Bourvil and Jean Marais: the story of an iconic duo of French cinema

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If we often talk about the iconic comic duo Louis de Funès-Bourvil, we evoke less the one he formed in the cinema with Jean Marais. In Bourvil: De rire et de tendresse, Philippe Crocq and Jean Mareska return to the pair formed by the two actors and the story that led them to collaborate together. As the summer of 1959 approached, Bourvil filmed film after film, as the summer of 1959 approached the film Le Bossu, under the direction of André Hunebelle, who gave him the opportunity to meet a new actor, Jean Marais, and to form a new duo”, write the biographers. Indeed, after the Gabin-Bourvil, Guétary-Bourvil, Mariano-Bourvil and, for women, Bourvil-Pierrette Bruno tandems, it is now Jean Cocteau’s protege who becomes his on-screen partner. A real chemistry is created between the two men.

In this cloak and dagger film, the brave knight Henri de Lagardère, played by Jean Marais, is counterbalanced by the comic character of Passepoil interpreted by Bourvil “so that the tandem works with balance”. A role of foil in which the actor excels once again to allow the heroes to shine. Indeed, cinema and literature are full of these disparate comic duos like Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes and his Dr Watson or more recently Pierre Richard and Gérard Depardieu in The Goat.

Strengthened by their chemistry on the set, André Hunebelle wasted no time in reuniting the duo on screen by reconstituting the duo of the Bossu Marais-Bourvil for his new film Capitan. “Delighted, André immediately accepts, happy to find his accomplice from yesterday, another Norman”, write Philippe Crocq and Jean Mareska. Two collaborations in less than a year that will forge a great bond on the set. It is once again a swashbuckling escapade in which Jean Marais will play François de Capestang, a provincial nobleman who decides to put his sword at the service of the young King Louis XIII. Bourvil interprets on his side Cogolin, his valet. As usual, Jean Marais performed his own stunts on this film, in particular the escalation of the Château de Val, despite a big fright when one of the daggers which was to balance him broke in full ascent.

Pierrette Bruno, probably recommended by Bourvil, will hold the small role of Giuseppa alongside them. The film, which will be shot in the four corners of France, will be a great success, mainly with young boys and teenagers. “Hunebelle, who has two singers on hand, takes the opportunity to include two Cogolin/Giuseppa duets in the soundtrack: Baladin and Pour se parle d’amour, for which Pierrette co-signs the lyrics”, we learn in Bourvil: Of laughter and tenderness.

In 1960, the duo Bourvil – Jean Marais will have achieved the feat of placing their two collaborations in the first four places of the French box office. Indeed, Le Bossu and Le Capitan will respectively achieve 5.8 and 4.8 million admissions.