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Fernandel

FERNANDEL


Nationality: French. Born: Fernand Joseph Désiré Contandin in Marseilles, 8 May 1903. Military Service: Compulsory military service in the 1920s; French army, 1939–40. Family: Married Henriette Manse, 1925, children: Josette, Janine, Franck, and Gérard. Career: Stage debut at age five in melodrama, Théâtre Chave; while attending school, appeared at night with father and brother in Marseilles music halls; 1914—left school and worked in various jobs while continuing to perform; 1922—contract by Eldorado Theatre, Nice; contract on Paramount vaudeville circuit; 1930—offered first film role by director Marc Allégret; through 1930s continued to appear on stage in Marseille and Paris; 1934—first substantial film role as Saturnin in Marcel Pagnol's Angèle; 1942—directed children's film Simplet; 1948—first tour of United States and Canada; 1950—began appearing in serious roles, in Sacha Guitry's Tu m'as sauvé la vie; 1967—in TV series L'Amateur. Awards: Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur. Died: In Paris, 26 February 1971.


Films as Actor:

1930

La Meilleure Bobonne (Marc Allégret and Heymann) (as Lucien Pivoine); J'ai quelque chose à vous dire (Marc Allégret); Le Blanc et le noir (Florey) (as Le Groom)

1931

Attaque nocturne (Marc Allégret and de Marguenat); On purge bébé (Renoir) (as Horace Truchet); Vive la classe (Cammage); Coeur de Lilas (Litvak—French version of his The Mad Genius) (as le garçon d'honneur); La Fine combine (Chotin—short) (as valet); Pas un mot à ma femme (Chotin); Bric a Brac et Cie (Chotin); Paris-Beguin (Génina) (as Ficelle)

1932

Cunegonde (short—filmed song); Elle disait non (short—filmed song); Le Rosier de Madame Husson (He) (Deschamps) (as Isidore); Maruche (Péguy); Un Homme sans nom (L'Homme sans nom) (Ucicky—French version of Mensch ohne Namen) (as Julot); Les Gaités de l'escadron (Maurice Tourneur) (as Venderague); La Claque (Péguy—short); Par habitude (Cammage—short); Quand tu nous tiens, amour (Cammage—short); Le Jugement de minuit (Esway and Charlot) (as Sam); Une Brune piquante (de Poligny); Ordonnance malgré lui (Cammage) (as chauffeur); Un Beau Jour de noces (Cammage—short); La Terreur de la Pampa (Cammage); Comme une carpe (Heymann—short); L'Idoire (Maurice Tourneur—short) (title role)

1933

Ça colle (Christian-Jaque—short); Le Coq du regiment (Cammage); Le Gros Lot (La Veine d'Anatole) (Cammage); L'Ordonnance (The Orderly) (Tourjansky); D'amour et d'eau fraîche (Gandéra); Adéma i aviateur (Tarride) (as Michelet); La Garnison amoureuse (de Vaucorbeil); Restez diner (short)

1934

Une Nuit de folies (Cammage); Le Cheri de sa concierge (Glavanti); Le Train de 8 h 47 (Wulschleger) (as Croquebol); L'Hôtel du libre échange (Marc Allégret); Angèle (Pagnol) (as Saturnin); Les Bleus de la marine (Cammage) (as Lafraise); Le Cavalier Lafleur (Ducis) (as Lafleur en activité); La Porteuse de pain (Sti)

1935

Ferdinand le noceur (Sti) (as Ferdinand); Jim la houlette (Berthomieu) (as Moluchet); Les Gaités de la finance (Forrester)

1936

Un de la Légion (Christian-Jaque) (as Fernand Espitalion); Josette (Christian-Jaque)

1937

François Ier (Francis the First) (Christian-Jaque) (as Honorin); Les Degourdis de la onzième (Christian-Jaque); Ignace (Colombier) (as Ignace Boitaclou); Regain (Harvest) (Pagnol) (as Urbain Gédémus); Le Schpountz (Heartbeat) (Pagnol) (as Irené Fabre); Les Rois du sport (Colombier) (as Fernand); Un Carnet de bal (Life Dances on, Christine) (Duvivier) (as Fabien Coutissol); Hercule (L'Incorruptible) (Esway) (title role)

1938

Barnabé (Esway) (title role); Raphael et Cacolet (Colombier) (as Modeste Manosque); Ernest le rebelle (Christian-Jaque); Les Cinq sous de Lavarède (Cammage) (as Armand Lavarède)

1939

Berlingot et Cie (Rivers) (as François); Fric-Frac (Lehmann and Autant-Lara) (as Marcel); L'Héritier des Mondésir (Valentin)

