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Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol

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Also Known As: Died: April 18, 1974
Born: February 28, 1895 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: France Profession: screenwriter, director, playwright, producer, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Marcel Pagnol is often dismissed in film histories as an author of "canned theater" whose appeal is limited to a certain regional quaintness. This attitude is partly due to the fact that he first found fame as a playwright, but Pagnol did play a central role in developing and popularizing sound film in France. At a time when the French film industry was being radically transformed by the introduction of sound, Pagnol emerged as a major writer, director and producer of hugely successful films. Like Sacha Guitry, another homme du theatre with whom he is often compared, Pagnol initially assigned film a dubious artistic status, but once he became interested in the medium, he abandoned the theater altogether and in 1933 founded his own production company, Les Societe des Films Marcel Pagnol. In the process Pagnol became one of the few French directors of the period to control virtually every aspect of film production.Pagnol's name is virtually synonymous with Marseilles, the southern port which provided him with his cultural roots, the setting for much of his work, a host of Provencal character types portrayed in his films by a remarkable group of actors including Raimu and Fernandel, and the region's...

Marcel Pagnol is often dismissed in film histories as an author of "canned theater" whose appeal is limited to a certain regional quaintness. This attitude is partly due to the fact that he first found fame as a playwright, but Pagnol did play a central role in developing and popularizing sound film in France. At a time when the French film industry was being radically transformed by the introduction of sound, Pagnol emerged as a major writer, director and producer of hugely successful films. Like Sacha Guitry, another homme du theatre with whom he is often compared, Pagnol initially assigned film a dubious artistic status, but once he became interested in the medium, he abandoned the theater altogether and in 1933 founded his own production company, Les Societe des Films Marcel Pagnol. In the process Pagnol became one of the few French directors of the period to control virtually every aspect of film production.

Pagnol's name is virtually synonymous with Marseilles, the southern port which provided him with his cultural roots, the setting for much of his work, a host of Provencal character types portrayed in his films by a remarkable group of actors including Raimu and Fernandel, and the region's unique accent--"introduced" at the moment when its originality would be most striking, when film was beginning to talk. Pagnol shared with the writer Jean Giono a profound respect for the region's people and traditions and an affinity for simple morality tales concerning family honor. Simple, austere and often sensual, his characters' authentic lives are portrayed through richly poetic language and an attention to authentic details of setting and speech.

Pagnol's first vocation was teaching, but even before he took his first job, he had published poems, written a play and founded the review FORTUNIO (which later became the prestigious CAHIERS DU SUD). In 1922 he obtained a teaching position in Paris, where he wrote "Pirouettes," his first novel. But theater preoccupied him. With Paul Nivoix, he wrote three unremarkable plays, one of which ("Direct au Coeur") was later filmed (1933). Pagnol's first success came with his satirical comedy "Topaze" (1928), and, after he gave up teaching altogether, he solidified his reputation with his memorable Marseilles works "Marius" and "Fanny".

Here begins Pagnol's transition to film. "Topaze" (1932), directed by Louis Gasnier, was adapted for the screen, while "Marius" (1931, Alexander Korda) and "Fanny" (1932, Marc Allegret) were also filmed. For the film version of "Cesar" (1936), Pagnol took over the directorial reins himself and scored his first complete film triumph. Pagnol would direct two more versions of "Topaze," in 1936 and 1950, as well as adapting the work of other regional authors, especially Alphonse Daudet ("Les Lettres de mon Moulin," 1954) and Giono ("Regain," 1937; "La Femme du boulanger," 1938). Pagnol also occasionally played the role of independent producer, notably on Jean Renoir's "Toni" (1934).

It is in the best sense that Pagnol is generally regarded as a creator of regional works representing a simpler time. And yet, revaluation has Still, the recent success of Claude Berri's "Jean de Florette" and "Manon des sources" (both 1986), based on a Pagnol story which he filmed as "Manon des Sources" (1952), demonstrates a continued interest in his work.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Manon of the Spring (1953) Director
3.
  Topaze (1950) Director
5.
6.
  Cesar (1936) Director
7.
  Cigalon (1935)
8.
  Angele (1934) Director

