Jean D'eaubonne - Writer





Art Director. Nationality: French. Born: Jean Adrien D'Eaubonne in Talence, 8 March 1903. Education: Trained as sculptor and painter with Antoine Bourdelle, Paris. Career: Painter and poster designer; assistant to Lazare Meerson and Jean Perrier on films in the late 1920s, then art director; 1940–45—lived in Switzerland; 1957–68—lived in Hollywood. Awards: Venice Festival prize, for La Ronde , 1950. Died: In July 1970.

Films as Art Director/Production Designer:

1928

Le Perroquet vert (Milva) (asst)

1930

Tarakanova (Bernard); Le Sang d'un poète ( The Blood of a Poet ) (Cocteau); Le Défenseur (Ryder); La Ronde des heures (Ryder); Azais (Hervil)

1931

Coup de roulis (de la Cour); Le Juif polonais (Kemm); Coquecigrole (Berthomieu); Pour un sou d'amour (Grémillon) (co); Amour et discipline (Kemm)

1932

Le Truc au Brésilien (Cavalcanti); Les Vignes du seigneur (Hervil); L'Amour et la veine (Banks)

1933

Mademoiselle Josette ma femme (Berthomieu); Mannequins (Hervil); Ame de clown (Noé and Didier); L'Ami Fritz (de Baroncelli); Coralie et Cie (Cavalcanti); La Femme idéale (Berthomieu)

1934

Maître Bolbec et son mari (Natanson); Le Petit Jacques (Roudes); La Reine de Biarritz (Toulout); L'Aristo (Berthomieu)

1935

Le Clown Bux (Natanson); Les Beaux Jours (M. Allégret); Le Chant de l'amour (Roudes); Marie des angoisses (Bernheim)

1936

Le Roman d'un spahi (Bernheim); La Flamme (Berthomieu); Jenny (Carné); L'Amant de Madame Vidal (Berthomieu); Anne-Marie (Bernard)

1937

La Chaste Suzanne ( The Girl in the Taxi ) (Berthomieu); Police mondaine (Bernheim and Chamborant); L'Habit vert (Richebé); Un Déjeuner de soleil (Cravenne); Légions d'honneur (Gleize); L'Homme sans nom (Vallée)

1938

Les Gens du voyage (Feyder); Le Train pour Venise (Berthomieu); Carrefour (Bernhardt); Trois valses (Berger); Un de la Canebière (Pujol); Les Gangsters du Chateau d'If (Pujol)

1939

Nuit de décembre (Bernhardt); L'Enfer des anges (Christian-Jaque) (designs); De Mayerling à Sarajevo ( Mayerling to Sarajevo ) (Ophüls)

1942

La Loi du nord (Feyder—produced 1939); Une Femme disparait (Feyder)

1945

Étoile sans lumière (Blistène)

1946

Macadam ( Backstreets of Paris ) (Blistène and Feyder); La Foire aux chimères (Chenal)

1947

Black Magic ( Cagliostro ) (Ratoff)

1948

La Chartreuse de parme (Christian-Jaque); L'Impasse des Deux Anges (M. Tourneur); Hans le marin (Villiers)

1949

Le Paradis des pilotes perdus (Lapmin); Je n'aime que toi (Montazel); Pas de week-end pour notre amour (Montazel); Lady Paname (Jeanson)

1950

Orphée (Cocteau); La Ronde (Ophüls); La Dame de Chez Maxim's (Aboulker) (designs); Ma pomme (Sauvajon); Olivia (Audry)

1951

Nuits de Paris (Baum)

1952

Le Plaisir ( House of Pleasure ) (Ophüls); Casque d'or (Jacques Becker); Plaisirs de Paris (Baum); La Fête à Henriette (Duvivier); "Lysistrata" ep. of Destinées ( Daughters of Destiny ) (Christian-Jaque)

1953

Rue de l'Estrapade (Jacques Becker); Jeunes mariés (Grangier); Le Mystère du Palace Hôtel (Steckel and Berna); Madame de . . . ( The Earrings of Madame De . . . ) (Ophüls); Cet homme est dangereux (Sacha); Julietta (M. Allégret)

1954

Touchez pas au Grisbi ( Grisbi ) (Jacques Becker); Mam'zelle Nitouche (Y. Allégret); Scènes de ménage (Berthomieu); Bonnes à tuer (Decoin); Les Amants du Tage (Verneuil)

1955

Marianne de ma jeunesse (Duvivier); Lola Montès ( The Sins of Lola Montes ) (Ophüls); L'Affaire des poisons (Decoin); Le Secret de Soeur Angèle (Joannon)

1956

Le Long des trottoirs (Moguy); Paris-Palace-Hôtel (Verneuil); L'Homme aux clés d'or (Joannon); La Mariée est trop belle (Gaspard-Huit); Bonsoir Paris, bonjour l'amour (Baum); OSS 117 n'est pas mort (Sacha); Jusqu'au dernier (Billon)

1957

Amère victoire ( Bitter Victory ) (N. Ray); Une Manche et la belle (Verneuil); Quand la femme s'en mêle (Y. Allégret); Montparnasse 19 ( Modigliani of Montparnasse ) (Jacques Becker)

