Cast & Crew
Mme. Dany Robin
Mme. Christiane Sertilange
In turn-of-the-century Paris, middle-aged film director Emile Clément divides his time between making movies and romancing young women. When his best friend Jacques, a handsome, young actor, becomes despondent because his girl friend has left him for a wealthy man, Emile coaches him in the art of flirtation and lovemaking. Later, Emile learns that music hall entertainer Célestin, an old friend whose now-deceased wife was once Emile's lover, has recently lost his sister and is going on tour, leaving his daughter to fend for herself. The next day, a saddened Emile says goodbye to Jacques, who has to leave Paris to complete his Army service. Upon returning home that night, Emile is approached by a young woman, who introduces herself as Célestin's daughter Madeleine. Although Madeleine reveals to Emile that her mother often spoke of him in loving terms, Emile sends her away, instructing her to return in the morning. Instead of leaving, Madeleine plants herself outside Emile's house, and when she starts to walk off with a strange man, Emile rushes out to retrieve her. Emile invites her to spend the night, and later, realizing that she is a naïve country girl, insists that she move in with him and his housekeeper. Emile then sets out to protect Madeleine from all men and orders his film crew to guard her like their daughter. During a music hall performance one evening, Emile puts his arm around Madeleine to discourage the advances of an admirer and finds himself enjoying the unplanned intimacy. Later, an unsuspecting Madeleine breaks into tears, telling Emile that she is depressed because men are not attracted to her. Emile reassures her, but does not express his romantic feelings for her. The next day, at a sidewalk café, Emile questions Madeleine about her future husband, and she insists that a man's age is not important to her. Now completely in love, Emile throws himself into his filmmaking and is thrilled when Jacques shows up at the studio one afternoon. Upon leaving that evening, Jacques, still dressed in his military clothes, spies Madeleine boarding a streetcar and, unaware of her relationship with Emile, pursues her. Using Emile's seduction techniques, Jacques romances Madeleine all night and finally confesses his love. Madeleine has also fallen in love with Jacques and makes plans to see him again the next night. At the studio the following day, both Madeleine and Jacques are surprised to discover that they are playing opposite each other in Emile's latest "desert" romance. Jacques, who has told Emile about the "wonderful girl" he met the night before, then learns from the crew that Emile is in love with Madeleine. Not wanting to hurt his friend, Jacques tries to stand Madeleine up, but the unsuspecting Emile insists that he meet her as planned. After Madeleine confesses that she had indeed been planning to marry Emile, Jacques demands that they stop seeing each other. A heartbroken Madeleine then learns from Emile that her father is soon returning to Paris. At the studio the next day, Madeleine and Jacques attempt to reunite but are stopped by the ever-vigilant crew. When the crew insists that Jacques inform Emile about his relationship with Madeleine, Jacques confesses all to his friend. Emile is furious at Jacques and stunned when Madeleine moves out of his house to return to her father. Later, Emile runs into a drunken Jacques at a café and, no longer angry, commiserates with him. Upon returning home, Emile discovers Madeleine waiting for him, having been snubbed by her father. Madeleine tearfully asks Emile to marry her, but he refuses her. On the set the next day, as a visiting sultan watches, Madeleine and Jacques play a scene together in which they both commit suicide because the vizir character whom Madeleine's character is being forced to marry refuses to give her up. When the sultan objects to the unhappy ending, Emile realizes that youth belongs with youth and, not only changes the film's ending, but gives his blessing to Jacques and Madeleine as well.
Mme. Dany Robin
Mme. Christiane Sertilange
G. Van Parys
Man About Town
Written, produced and directed by Rene Clair, Man About Town is set in the earliest days of movie making in France. Chevalier plays a producer who falls in love with a much younger actress, who is in love with someone else. It was a departure for Chevalier, who was used to getting the girl. For Rene Clair, the film was a look back, influenced by "youthful memories that gave birth to this comedy. The action is set in the pioneer era of the French cinema. These souvenirs of artisans who, between 1900 and 1910, gave birth to the first film industry in France, is a tribute to their memory by their pupil."
RKO financed both versions of the film an all-French language version and another with Chevalier explaining the story in English. Clair called the latter less artistic than the French version and was made for "those who don't like to read subtitles."
Life gushed over the film and Chevalier, stating "Maurice Chevalier has not made a film for 12 [sic] years, but after seeing Man About Town he still seems to be the most charming man in the world. [...] Man About Town is made like a Mack Sennett farce: the two lovers play it straight and everybody else is a comedian. Some scenes are just inventive slapstick but as a whole Man About Town is performed so deftly and with such gaiety that it makes most U.S. comedies seem cruder than Mortimer Snerd." Bosley Crowther in The New York Times wrote that it was "a quaint and beguiling little fable of the sidewalks of Paris of long ago of a Paris that never existed, perhaps, save in romantic dreams." Crowther disagreed with Clair about the necessity of having Chevalier narrate the film in English, "an ingenious trick of having Mr. Chevalier give a running commentary from off screen and in English-licks the awkward necessity of subtitles to translate the French dialogue. And it also permits the fluid Frenchman to take a slightly kidding attitude toward it all-an attitude, incidentally, which may be its saving grace."
