premises. They are offered transvestite costumes to escape detection, "I hope the French people will be thankful towards us," Mrs Faithingod remarks as they dance with the rest.

Francis Veber demonstrated that inviting people over to laugh at them can be hazardous, 2012

"The idiots' dinner"Edit

"The idiots' dinner". Time: 1990s. Place: Paris, France.

"The idiots' dinner" text at ?

Pierre Brochant, a Parisian publisher, is in the habit of organizing an "idiots' dinner" with friends, each inviting a fool they can safely ridicule without his being unaware of it. For this purpose, Pierre discovers François Pignon, a government employee with a passionate hobby of constructing with matchsticks the Eiffel tower and other famous landmarks. But before he can introduce him at dinner, Pierre hurts his back and asks François to locate his wife, Christine. François is such an idiot that, to Pierre's despair, he involuntarily reveals on the telephone the existence of his mistress, Marlene, to Christine and sends Christine away, thinking she is Marlene. Juste LeBlanc, Christine's old lover, is solicited to help, but laughs at him instead. Pierre considers Christine may have gone to see Pascal Meneaux, a reputed philanderer, but he does not know how to contact him. François tries to help by asking Lucien Cheval, who knows about Pascal from his work-file. Before Lucien comes over, Pierre is stunned to learn he is an income tax inspector, quickly hiding valuable paintings and decorations the government knows nothing about. While calling up Pascal, Lucien discovers his own wife at his apartment, and is so hurt and angry that he leaves while threatening Pierre and François of an in-depth audit. At last, François discovers the hidden purpose behind Pierre's dinner. Though hurt, he nevertheless calls up Christine in secret to help him out, lying that he is calling her from a phone booth to avoid her thinking Pierre put him up to it. But he blunders yet again by answering the phone in her husband's apartment, so that husband and wife are estranged more than ever, to Pierre's despair at ever meeting such an idiot.

Marcel Pagnol told the story of Marius, a man with a hankering for the seas despite his love of a loving woman, 1931


"Marius". Time: 1920s. Place: Marseilles, France.

"Marius" text at ?

A port-bar owner, Cesar, tells his son, Marius, he is "soft and lazy", "a dreamer", not of much use in helping him at work. While Marius tends the bar in his father's absence, Panisse, prosperous owner of sailing equipment, courts Marius' childhood-friend, Fanny, a sea-side vendor. Panisse gazes so intently inside her cleavage that Marius becomes angry. They quarrel. Panisse prefers to walk away rather than fight but proposes to Fanny's mother, Honorine, should she agree to the marriage, an impressive dowry for her daughter and a pension for her. Honorine reveals to Cesar of the possibility of her daughter marrying Panisse. In turn, Cesar questions Marius about his feelings for Fanny, who answers he is unsure of loving her sufficiently for marriage and of the existence of another woman he is not inclined to let go, but the real sticking point is his desire to go to sea, which he does not tell him. Fanny refuses Panisse and seeks to delve into Marius' feelings for her. "I love you, and, if I could marry, it would be with you," he answers. But yet he feels the sea calling him" "I long for elsewhere," he says. One day, Honorine comes charging into the bar, angry and weeping, with Marius' belt in her hand. She found him sleeping with her daughter and tells Cesar she wants them married at once. Meanwhile, Marius has struck a deal with the quartermaster of a ship leaving port, but he is still hesitating about whether he should leave. Fanny reassures him. "I am not a trap, Marius," she says. "Since you prefer the sea, marry her." She will nevertheless wait for him during his three-year voyage. She calls Cesar over, distracting his attention while his son heads toward the port.

"Hot off the press"Edit

"Hot off the press". Time: 1920s. Place: Paris, France.

"Hot off the press" text at ?