1940

L'Acrobate (Boyer) (as Ernest Sauce); Monsieur Hector (Cammage) (as Hector); Un Chapeau de paille d'Italie (The Italian Straw Hat) (Cammage) (as Fadinard); La nuit merveilleuse (Paulin); La Fille du puisatier (The Well-Digger's Daughter) (Pagnol) (as Felipe Rambert)

1941

Une Vie de chien (Cammage) (as Gustave Bourdillon); Les Petits Riens (Leboursier); Le Club des soupirants (Gleize) (as Antoine Valoisir)

1942

La Bonne Étoile (Boyer) (as Auguste); Ne le criez pas sur les toits (Norman) (as Vincent Fleuret)

1943

La Cavalcade des heures (Noé) (as Antonin); Guignol, marionnette de France (short)

1945

La Mystère Saint-Val (Le Hénaff); Irma la voyante (short); Naïs (Pagnol) (as Tione); Les Gueux au paradis (Hoboes in Paradise) (Le Hénaff) (as Pons)

1946

Pétrus (Marc Allégret) (title role); L'Aventure de Cabassou (Grangier); La Caissière du Grand Cafe (short); Comediens ambulants (short); Coeur de coq (Cloche) (as Tulipe Barbaroux)

1947

Escale au soleil (Verneuil); Emile l'africain (Vernay) (as Emile)

1948

Si ça peut vous faire plaisir (Norman) (as Martial Gonfaron); L'Armoire volante (The Cupboard Was Bare) (Rim) (as Alfred Puc)

1949

L'Héroique Monsieur Boniface (Labro) (as Boniface); On démande un assassin (Neubach) (as Bob Laurent); Botta e risposta (Je suis de la revue) (Soldati)

1950

Casimir (Pottier) (title role); Muertres (Three Sinners) (Pottier) (as Noël Annaquin); Tu m'as sauvé la vie (Guitry) (as Fortuné Richard); Uniformes et grandes manoeuvres (Le Hénaff) (as Luc); Topaze (Pagnol) (title role); Boniface somnambule (Labro) (as Boniface)

1951

L'Auberge rouge (The Red Inn) (Autant-Lara) (as Le Capucin); La Table aux crèves (Verneuil) (as Urbain Coindet)

1952

Le Petit monde de Don Camillo (The Little World of Don Camillo) (Duvivier) (title role); Coiffeur pour dames (The French Touch) (Boyer) (as Mario); Le Fruit défendu (Forbidden Fruit) (Verneuil) (as Charles Pellegrin); Le Boulanger de Valorgue (Verneuil) (as Félicien)

1953

Le Retour de Don Camillo (The Return of Don Camillo) (Duvivier) (title role); L'Ennemi public No. 1 (The Most Wanted Man) (Verneuil) (as Joé Calvet); Carnaval (Carnival) (Verneuil) (as Dardamelle); Mam'zelle Nitouche (Yves Allégret) (as Célestin-Floridor); Le Mouton à cinq pattes (The Sheep Has Five Legs) (Verneuil) (as Saint Forget/ Alain/Bernard/Charles/Désiré/Ètienne); Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Ali Baba) (Jacques Becker) (as Ali Baba); Le Printemps, l'automne et l'amour (Grangier) (as Noël Sarrazin)

1955

Don Camillo e l'onorevole Peppone (La Grande Bagarre de Don Camillo) (Gallone) (title role); Don Juan (Pantaloons) (Berry) (as Sagnarelle)

1956

Le Couturier de ces dames (Fernandel the Dressmaker) (Boyer) (as Fernand); Sous le ciel de Provence (The Virtuous Bigamist) (Soldati) (as Paul Verdier); Le Telephone (Régamey—short); Honoré de Marseilles (Régamey) (as Honoré); L'Homme à l'impermeable (The Man in the Raincoat) (Duvivier) (as Albert Constantine); L'Art d'etre Papa (short—for TV); Around the World in Eighty Days (Anderson) (as Parisian coachman)

1957

Sénéchal le magnifique (Senechal the Magnificent) (Boyer) (as Sénéchal); Le Chômeur de Clochemerle (The Easiest Profession) (Boyer); A Paris tous les deux (Oswald); La Loi, c'est la loi (The Law Is the Law) (Christian-Jaque)

1958

La Vie à deux (Duhour); Les Vignes du seigneur (Boyer) (as Henri); Le Grand Chef (The Big Chief) (Verneuil) (as Antoine)

1959

Le Confident de ces dames (Boyer); La Vache et le prisonnier (The Cow and I) (Verneuil) (as Charles Bailly)

