In 1964, a young widow named Anne Philipe published a biography of her husband Gerard, “No Longer Than A Sigh.” Gerard had died of natural causes in Paris five years earlier, after a 16 year career as a movie star that began in 1943. Unlike America’s James Dean (torn up in a car smash) or Poland’s Zbigniew Cybulski (torn up by a train) or Hong Kong’s Leslie Cheung (torn up by leaping from a tall building in a single bound) Philipe did not become a cult star after his death. Today, his 29 movie titles, directors and leading ladies are all far better known than he is.
“Fanfan La Tulipe” was a successful spoof of the sort of swashbuckler that made Douglas Fairbanks an international star. Directed and written in part by Christian-Jaque, who also made “The Charterhouse of Parma” with Philipe. “Fanfan La Tulipe” takes nothing seriously: not war, not peace, not love, not hate, not marriage, not sex, not royalty, not the working classes either. It’s about a rake who enjoys fooling around with every wench in sight, including a farmer’s daughter named Marion. He’s about to go through a shotgun wedding when Adeline, the beautiful gypsy played by Gina Lollabrigida, tells him he’s fated to marry the daughter of the King. Believing her implicitly, Fanfan is an easy target for Adeline’s father, an army recruiter. Subsequently, he finds himself in prison awaiting hanging for mouthing off to Louis XV. Adeline pleads with the King for Fanfan’s life. A fortunate accident is arranged and the King expects sexual favors from a grateful Adeline. But Adeline is wildly in love with Fanfan in spite of the fact that Fanfan is in love only with himself. Moreover, he still has his heart set on being the King’s son-in-law.
All this is drolly narrated by Jean Debucourt and breathlessly paced by the director. Around for the fun are Genevieve Page as Mme de Pompadour and Marcel Herrand as the King. Everyone remembers Lollabrigida today: she still has the sexual clout to attract a groom many years younger than she is, but you may want to check out some of Philipe’s other movies after enjoying “Fanfan La Tulipe.” “Devil In The Flesh” and “Dangerous Liaisons” are a good place to start. Even if he isn’t a cult favorite, Gerard Philipe warned many a heart in his heyday.
© 2006 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/1/06
Fanfan la Tulipe
Italy/France - 1952