A publisher and his authors enter into conflict when combining work and their personal lives

A book publisher, Moscat, attempts to influence members of an award committee so that one of his authors, Marechal, obtains a prestigious literary prize, but after learning that this author signed with a rival book publisher, he arranges matters for him to lose, then, to torment him, offers him more money than he had already signed for. Moscat next contacts the publisher of the winning author and buys the rights of the novel. He asks to see the author, Mark, but first meets his wife, Jacqueline, who, without her husband's consent, submitted his work for the prize. She and Moscat convince Mark to quit his clerk's position at the ministry to become a full-time author. But the plan does not pan out. Unable to continue with the second novel, Mark explains to Moscat that the first one was easier, being based on the journal of a young girl. When Moscat finds out the young girl is his wife, he proposes she should enter into a relationship with Marechal, whom he has forgiven and re-hired, and write down a second journal, with which her husband may find once more his inspiration. He invites all three to his villa, but things do not pan out any better there, Mark being unable to get used to Marechal's presence. Meanwhile, Marechal presses Jacqueline to sleep with him, which she is reluctant to do. She discloses Moscat's plan, which incenses him. She then admits she loves him but needs more time to decide what to do. When Mark learns she intends to do a few secretarial chores for Marechal, he becomes angry. Moscat intervenes by revealing his plot to him. Both insist that Jacqueline show her journal but it is empty. Pressed by her husband, she admits she loves Marechal and intends to go to her parents' house to think matters over. Marechal is about to go join her there, but is prevented by Moscat's literary plans for him. Mark and Jacqueline are back together again. She receives a visit from Marechal, not to woo her a second time, but to tell her he wrote a short story based on their relation. When Mark discovers this, he is incensed, but then reveals, to Jacqueline's and Moscat's delight, that he is also hard at work with a novel concerning a man on the brink of losing his wife's love.

Marcel Aymé showed that we can be quite easy about an unfortunate outcome provided it concerns other people's heads, 1929

"Other people's heads"Edit

"Other people's heads". Time: 1950s. Place: A fictionalized country called Poldavia.

"Other people's heads" text at ?

Court prosecutor Maillard and his family and friends are overjoyed at his obtaining a guilty verdict against Valorin for murder. But Maillard is stunned on seeing the convicted man in his house, escaped from prison, and even more so on learning the alibi he used without being believed was the truth. Valorin said he was sleeping with an unknown woman at the moment when the crime was committed, who turns out to be Roberta, with whom Maillard himself is having an adulterous relation. Roberta does not want this known, because her reputation is likely to suffer among her worldly friends. When Valorin comes back after washing up, Roberta takes his gun and fires, with no result, because he took the precaution of emptying it. Maillard is forced to reveal the truth to Roberta's husband, Prosecutor Bertholier, who, though cursing her, also wishes to keep his wife's adultery a secret, promising with the help of the police to capture the real murderer. In the meantime, Maillard allows Valorin to live inside his house. Valorin attracts the sympathy of his wife, Juliet, seen together in a compromising position by the jealous Roberta. To get the upper hand over her, Juliet lies by saying Valorin is her lover. Roberta believes the lie and reveals it to the angry Maillard. After police investigations, Bertholier thinks to hold in custody the real murderer, a man named Gozzo, but that does not satisfy Valorin, who wants the complete truth known about his relation with Roberta. Maillard refuses to cooperate, at which Juliet threatens to expose him, having heard him reveal the truth. To keep him quiet forever, Roberta hires two men to kill Valorin, but they mistake him for Maillard until she arrives. Alone with the murderers, Valorin hears them reveal the true murderer, not Gozzo but a man named Dujardin. When the assassins needlessly quarrel over their children's education, he seizes the opportunity of taking away their guns. Stunned at this turn of events, Roberta denies any intention to murder, intending only to intimidate him. They learn the killers belong to a mighty kingpin of crime named Alessandrovici. Hoping to liberate the guiltless Gozzo, Valorin and the two prosecutors visit Alessandrovici, who, a witness of Dujardin's incompetence, agrees to yield him to the police.