1960

Cresus (Giono) (as Jules); Le Caïd (Borderie); Cocagne (Cloche) (as Marc-Antoine); Dynamite Jack (Bastia)

1961

Don Camillo, monsignore . . . ma non troppo (Don Camillo Monseigneur) (Gallone) (as Don Camillo); L'Assassin est dans l'annuaire (Joannon); Il giudizio universale (De Sica)

1962

Le Diable et les dix commandements (The Devil and the Ten Commandments) (Duvivier) (as God); En avant la musique (Avanti la musica) (Bianchi); Le Voyage à Biarritz (Grangier) (as Guillaume Dodut)

1963

Blague dans le coin (Labro); Le Bon Roi Dagobert (Chevalier) (as Dagobert); La Cuisine au beurre (My Wife's Husband) (Grangier)

1964

Relaxe-toi, cheri (Boyer); L'Age ingrat (Grangier) (+ co-pr)

1965

Il compagno Don Camillo (Don Camillo en Russie; Don Camillo à Moscou) (Comencini) (title role); La Bourse et la vie (Mocky) (as Migue)

1966

Le Voyage du père (de la Patellière) (as Quantin)

1967

L'Homme à la Buick (Grangier) (as Monsieur Jo)

1968

Palmares des chansons (Pradines—for TV)

1969

Heureux qui comme Ulysse (Colpi) (as Antonin)



Films as Actor and Director:

1942

Simplet (title role, co-d with Carlo Rim)

1943

Adrien (title role)

1951

Adhémar (Le Jouet de la fatalité) (title role)



Publications


By FERNANDEL: article—

"I'm an Actor, Not a Comedian," in Films and Filming (London), October 1960.

On FERNANDEL: books—

Rim, Carlo, Fernandel, Paris, 1952.

Castans, Ramond, Fernandel m'a raconte, Paris, 1976.

Plume, Christian, Fernandel, Paris, 1976.

Fernandel 1903–1971, photo album chosen by André Fildier, Paris, 1981.

Jelot-Blanc, Jean-Jacques, Fernandel: Quand le cinéma parlait provençal, Nice, 1981.

Lorcey, Jacques, Fernandel, Paris, 1981.

Fernandel, Franck, Fernandel de peres en fils, Paris, 1991.


On FERNANDEL: articles—

"Fernandel," issue of Visages (Paris), July 1938.

Current Biography 1955, New York, 1955.

"Fernandel," in Films and Filming (London), May 1955.

Hume, R., "French Face Man," in Films and Filming (London), February 1956.

Gerald, Y., "Fernandel's Comic Style," in Films in Review (New York), March 1960.

Obituary in New York Times, 28 February 1971.

Lorcey, Jacques, "Fernandel," in Anthologie du cinéma, vol. 9, Paris, 1973.

Domke, G., "Fernandel," letter, in Films in Review (New York), April 1973, and corrections in August/September 1973.

Ecran (Paris), February 1978.

Ciné Revue (Paris), 8 November 1984.

Peyrusse, C., "Notes sur le petit bourgeois mérididonal," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 50, 1988.

Génin, Bernard, "Et tout le monde riait," in Télérama (Paris), 22 February 1995.

Heinz, Rainer, "Wie aus einem Bild von Brueghel," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 13 February 1996.


* * *

Attending so-called art movie theaters during the late 1940s and early 1950s, American audiences discovered the comic genius of Fernandel in such films as The Well-Digger's Daughter, The Little World of Don Camillo, and The Sheep Has Five Legs. His physical features were pure caricature, as if a cartoonist had designed him, with an unusually long, hang-dog face, big eyes and thick lips, and a broad, horse-toothed smile. His head was set on a thick, short frame with arms and legs that moved awkwardly, as if attached to a much taller man.

Despite this nearly grotesque figure he was one of the most captivating international comic personalities. Usually an innocent, a "fall guy" for those much wiser than he, Fernandel projected a childlike warmth and high spirits that would cause a beautiful, young country girl to want him for a husband. Playing a suitor who is easily manipulated by the father of a wronged girl in The Well-Digger's Daughter, the comedian achieved critical and popular attention. As a guileless country lad Fernandel was marvelously suited to play opposite the more seasoned Raimu. Fernandel's fame increased in the 1950s when he appeared in the title role of The Little World of Don Camillo and its four sequels. The squabbles of a communist mayor and a mild village priest provided a strong comic base for the film as Fernandel blended seriousness with comedy. The Sheep Has Five Legs illustrated the comedian's deftness in handling multiple roles, a feat comparable to that of Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets. The French comedian played six roles, a father and his five sons, providing a study in all the types of characters this talented actor portrayed throughout his long career.

—Donald McCaffrey

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