The initial plan to talk about Patrick Doyle’s “Great Expectations” was skipped after I discovered there is a CD Set with two CDs about the music for the films of Louis de Funes. These movies were an essential part of my childhood, and me and my family had so much fun watching them and laughing about the great French comedian.
Louis de Funès (July, 31 1914 – January, 27 1983) was a very popular French actor and one of the giants of French comedy alongside André Bourvil and Fernandel. His acting style is mostly remembered for its high-energy performance and wide range of facial expressions. He worked a lot together with the French director Jean Girault and French actress Claude Gensac as his wife in the movies. I found one clip on YouTube with some famous scenes:
The second one is with a famous scene from “Rabbi Jacob”, we will talk alter about that movie:
After earning his money as a Jazz pianist for several years and making his audience laugh each time when he was made a grimace, he started his acting career in 1945 with a tiny role in “The Temptation of Barbizon” (French: La Tentation de Barbizon). De Funes went on to perform in 130 film roles over the next 20 years, playing minor roles in over 80 films before being offered his first leading roles.
A break came in 1956, when he appeared as the black-market pork butcher Jambier (another small role) in Claude Autant-Lara's well-known World War II comedy “La Traversée de Paris”. Later, de Funes achieved stardom in 1963 with Jean Girault's “Pouic-Pouic”. This successful film guaranteed de Funès top billing in all of his subsequent films, and he became an international star with his role of the Gendarme of Saint-Tropez in “The Troops of St. Tropez (French: Le Gendarme de Saint-Trope) in 1964. The movie resulted in a franchise with lead to a series of six movies.
The successful collaboration with director Gérard Oury started in 1964 when the director set de Funes and Bourvil together in the film “Le Corniaud”. This successful collaboration was repeated two years later in “La Grande Vadrouille”, one of the most successful films ever made in France with an audience of 17.27 million. This movie remains de Funes’ greatest success. Between 1964 and 1979, de Funes topped France's box-office of the year's most successful movies seven times.
Except his role as the Gendarme of Saint-Tropez, de Funes co-starred with many of the major French actors of his time, including Jean Marais and Mylène Demongeot in the famous Fantomas trilogy, and also Jean Gabin, Fernandel, Coluche, Annie Girardot, and Yves Montand. De Funes continued his career in different toles and tried to expand his acting career in other roles such as in Claude Zidi’s “L'aile ou la cuisse” (1976) with famous French Comedian Coluche. In March 1975, de Funès was hospitalized for heart problems and forced to take a rest from acting. In 1980, de Funès realised his dream to make a film version of Molière's play “ L'Avare”, and made his final film “Le Gendarme et les gendarmettes” in 1982.
De Funes was to be said to be a very shy person in real life and because of his rich and rapidly changing range of facial expressions, nicknamed as the "man with forty faces per minute." Mostly, he played the role of a humorously man with a hyperactive attitude, combined with uncontrolled fits of anger. Later in his life, de Funès achieved great prosperity and became a knight of France's Légion d'honneur in 1973. He resided in the Château de Clermont, a 17th-century castle located in the commune of Le Cellier, 27 km from Nantes. As a rose fan, de Funès planted a rose garden and a variety of rose has been named for him. Louis de Funès died of a massive stroke on 27 January 1983, a few months after making his final film.
A lot of very well-known French composers created the music for the films of Louis de Funes. In the 2CD set, you get a great overview. Raymond Lefèvre is the main composer, but you can also find music by Vladimir Cosma, Jean-Michel Defaye, Jean Marion, Gérard Calvi, Georges Garvarentz, Alain Goraguer and Jean Bizet. What makes this CD special are the two Chansons sung by de Funes from the musical "La grosse Valse" on the second CD.
Because Lefèvre is the composer with the most tracks here, let’s talk more about him. He was accepted at the Paris Conservatory when he was seventeen years old. During the early 1950s, Lefèvre played the piano for the Franck Pourcel orchestra and started his musical career in 1956 on the Barclay label. Working for the French television programmes “Musicorama” (1950s) and “Palmarés des Chansons” (1965, 1966, 1967), Lefèvre accompanied famous artists such as Dalida, Claude François, Richard Anthony. His recording of "The Day the Rains Came" was a best seller in the USA in 1958. The song "Ame câline" (Soul Coaxing) became an international hit in 1968, "La (He Gives Me Love)" a minor hit in 1968 in Canada, and his recording of "La Reine de Saba" (Queen of Sheba) in 1969 became a big hit in Japan.
Born 1929 and died 2008, Wikipedia described the composer as “French easy listening orchestra leader, arranger and composer”. Easy listening sounds a little like a negative word, but if you listen to the music on the CDs, they are really easy listening, but this does not mean it is bad music. Especially for the Gendarme movies, the music is very typical for that time: simple orchestration, lovely melodies and French characterization. The first track called “Générique”, the French expression of “Main Title”, is a song with French lyrics, lovely, but I normally skip it. The second one is another song, this time a march, with male voices for the Gendarmes. A funny track!
The next tracks repeat this style of light-hearted music, I want especially mention the music to “Les Gendarme se Marie"”, track 17 called “Générique” is highlight of the whole CD. Here is the track:
Track 19 “Valse De La Séduction” is a wonderful orchestrated Waltz for a very funny scene in the movie. Even though the movie is not the best in the series, the music is highly enjoyable.
What I especially recommend is to listen to the music of “Jo”, a crime comedy based on a stage play by the Australian Alec Coppel who also wrote a first script version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. The music is not so light-hearted like the other one with a dark attitude and a high emphasize on the brass section. I really like the main theme played in the “Générique”. Here is the track:
Except of these darker music, there is with the track “Inspecteur Ducros” is a lightly comedy track.
From the second CD, I just want to mention the music for “Les Aventures De Rabbi Jacob”, one of the best movies of the later de Funes. Vladimir Cosma created a lovely soundtrack for one of the best later Louis de Funes movies. Cosma composed the music for 300 feature films and TV series and is still active. In Germany, he is very well known for the music for the TV series “Michael Strogoff” (1976) based on Jules Verne’s novel with Raimund Harmstorf, but mostly he worked for French movies. Find here the main title for “Rabbi Jacob”:
I even found a concert version of the score. You can see how much the orchestra and choir has:
On the CD set, you can find three scores by Cosma, “Rabbi Jacob” and “L’aile ou la cuisse” (1976) and “La zizania” (1978), one of de Funes last movies and not one of his best.
As last track, I want to recommend you to listen to CD 2 track 12 “Le Tatoué” (de Funes together with Jean Gabin in a so-so movie) by Georges Garvarentz, the brother in law of famous chanson singer Charles Aznavour, nothing special, just a lovely track.
For all fans of the European cinema who grew with the films of Louis de Funes, this CD set is a nice childhood memory, nothing more, but nothing less.
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