Lille, 8 October 1896.
Lille University; studied acting in Paris.
Worked in André Antoine's Théâtre Libre, then
assistant to Antoine as filmmaker, 1916; directed first film,
Haceldama ou Le Prix du Sang
, 1919; joined "Film d'Art" of Marcel Vandal and
Charles Delac, 1925; made
The Great Waltz
for MGM, Hollywood, 1938; moved to United States, 1940; returned to
In auto accident, 26 October 1967.
Haceldama ou Le Prix du Sang (+ sc)
La Réincarnation de Serge Renaudier (negative destroyed by fire before film shown) (+ sc)
Les Roquevillard (+ sc); L'Ouragan sur la montagne (+ sc); Der unheimliche Gast ( Le Logis de l'horreur ) (+ sc)
Le Reflet de Claude Mercoeur (+ sc)
Credo ou La Tragédie de Lourdes (+ sc); Coeurs farouches (+ sc); La Machine à refaire la vie (re-released with sound, 1933) (co-d, sc); L'Oeuvre immortelle (+ sc)
L'Abbé Constantin (+ sc); Poil de carotte (+ co-sc)
L'Agonie de Jerusalem (+ sc); L'Homme à l'Hispano
Le Mariage de Mademoiselle Beulemans (+ sc); Le Mystère de la Tour Eiffel (+ sc)
Le Tourbillon de Paris
La Divine croisière (+ sc); Maman Colibri (+ co-sc); La Vie miraculeuse de Thérèse Martin (+ sc); Au bonheur des dames (+ co-sc)
David Golder (+ sc)
Les Cinq Gentlemen maudits (+ sc); Allo Berlin? Ici Paris! ( Hallo! Hallo! Hier spricht Berlin ) (+ sc); Die funf verfluchten Gentlemen (German version) (+ sc)
Poil de carotte (remake) (+ sc); La Tête d'un homme (+ co-sc)
Le Petit Roi (+ sc); Le Paquebot 'Tenacity' (+ co-sc)
Maria Chapdelaine (+ sc)
Golgotha (+ sc, adapt); La Bandera (+ co-sc)
L'Homme du jour (+ co-sc); Golem ( Le Golem ) (+ co-sc); La Belle Équipe (+ co-sc)
Pépé-le-Moko (+ co-sc); Un Carnet de bal (+ sc)
The Great Waltz ( Toute la ville danse ) (+ sc); La Fin du jour (+ co-sc): Marie Antoinette (Van Dyke, d uncredited, sc)
La Charrette Fantôme (+ sc)
Untel père et fils (+ co-sc)
Lydia (+ sc, co-story)
Tales of Manhattan (+ co-sc)
Flesh and Fantasy (+ co-pr)
The Imposter (+ sc)
Panique (+ co-sc)
Anna Karenina (+ co-sc)
Au royaume des cieux (+ sc, pr)
Black Jack (+ co-sc, pr); Sous le ciel de Paris (+ co-sc)
Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo ( Il piccolo mondo di Don Camillo ) (+ co-sc)
La Fête à Henriette (+ co-sc)
Le Retour de Don Camillo ( Il ritorno di Don Camillo ) (+ co-sc)
L'Affaire Maurizius (+ sc)
Marianne de ma jeunesse (+ sc)
Voice le temps des assassins (+ co-sc)
L'Homme à l'imperméable (+ co-sc); Pot Bouille (+ co-sc)
La Femme et le pantin (+ sc, co-adapt)
Marie Octobre (+ co-sc)
Das kunstseidene Mädchen ( La Grande Vie ) (+ co-sc); Boulevard (+ co-sc)
La Chambre ardente (+ co-sc); Le Diable et les dix commandements (+ co-sc)
Chair de poule (+ co-sc)
Diaboliquement vôtre (+ sc, co-adapt)
Les Travailleurs de la mer (Antoine) (asst d)
L'Agonie des aigles (Bernard-Deschamps) (adaptation); La Terre (Antoine) (asst d)
Crépuscule d'épouvante (Etiévant) (sc)
L'Arlésienne (Antoine) (asst d)
La Nuit de la revanche (Etiévant) (story)
Collège swing ( Amours, délices et orgues ) (Berthomieu) (co-sc)
"Un Réalisateur compare deux méthodes," interview with Pierre Leprohon, in Cinémonde (Paris), 6 May 1946.
"De la création à la mise en scène," in Cinémonde (Paris), Christmas 1946.
"Julien Duvivier: 'Pourquoi j'ai trahi Zola,"' interview with Yvonne Baby, in Lettres Françaises (Paris), 31 October 1957.
Reminiscences in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 February 1977.
Chirat, Raymond, Julien Duvivier , Lyon, 1968.
Leprohon, Pierre, "Julien Duvivier," in Anthologie du cinéma , vol. 4, Paris, 1969.