Man About Town certainly helped Chevalier's career; he returned to the United States soon after the film was released, performing in an extremely successful one man show in New York.
Producer: René Clair
Director: René Clair
Screenplay: René Clair (scenario & dialogue)
Cinematography: Alain Douarinou, Armand Thirard
Music: Georges Van Parys
Film Editing: Louisette Hautecoeur, Henri Taverna
Cast: Maurice Chevalier (Emile Clément), François Périer (Jacques), Marcelle Derrien (Madeleine), Dany Robin (Lucette), Raymond Cordy (Le Frisé), Bernard La Jarrige (Paulo), Paul Ollivier (Le comptable), Christiane Sertilange (Marinette), Roland Armontel (Celestin), Paul Demange (Le sultan de Socotora).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Crowther, Bosley "Maurice Chevalier Stars in 'Man About Town,' Nostalgic Fable of Paris, Produced by Rene Clair, Presented at the Bijou" New York Times 22 Oct 47
"Man About Town: Maurice Chevalier as an Aging Wolf" Life 10 Nov 47
Parish, James Robert and Pitts, Michael R. Hollywood Songsters: Allyson to Funicello
Sadoul, Georges and Morris, Peter Dictionary of Films
Wilinsky, Barbara Sure Seaters: The Emergence of Art House Cinema
Man About Town
A co-production between RKO Radio Pictures and Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma in Paris, Man About Town was filmed in two versions. The French version, titled Le Silence est d'or, was released in France in May 1947 and ran 106 minutes. The working title of the English-language version was Golden Silence. The English-language version opens with a few English credits (as noted above) interrupted by a prologue featuring an English-speaking Maurice Chevalier. Set in a movie theater, the prologue begins with Chevalier singing "Place Pigalle." Chevalier then introduces the movie theater audience to the original French version, and translates the French-language credits, which are projected onto the movie theater's screen. René Clair's onscreen French-language credit reads: "Une Comédie Écrite et Réalisée par René Clair."
Although he comments that the audience "won't have any trouble understanding" the picture "because love is the universal language," Chevalier provides loose, offscreen translations, or interpretations, of the dialogue throughout the film. (The New York Times reviewer noted that this type of offscreen translator had been used frequently with American releases overseas.) According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Clair shot 100 "special takes" to allow for the offscreen commentary to be inserted. In addition to "Place Pigalle," snippets of the songs "Le Petit coeur de Ninon" and "Pour les amants c'est tous les jours dimanche" are performed in the picture.
Man About Town was the first Franco-American production following the war, and according to Variety, was made with "blocked francs," American funds frozen in France. It also was Clair's first complete French-language feature in twelve years, and marked Maurice Chevalier's return to the screen after a seven-year absence. Marcelle Derrien made her screen debut in the picture. Although the prologue was filmed at RKO's studios in Harlem, New York, Clair supervised the editing and dubbing of the English version in Hollywood, according to Hollywood Reporter. Hollywood Reporter announced that Man About Town was to be the first in a series of pictures co-produced by RKO and Pathé Cinéma. No other co-productions were made by the two companies, however. In addition, although the Variety review commented that the translating narrator technique had "attracted considerable trade attention...as a possibility for broadening audience potential on other foreign films," the device never became popular. In 1947, Man About Town won best picture awards at both the Locarno, Switzerland and Brussels film festivals. Despite these accolades, the film did not perform well at U.S. box offices, according to modern sources. Although modern sources claim that the French version was never distributed in the U.S., a Los Angeles Times review of the Los Angeles opening in late December 1947 noted that the French version was shown there with "English subtitles only."
In his autobiography, Clair, who previously had directed a sequence in RKO's 1943 picture Forever and a Day , noted that he was still under contract at RKO when the film was made, but following its disappointing showing, convinced the studio to relieve him of his contractual obligations. Clair then returned to France, where he remained for the rest of his career. Actor Paul Olivier died shortly after the film was shot. In July 1949, Hollywood Reporter announced that British actress Virginia Keighley was filing a $100,000 damage suit against RKO, claiming that Clair asked her to fly to Paris from London to do a screen test, then after the test, told her that the part was already cast, but later used some of her test in the film without her permission or compensation. The disposition of the suit is not known, and Keighley's appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.