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Spent childhood in Marseilles
:
Founded a literary journal, "Fortunio", published in Marseilles (later renamed "Les Cahiers du Sud")
1910:
Wrote first play, "Catulle/Catullus" (based on the life of the Roman poet), when he was 15
:
First collaborative effort, the one-act play "Ulysse Chez les Pheniciens/Ulysses in the House of the Phoenicians", with Arno Charles Brun
:
First novel, "La Petite Fille aux Yeux Sombres/The Little Girl with the Dark Eyes"
1922:
Moved to Paris; taught high school; co-authored "Les Marchands de Gloire/The Merchants of Glory" with Paul Nivoix
1925:
Quit teaching job when "Merchants" was staged at the Theatre de la Madeleine
1926:
Wrote "Jazz", a play based to some extent on his experiences as a teacher
1928:
Success of "Topaze" and "Marius" cemented Pagnol's popularity and reputation
1931:
Granted film rights to "Topaze" to Paramount Publix, the French subsidiary of the American film studio; film made by Louis Gasnier the following year
1931:
First film adaptation of a Pagnol work, "Marius", directed by Alexander Korda, the first installment in what would become known as his "Marseilles trilogy"
1932:
Produced first film, "Fanny", directed by Marc Allegret, the second installment in his trilogy
1933:
First American adaptation of a Pagnol work, "Topaze", directed by Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast from a Ben Hecht script for RKO
1933:
Formed film production company, "Les Auteurs Associes", with a studio in Marseilles; made arrangements with several local theaters to serve as outlets for his films
1933:
Co-directed first film, "Direct au Coeur/Straight from the Heart" (with Roger Lion)
1933:
Solo directed first film, "Le Gendre de Monsieur Poirier"
1934:
Initiated collaboration with writer Jean Giono (1895-1970) on "Jofroi/Ways of Love"
1934:
Produced "Toni", directed by Jean Renoir
1934:
Changed name of company to "La Societe des Films Marcel Pagnol
1936:
Wrote and directed conclusion of Marseilles trilogy, "Cesar", directly for the screen
1936:
Directed his own remake of "Topaze"
1938:
Made best-remembered film outside of Marseilles trilogy, "La Femme du boulanger/The Baker's Wife"
1941:
Ended working relationship with Giono after a falling out between the two men (date approximate)
1947:
Inducted into the Academie Francaise, the first filmmaker to be so honored
1948:
Directed "Le Belle Meuniere", starring Tino Rossi, experimenting with new color film process, Rouxcolor
1950:
Directed another remake of "Topaze"
1954:
Theatrical impresario David Merrick produced a Broadway musical, "Fanny" based on Pagnol's Marseille trilogy
1954:
Directed last film, "Les Lettres de Mon Moulin/Letters from My Windmill"
:
Retired from the cinema to write plays and four volumes of memoirs under the heading "Souvenirs D'Enfance/Memories of Childhood"
1963:
Published "L'Eau des Collines/The Water of the Hills", a two-volume epic reworking earlier material; later adapted into Claude Berri's acclaimed films "Jean De Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" (both 1986)
1991:
London stage revival of Stephen Schwartz musical, "The Baker's Wife" directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Alun Armstrong
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Lycee Thiers: - 1914

Notes

"Pagnol does not use accent as a picturesque accessory, a mere touch of local color; it is of the same essence as the text, and therefore, as the characters . . . The accent is the realism, the very basis of their language. So Pagnol's cinema is the contrary of theatrical; it belongs through words to the realistic specificity of film . . . Pagnol is not a playwright who has been converted to cinema, but one of the greatest authors of TALKING films." --Andre Bazin

"[Pagnol discovered] that what happened during a shot was just as important as the relationship between the shots. That mise en scene was first and foremost the choice and direction of actors--they were the true raw material of cinema." --Richard Roud (quoted in press release material for Yves Robert's films "My Father's Glory" and "My Mother's Castle", released 1990)

Some critics such as Roud consider Pagnol's "Angele" (1934) the first "neo-realist" film. Director Yves Robert claims that Roberto Rossellini used to describe Pagnol as the "real inventor of neo-realism".

Besides the two versions of "Topaze" Pagnol himself directed and the two versions mentioned in "Milestones", the play has been filmed in Egypt ("Yacout Effendi" 1933, directed by Nagib El-Rihani), in China ("Huaxin" 1939, directed by Li Pingqian), in England ("Mr. Topaze" 1961, starring and directed by Peter Sellers) and as a television production in 1956. "Marius" and "Fanny" have likewise been filmed in several countries.

Over twenty years after his highly successful musical adaptation of Pagnol's Marseilles trilogy, David Merrick attempted something similar with a musical version of "The Baker's Wife", starring Topol and Patti LuPone, but it closed on the road before opening in New York.

Pagnol also translated Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Virgil's "Bucolics" into French.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Orane Demazis. Actor. Was Pagnol's companion for ten years c. 1929-38; born 1904, died 1991; played the central character "Fanny" in the Paris stage productions of Pagnol's Marseilles trilogy "Marius" (1929), "Fanny" (1931); acted in several films written, produced, or directed by Pagnol, including the role of Fanny in all three installments of the Marseilles trilogy and the title role of "Angele" (1934).
companion:
Josette Day. Actor. Pagnol's companion from c. 1940; born July 31, 1914 in Paris; died 1978; best remembered as Beauty in Jean Cocteau's memorable adaptation of "La Belle et la Bete/Beauty and the Beast" (1946); acted title role of Pagnol's "La Fille du Puisatier/The Well-Digger's Daughter" (1941).
wife:
Jacqueline Pagnol. Actor. Married 1945; Pagnol's second wife; born in Paris in 1926; played in several of Pagnol's films, including title role of "Manon Des Sources" (1952).

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Augustine Pagnol. Died 1910 when Pagnol was 15.
father:
Joseph Pagnol. School principal.
son:
Frederic Pagnol. Mother Jacqueline Bouvier.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Souvenirs d'enfance/Memories of Childhood"
"L'Eau des collines/The Water of the Hills"

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