Aubriant, Michel, "Julien Duvivier," in Cinémonde (Paris), 28 November 1952.
"Débat sur Duvivier," in Arts (Paris), 18 April 1956.
Epstein, Marie, "Comment ils travaillent? Julien Duvivier," in Technique Cinématographique (Paris), December 1958.
Marcabru, P., "Les Français à Hollywood," in Arts (Paris), 8 February 1961.
Obituary in New York Times , 30 October 1967.
Renoir, Jean, "Duvivier, le professionel," in Le Figaro Littéraire (Paris), 6 November 1967.
Amengual, Barthélemy, "Défense de Duvivier," in Cahiers de la Cinémathèque (Perpignan), Spring 1975.
" Pépé le Moko Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 June 1981.
Simsolo, Noel, "A propos de Julien Duvivier," in Image et Son (Paris), November 1981.
"Special Mac Orlan; La Bandera, Julian Duvivier," in L'Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), April 1982.
Douin, Jean-Luc, "Duvivier, la mauvaise reputation," in Télérama (Paris), 25 January 1986.
Pernod, P., "Carrousels et noeuds coulants (sur Julien Duvivier)," in Positif (Paris), no. 359, January 1991.
Masson, Alain, and others, "Julien Duvivier," in Positif (Paris), no. 429, November 1996.
Borger, Lenny, "Genius Is Just a Word," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 8, no. 9, September 1998.
Viallaet, Pierre, and Marcel l'Herbier, Portraits filmées . . . Julien Duvivier (for television), 1953.
* * *
No one speaks of Julien Duvivier without apologizing. So many of his fifty-odd films are embarrassing to watch that it is hard to believe he was ever in charge of his career in the way we like to imagine Renoir or Clair were in charge of theirs. But Duvivier had neither the luxury nor the contacts to direct his career. He began and remained a yeoman in the industry. A director at the Théâtre Antoine in the teens, he began his film career in 1922 and made over a score of silent films, mainly melodramas. From the first he separated himself from the experiments in narration and visual style that characterized much of that period.
Duvivier's reputation as a reputable, efficient director jumped in the sound era when he made a string of small but successful films ( David Golder, Les Cinq Gentilhommes maudits, Allo Berlin? Ici Paris!, Poil de carotte, La Tête d'un homme ). Evidently his flair for the melodramatic and his ability to control powerful actors put him far ahead of the average French director trying to cope with the problems of sound. But in this era, as always, Duvivier discriminated little among the subjects he filmed. This aspect was most evident in 1935. First came Golgotha , a throwback to the religious films he made in the silent era, and now completely outmoded. Duvivier struggles to energize the static tableaux the film settles into. He moves his camera wildly, but seldom reaches for a key closeup or for an authentic exchange among his actors. It is all picture postcards, or rather holy cards, set off to Jacques Ibert's operatic score.
This solemn, even bombastic, film could not be farther from the swiftness and authentic feeling of the romantic Foreign Legion film La Bandera made the same year. Where Golgotha is an official presentation of French cinema, La Bandera seems more intimate, more in the spirit of the times. Its success was only the first of a set of astounding films that include La Belle Équipe, Pépé-le-Moko, Un Carnet de bal , and Le Fin du jour. It is tempting to surmise that cultural history and Julien Duvivier came for once into perfect coincidence in this age of poetic realism. Like Michael Curtiz and Casablanca , Duvivier's style and the actors who played out the roles of his dramas spoke for a whole generation. In France it was a better generation, vaguely hopeful with the popular front, but expecting the end of day.
Duvivier's contribution to these films extends beyond the direction of actors. Every film contains at least one scene of remarkable expressiveness, like the death of Regis in Pépé-Le-Moko , gunned down by his own victim with the jukebox blaring. Duvivier's sureness of pace in this era brought him a Hollywood contract even before the Nazi invasion forced him to leave France. Without the strong personality of Renoir or Clair, and with far more experience in genre pictures, Duvivier fit in rather well with American film production methods. He deplored the lack of personal control or even personal contribution in the industry, but he acquitted himself well until the Liberation.
Hoping to return to the glory years of poetic realism, Duvivier's first postwar project in France replicated the essence of its style. Panique featured sparse sets, an atmosphere that dominated a reduced but significant murder drama, and the evocative work of Michel Simon and Vivian Romance in an offbeat policier from Simenon. But the country had changed. The film failed, and Duvivier began what would become a lifelong search for the missing formula. With varying degrees of box office success he turned out contemporary and historical comedies and melodramas; the only one which put him in the spotlight was Don Camillo with Fernandel.
Believing far more in experience, planning, and hard work than in spontaneity and genius, Duvivier never relaxed. Every film taught him something and, by rights, he should have ended a better director than ever. But he will be remembered for those five years in the late 1930s, a period when every choice he made in the realms of script and direction was in tune with the romantically pessimistic sensibility of the country.