Nationality: French. Born: Aubagne, near Marseilles, 25 (or 28) February 1895. Education: Lycée Thiers, Marseilles; University of Montpellier, degree in letters. Military Service: Served with French Infantry, 1914–17, and in 1940. Family: Married Jacqueline Bouvier, 1945, two sons. Career: Founded literary magazine Fortunio , 1911; teacher of English, from 1912; appointed professor at Lycée Condorcet, Paris, 1922; resigned teaching position after success of play Marius , 1929; created film company and founded magazine Les Cahiers du film , 1931; opened studio at Marseilles, 1933; directed first film, 1934; President of Society of French Dramatic Authors and Composers, 1944–46. Awards: Member, Academie française, 1947. Officer of the Légion d'honneur. Died: 18 April 1974.
Le Gendre de Monsieur Poirier (+ pr, sc); Jofroi (+ pr, sc); L'Article 330 (+ pr, sc); Angèle (+ pr, sc)
Merlusse (+ pr, sc); Cigalon (+ pr, sc)
Topaze (second version) (+ pr, sc); César (+ pr, sc)
Regain (+ pr, sc)
Le Schpountz (+ pr, sc); La Femme du boulanger (+ pr, sc)
La Fille du puisatier (+ pr, sc)
Naïs (+ pr, sc)
La Belle Meunière (+ pr, sc)
Topaze (third version) (+ pr, sc)
Manon des sources (+ pr, sc)
Les Lettres de mon moulin (+ pr, sc)
Le Curé de Cucugnan (for television) (+ pr, sc)
Marius (Korda) (sc)
Fanny (Allégret) (co-pr, sc)
Topaze (Gasnier) (original play) (sc); Un Direct au coeur (Lion) (co-author of original play, sc); L'Agonie des aigles (Richebé) (co-pr, sc)
Tartarin de Tarascon (Bernand) (sc)
Monsieur Brotonneau (Esway) (pr, sc)
Le Rosier de Madame Husson (Boyer) (sc)
Carnaval (Verneuil) (pr, sc)
La Dame aux camélias (Gir) (sc)
Jean de Florette (Berri) (original story); Manon des sources (Berri) (original story)
Les Sermons de Pagnol , edited by Robert Morel, Paris, 1968.
Confidences , Paris, 1981.
Inédits , edited by J. and F. Pagnol, Paris, 1986.
"Je n'ai pas changé de métier," an interview with Michel Gorel, in Cinémonde (Paris), 17 August 1933.
"Cinématurgie de Paris," in Les Cahiers du Film (Paris), 16 December 1933, 15 January 1934, and 1 March 1934; collected in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 173.
"Il n'y a rien de plus bête que la technique," an interview with Maurice Bessy, in Cinémonde (Paris), 6 October 1938.
"Mon ami Rene Clair," in Cinémonde (Paris), 23 April 1946.
"Adieu à Raimu," in L'Ecran Française (Paris), 3 October 1951.
Interview with J.A. Fieschi and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1965.
Interview with Claude Beylie and Guy Braucourt, in Cinéma (Paris), March 1969.
Clair, René, Cinéma d'hier, cinéma d'aujourd'hui , Paris, 1970.
Domeyne, P., Marcel Pagnol , Paris, 1971.
Beylie, Claude, Marcel Pagnol , Paris, 1972.
Castans, Raymond, Marcel Pagnol m'a raconté . . . , Paris, 1975.
Leprohon, Pierre, Marcel Pagnol , Paris, 1976.
Castans, Raymond, and André Bernard, Les films du Marcel Pagnol , Paris, 1982.
Beylie, Claude, Marcel Pagnol: ou, Le cinéma en liberté , Paris, 1986.
Pompa, Dany, Marcel Pagnol , Paris, 1986.
Beylie, Claude, Les années Pagnol , Paris, 1989.
Bens, Jacques, Pagnol , Paris, 1994.
Fernandel, "Mon ami Marcel Pagnol," in Ciné-France (Paris), 19 November 1937.
Alpert, Hollis, "Homage à Pagnol," in Saturday Review (New York), 24 December 1955.
Bazin, André, "Le Cas Pagnol," in Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? (same author), Paris, 1959.
"Spécial Guitry-Pagnol" issue of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), 1 December 1965.
Polt, Harriet, "The Marcel Pagnol Trilogy," in Film Society Review (New York), October 1967.
Delahaye, Michel, "La Saga Pagnol," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), June 1969.
Ford, Charles, "Marcel Pagnol," in Films in Review (New York), April 1970.
"Pagnol Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), July/September 1970.
