Noisy-le-Sec, 8 August 1908.
Lille University; Paris University.
Began as film actor while at University (sister is actress Henriette
Delannoy), late 1920s; in Service Cinématographique des
Armées, then chief editor, Paramount Studios, Joinville,
1930–32; feature director, from 1935; became President of Institut
des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques (IDHEC), Paris, 1975.
Best Film, Cannes festival, for
La Symphonie Pastorale
, 1946; International Prize, Venice Festival, for
Dieu a besoin des hommes
Franches lippées (short)
Une Vocation irrésistible (short); L'École des detectives (short)
La Moule (medium-length)
Ne tuez pas Dolly! (medium-length)
La Vénus de l'or
Macao, l'enfer du jeu ; Le Diamánt noir
L'Assassin a peur la nuit ; Pontcarral, Colonel d'Empire
Macao, l'enfer du jeu (partially re-shot version with Pierre Renoir in role played by Erich von Stroheim, who was forbidden by German authorities; original version of Macao re-released after war); L'Éternel Retour ( The Eternal Return )
La Part de l'ombre ( Blind Desire )
La Symphonie pastorale
Les Jeux sont faits ( The Chips Are Down )
Aux yeux du souvenir ( Souvenir )
Le Secret de Mayerling
Dieu a besoin des hommes ( God Needs Men )
Le Garçon sauvage ( Savage Triangle )
La Minute de vérité ( L'ora della veritá ; The Moment of Truth ) (+ co-sc); "Jeanne (Joan of Arc)" episode of Destinées ( Daughters of Destiny )
La Route Napoléon ; "Le Lit de la Pompadour" episode of Secrets d'alcove
Chiens perdus sans collier ; Marie-Antoinette
Notre-Dame de Paris ( The Hunchback of Notre Dame )
Maigret tend un piège ( Inspector Maigret )
Guinguette ; Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre
Le Baron de l'Ecluse
"L'Adolescence" episode of La Française et l'amour ( Loveand the Frenchwoman ); La Princesse de Clèves
Le Rendez-vous ; Venere imperiale ( Vénus impériale )
Les Amitiés particulières ( This Special Friendship ); Le Majordome
"Le Berceau" and "La Répétition" episodes of Le Lit à deux places ( The Double Bed ); Les Sultans
Le Soleil des voyous ( Action Man )
La Peau de Torpedo
Pas folle la guêpe (+ sc)
Bernadette (+ sc)
La passion de Bernadette
Marie de Nazareth (+ sc)
Miss Helyett (Monca and Keroul) (role)
Casanova (Volkoff) (role)
La Grande Passion (Hugon) (role)
La Belle Marinière (Lachman) (ed); Une Étoile disparaît (Villers) (ed); Le Fils improvisé (Guissart) (ed)
Le Père prématuré (Guissart) (ed); Les Aventures du roi Pausole (Granowsky) (ed)
Le Roi des Champs-Elysées (Nosseck) (ed)
Michel Strogoff (de Baroncelli and Eichberg) (ed); Tovaritch (Deval) (co-ed)
Club de femmes (Deval) (tech adv, co-ed); Nitchevo (de Baroncelli) (ed)
Tamara la complaisante (Gandera) (tech adv, co-sc uncredited); Feu! (de Baroncelli) (ed)
Le Paradis de Satan (Gandera) (tech adv)
Bernadette: Photographies des films Bernadette et La passion de Bernadette , with text by Jacques Douyau, Paris, 1992.
"Le Réalisateur," in Le Cinéma par ceux qui le font , Paris, 1949.
Guiget, Claude, Emmanuel Papillon, and Jacques Pinturault, Jean Delannoy: Filmographie, props, temoignanes , Aulnay-sur-Bois, 1985.
"Jean Delannoy," in Film Dope (London), September 1976.
Tribute to Delannoy in Film Francais (Paris), 21 February 1986.
Quenin, F., "Les ainés se déchainent," in Cinéma 72 (Paris), 17 February 1988.
Knapp, Hubert, and Igor Barrère, Echos de plateau (on making of La Minute de vérité ), 1952.
* * *
Critics have not been kind to Jean Delannoy, but the public certainly has, for nearly all his films were solid box-office hits. But Delannoy, both by personal pretension and by the subject matter of his major films, demanded more serious attention. Just as André Cayatte is France's director of social problem films, so Delannoy may be considered its moral philosopher. La Symphonie pastorale and God Needs Man , made just after the war, brought him this reputation and remain his best-known work, along with Les Jeux sont faits made in collaboration with Sartre. But more than a score of films surround this core, few of which measure up to the ambition and values for which they stand.
Delannoy flirted with the cinema in the 1920s while working at a bank. Godard would later recall these beginnings in his caricature of Delannoy "going into the Billancourt studios briefcase in hand; you would have sworn he was going into an insurance office." His initial training as an editor provided him with a sense of dramatic economy that may be the reason for his popular success and critical failure. His calculated distance, even coolness, alienated many critics, most notably the passionate New Wave cinephiles at Cahiers du Cinéma. No one would have paid Delannoy any attention had he not turned away from competent studio dramas to stronger material. Pontcarral was his first remarkable effort, bringing him fame as a man of conviction when this Napoleonic adventure tale was interpreted as a direct call to resistance against the Nazi occupation forces.
He was then chosen to help Jean Cocteau bring to the screen L'Éternel Retour. Whether, as some suspect, Cocteau pushed Delannoy far beyond his usually cautious methods, or because the legendary tragedy of this Tristan and Isolde update was perfect material for the frigidity of his style, the film was a striking success, haunting in its bizarre imagery and in the mysterious implications of its plot and dialogue.
Just after the war came the films La Symphonie pastorale and Dieu a besoin des hommes , already mentioned as central to Delannoy as an auteur. Evidently, Gide, Sartre, and Queffelec inspired him to render great moral and philosophical issues in a dramatically rigorous way. Today these films seem overly cautious and pretty, even prettified. But in their day they garnered worldwide respect, the first winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1946 and the last the Grand Prize at Venice in 1950. The cinematic ingenuity they display, particularly in the use of geography as a moral arena (a snowy alpine village, a destitute seacoast village), and in the taut editing, gives some, though not sufficient, justification for the staginess of the weighty dialogue.
Delannoy became, perhaps, the director most maligned by Cahiers du Cinéma because of the battle he fought with Bresson over rights to Diary of a Country Priest (which Bresson won) and La Princesse de Clèves (which Delannoy won). Accusations of his non-authenticity were borne out in the many hack productions he directed in the 1950s, including a super-production of Notre-Dame de Paris. While none of these films is without some merit, the 1960 Princesse de Clèves being full of tasteful production values, his style more and more represented the most deprecated face of the "cinema of quality."