Henri Bernstein showed that a man can be resentful to the point of destroying others with one's own self, 1917


"Samson". Time: 1900s. Place: Paris, France.

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Like the Biblical Samson, James destroys the financial investments of his enemies along with his own

Grace complains of the sudden way her lover, Jerome, left her once he began to make money, thanks to the financial advice of a sharp investor, James. Despite receiving such favors from his friend, Jerome initiates adulterous relations with his wife, Anne-Marie. To spite him, Grace reveals to James she has reason to suspect his wife is unfaithful and therefore recommends him to pretend to go on a business trip and then surprise her by showing up unexpectedly at their house. He accepts and, as Grace anticipated, does not find her there late at night. On confronting her, Anne-Marie reveals she does not love him and that Jerome is her lover. As a result, he locks her inside her room. "Do you know, sir, that you have become grotesque?" she asks sarcastically. He changes his mind, allowing her to stay in her room while promising not to leave. James confirms to Grace that her husband is indeed his wife's lover. Yet she admits she is nevertheless still hoping to marry him, though conscious he is "incapable of love, but yet a lover". Jerome is surprised to find James arrive so soon. James invites him to dinner. In passing, Jerome mentions he invested even more heavily than he has in the past in Egyptian Copper stocks. Although James is an administrator of that company, whose stock they have both profited on, he nevertheless finds that move imprudent. James then reveals he has arranged for that stock to fall abruptly at the Stock Exchange, ruining both himself and him, like Samson striking down the pillars over the Philistines' heads. On hearing of the Stock Exchange crash, Anne-Marie's parents and her brother suggest she should divorce James, all the more so when they learn he might be arrested, but he assures them he has a minister's word he will not be provided he respects his engagements. Unexpectedly, Anne-Marie refuses to divorce him. Instead, she is willing to see whether she can learn to love him.

Jean Cocteau despicted a mother with a very strong attachment to her son and the all too passive father, 1923

"The terrible parents"Edit

"The terrible parents". Time: 1930s. Place: France.

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Ivonne, her husband, George, and their 22-year-old son, Michael, live on a legacy obtained by Aunt Leonie, Ivonne's sister, who manages the house for them. Ivonne is often careless, not only regarding the condition of the house but also her insulin-dependent diabetes. She is emotionally dependent on her son, to the extent of advising him to refuse job offers so that he can remain with her. The entire family is upset when Michael spends one night away from his parent's house without calling up. Ivonne becomes all the more frantic on learning he is in love with a woman, Madeleine. Without learning more about her than her age and generosity, in occasionally paying for Michael's meals and cigarettes, Ivonne flies into a rage, calling her "a piece of shit", grabbing him in desperation, and yelling out the window for no reason. Leonie attempts to reason with her, underlining the sacrifices she has undergone for the good of all, including the love she still feels for George, whom she abandoned for her sister's sake. George is devastated on learning that Madeleine is his mistress. The two decide to force her to let Michael go, to which Ivonne heartily agrees, though not for the same reason. All three visit her house, whereby Madeleine discovers who Michael's father is. Left alone with her, George threatens that, unless she abandons Michael, he will reveal the nature of their adulterous relation to his son, so that she would probably lose him in any case. Madeleine is unwilling, but finally gives up. On learning Madeleine has another lover, Michael at first does not believe them, but, on looking at a silent Madeleine, finally does so. To help him recover from this blow, Ivonne smothers her son all the more. Recognizing his egotism in this affair and as an eyewitness to his son's despair, George changes his mind. He and Leonie tell Ivonne that Madeleine has no other lover and that they should tell Michael the truth, but she resists the mere thought of their being together again. At the same time, Ivonne correctly guesses that Madeleine was her husband's mistress. Despite her resistance, George and Leonie tell Michael the truth, who is overjoyed at the news. As everyone celebrates, Ivonne slips away and injects herself, not with insulin, but with a lethal poison.

Last modified on 25 February 2014, at 10:30