Gauteur, C., "Marcel Pagnol inconnu?," in Image et Son (Paris), September 1973.
Gévaudan, F., "Marcel Pagnol: Un Cinéaste mineur?," in Cinéma (Paris), June 1974.
Beylie, Claude, "Le Rire qui vient du coeur," in Télérama (Paris), 28 January 1976.
Turk, E.B., "Pagnol's Marseilles Trilogy," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1980.
Bergan, Ronald, "Marcel Pagnol," in Films and Filming (London), November 1984.
Brisset, S., "Pagnol, cinéaste de la Méditerranée," in Cinéma ((Paris), October 1990.
La Breteque, F., de, "Le goût pour la pédagogie et la didactique de Marcel Pagnol,"in Cahier de la Cinématheque (Perpignan), December 1990.
Bazin, André, "The Case of Marcel Pagnol," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 23, July 1995.
Génin, Bernard, in Télérama (Paris), 15 February 1995.
Aubert, Michelle, Archives: Institut Jean Vigo (Perpignan), special issue, December 1997.
* * *
"The art of the theatre is reborn under another form and will realize unprecedented prosperity. A new field is open to the dramatist enabling him to produce works that neither Sophocles, Racine, nor Molière had the means to attempt." With these words, Marcel Pagnol greeted the advent of synchronous sound to the motion picture, and announced his conversion to the new medium. The words also served to launch a debate, carried on for the most part with René Clair, in which Pagnol argued for the primacy of text over image in what he saw as the onset of a new age of filmed theater.
At the time Pagnol reigned supreme in the Parisian theater world. His plays, Topaze and Marius , both opened in the 1928–29 season to the unanimous acclaim of the critics and the public. Their success vindicated the theories of a group of playwrights which had gathered around Paul Nivoix, the drama critic for Comoedia. They were determined to develop an alternative to the predictable theater of the boulevards and the impenetrable experiments of the surrealist avantgarde. The group pursued a dramatic ideal based on the well-made, naturalistic plays of Scribe and Dumas fils. The formula featured crisp dialogue, tight structures, and devastating irony. Its renewed popular appeal did not escape the notice of Bob Kane, the executive producer of the European branch of Paramount Pictures. Kane secured the rights for the screen versions of two plays, retaining Pagnol as writer for Marius , to be directed by Alexander Korda, but he then excluded him from any participation in the Topaze project. This neglect spurred the volatile young ex-schoolmaster from Provence to undertake his own productions.
With Pierre Braunberger and Roger Richebe, Pagnol produced and adapted his play Fanny , a sequel to Marius , and hired Marc Allégret to direct. Then, in 1933, he formed his own production company, modelled on United Artists, which would control the production and distribution of all his future projects. At the same time he founded Les Cahiers du film , dedicated to the propagation of "cinematurgie," Pagnol's theories of filmed theater.
Jofroi and Angèle , the first two projects over which Pagnol exercised complete artistic control, established the tone for much of his ensuing career. Adapted from stories by Jean Giono and set in Provence in the countryside surrounding Marseilles, where Pagnol was born and raised, the films treat the manners and lifestyle of the simple farmers and shopkeepers of the south and are executed with the precise principles of dramatic structure Pagnol had developed in his years with Nivoix. Angèle is especially notable because it was shot on location on a farm near Aubagne. The film established a precedent followed by Jean Renoir in making Toni , a film produced and distributed by Pagnol's company, regarded by many as a forerunner of Italian neorealism. This is the formula to which Pagnol would return with increasing success in Regain and Le Femme du boulanger : a story or novel by Giono honed by Pagnol into a taut drama, elaborating the myths and folkways of "le coeur meridonale" and pivoting on the redemptive power of woman; set on location in Provence; and peopled with the excellent repertory company Pagnol had assembled from the Marseille music halls (including Raimu, Fernandel, Fernand Charpin, Orane Dumazis, and Josette Day).
Even after a formal break with Giono in an ugly squabble over money in 1937, Pagnol continued to exploit the formula in La Fille du puisatier and his masterpiece, Manon des sources. Running three hours and more, these films, even more than before, reflected how the pace and flavor of the south colored Pagnol's approach to filmmaking. As Fernandel has put it: "With Marcel Pagnol, making a film is first of all going to Marseille, then eating some bouillabaisse with a friend, talking about the rain or the beautiful weather, and finally if there is a spare moment, shooting." Along with Clair and Cocteau, Pagnol was inducted into the Academie Française. Every year his status grows among historians of cinema who once ridiculed his "canned theater."