Le Dindon (1951)

aka: The Turkey
Comedy / Romance


Synopsis

Le Dindon photo
Paris, in the 1890s. Monsieur Pontagnac, an inveterate womaniser, is making overtures to Lucienne when her husband Vatelin appears unexpectedly. Luckily, Vatelin is an old friend of Pontagnac, so the matter is amicably resolved - at least it is until Maggy, a former mistress of Vatelin, turns up out of the blue. Pontagnac takes advantage of this to persuade Lucienne to leave her husband, but first he needs to furnish his mistress with cast iron proof of her husband's infidelity. A perfect opportunity arises when Vatelin and Maggy check into a hotel...
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Film Review

Georges Feydeau's 1896 farce Le Dindon (a.k.a. The Turkey) wears its age well in this lively screen adaptation, the first film that Claude Barma directed for the cinema. Barma is far better known for his pioneering television work and has the distinction of directing French television's first live broadcast in 1950 - Marivaux's play Le Jeu de l'amour et du hasard. It was also Barma, not Jean-Luc Godard, who introduced Jean-Paul Belmondo to the French public in his first starring role, as D'Artagnan in a television production of Les Trois Mousquetaires, some months before À bout de souffle (1960) was released.

Faithful to Feydeau's original play, Le Dindon is effectively a piece of filmed theatre that might well have been made for television, but so spirited are the performances, and so slick is Barma's mise-en-scène, that you'd hardly consider this a shortcoming. Denise Provence, Jacques Charon and Jacques Morel are all excellent in the principal roles, performing Feydeau's belle époque farce with the gusto it merits, and there's no shortage of verve in the supporting cast. Pierre Larquey gives great value in a minor role, and for once he is not the film's biggest scene stealer. That honour goes to the then virtually unknown Louis de Funès, who, in just a few short scenes, shows his star potential as an unctuous and malicious hotel manager who might well have been the model for Basil Fawlty. The humour reaches a dizzying crescendo when Louis Seigner and Jane Marken show up for which is possibly the funniest scene in Feydeau's entire oeuvre - a trap to expose an unfaithful husband that goes hilariously awry. Le Dindon is a comedy delight that compares well with other Feydeau adaptations of the late 1940s, early '50s - Willy Rozier's Monsieur Chasse (1947), Claude Autant-Lara's Occupe-toi d'Amélie (1949) and Marcel Aboulker's La Dame de chez Maxim (1950).
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