Fanny (1961)

Directed by Joshua Logan
Written by Julius J. Epstein from the Marseilles Trilogy by Marcel Pagnol and the play by Joshua Logan and S. N. Behrman
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Panisse: It’s not dying I mind. It’s giving up life that annoys me.

This was bound to suffer in comparison to the 1930’s Marseilles Trilogy. which I consider to be practically perfect.  It’s got a lot going for it though.

The film compresses the trilogy into one story.  Cesar (Charles Boyer) runs a bar on the Marseilles waterfront.  His son Marius (Horst Buchholz) reluctantly works for him but dreams constantly of going to sea.  Fanny (Leslie Caron), who works for her mother selling mussels, has been in love with Marius since childhood.  Wealthy sixty-something widower Panisse (Maurice Chevalier) is looking to remarry and has his eye on Fanny.

As the film begins, Marius has the opportunity to go to sea with a five-year scientific expedition.  There is no way Cesar will approve.  Marius does confess his plan to Fanny however.  She responds by seducing him and they have one night of passion.  In the cold light of dawn, Marius continues to talk of the sea and Fanny reluctantly encourages him to go. He does and Fanny is heartbroken.

Panisse continues his pursuit of Fanny, who rejects him until she finds herself pregnant. The childless Panisse is delighted. They marry and have a son they name Marius Cesar Panisse.  The film continues to track the lives of all the protagonists.

Hollywood glitz and “romance” does not improve the touching tale told in Marius (1931), Fanny (1932) and Cesar (1936), which I highly recommend.  The acting in that, particularly that of Raimu as Cesar and Pierre Fresnay as Marius, is superior as as well. That said, I am certain if I had not seen the French films I would have liked this better than I did.  It is still a lovely story, the actors are charming, and Marseilles never looked more beautiful.

Fanny was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actor (Boyer); Best Cinematography, Color; Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Trailer – DVD print quality is fine

2 thoughts on “Fanny (1961)

    • She looked anorexic in this one. Have you seen the L-Shaped Room? If you didn’t like her in that one there is no hope.

      The sexual politics of this one are outdated but I have residual fondness for the story that I guess carried over. I think the original ones are really great.

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