1958

The Reluctant Debutante (Minnelli); Christine (Gaspard-Huit); Nina (Boyer)

1959

Ein Engel auf Erden ( Angel on Earth ) (Radvanyi); Suspense au 2e Bureau (de St. Maurice)

1960

Katja ( The Magnificent Sinner ) (Siodmak); Les Magiciennes ( Double Deception ) (Friedman); Crack in the Mirror (Fleischer); The Big Gamble (Fleischer)

1961

Madame Sans-Gêne ( Madame ) (Christian-Jaque)

1962

L'Affaire Nina B ( The Nina B Affair ) (Siodmak); Love Is a Ball (Swift)

1963

Charade (Donen)

1964

Paris When It Sizzles (Quine); Le Repas des fauves (Christian-Jaque)

1965

Lady L (Ustinov) (co); Cartes sur table (Franco)

1966

Galia ( I and My Lovers ) (Lautner); Avec les peaux des autres (Deray)

1967

Fleur d'oseille (Lautner); La Pacha (Lautner)

1968

Custer of the West (Siodmak) (co); Girl on a Motorcycle (Cardiff) (co); Johnny Banco (Y. Allégret); Faut pas prendre les enfants du Bon Dieu pour des canards sauvages (Audiard)

1969

Une Veuve en or (Audiard); Sur la route de Salina (Lautner)

1970

Elle boit pas, elle fume pas, elle drague pas, mais . . . elle cause! (Audiard); Sapho (Farrel); Laisse aller, c'est une valse (Lautner); Le Cri du cormoran le soir, au-dessus des jonques (Audiard)

1971

Le Drapeau noir flotte sur la marmite (Audiard)



Publications


On D'EAUBONNE: articles—

Technique/L'Exploitation Cinématographe (Paris), no. 331, September 1971.

Cinématographe (Paris), no. 76, March 1982.

Positif (Paris), no. 331, September 1988.


* * *


After studying under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle in Paris, Jean d'Eaubonne initially found work at the Epinay studios as a publicity artist and scenery painter before graduating to set design. He later moved to the Jacques Haïk studios as a now fully experienced production designer and art director. This thorough grounding in the fundamentals of his craft was invaluable to a career that involved, over four decades, an association with some 70 directors and work on more than 130 films, mainly in European studios but also in Hollywood. His apprenticeship to filmmaking was completed as assistant to Jean Perrier and then to Lazare Meerson for Feyder's Les Nouveaux Messieurs .

If many of d'Eaubonne's multifarious films are unremarkable, several rightfully merit critical recognition and, in 1950, his magnificent design for Max Ophüls's La Ronde was duly rewarded at the Venice Film Festival. Essentially practical, resourceful and unassuming, Jean d'Eaubonne calmly coped with last-minute script changes necessitating alterations to already constructed sets. Such was the case with Madame de . . . , where Ophüls's revisions required a balcony for the general's quarters, previously deemed below street level. In Lola Montès tact and lateral thinking were required when the innkeeper, refusing to see his inn repainted brick red, eventually allowed a temporary cladding of red tiles. Sadly, d'Eaubonne discarded most of his models and production designs.

D'Eaubonne's work first came to notice with Cocteau's Le Sang d'un poète , where his understanding of the plastic arts informed a conception in which statues were but part of the real world. The spare, but highly suggestive design, derived from an intimate knowledge of Cocteau's work, served to perfection the poet-filmmaker's vision. This fertile relationship was renewed 20 years later when Cocteau returned to the theme of creativity with Orphée . Once again d'Eaubonne responded brilliantly, providing everyday locations which merged magically with trompe l'oeil sets suggesting the otherworldliness of the princess: the disquieting, ruinous house with its unreal rooms equipped with potent mirrors and passageways to the underworld.

The thirties and war-torn forties brought work with leading poetic realist directors, notably Grémillon, Carné, and Feyder, though sometimes for indifferent films. After Grémillon's uninspired, early sound comedy Pour un sou d' amour , came the powerful poetic realism of Carné's Jenny , with its memorable location work at the Canal Saint-Martin, followed by four films for the ubiquitous Feyder in Germany, France, and Switzerland. In Munich, d'Eaubonne surmounted communication problems to provide convincing French-looking streets for Feyder's traveling circus film, Les Gens du voyage , but the Paris production of La Loi du Nord disappointed with flimsy evocations of America and Norway. During the Nazi occupation, the thriller Une Femme disparait was filmed in Switzerland, and the authentic feel to d'Eaubonne's work did not return until the Parisian street settings of the postwar Macadam .

After the liberation the resuscitation of the French film industry led to big-budget productions in heavily subsidized studios. Typical was Christian-Jaque's version of La Chartreuse de Parme for which d'Eaubonne designed impressively complex and costly sets. The golden decade of the fifties, with an emphasis on high production values, saw d'Eaubonne's creative talents flourish, particularly in his all-important association with Ophüls. D'Eaubonne's stylized Vienna for La Ronde , with its glittering theaters, extravagant restaurants, and misty riverside settings, was followed by an even more lavish design for Madame de . . . , where palatial apartments, magnificent ballrooms, and sweeping staircases set the tone of opulence and frivolity. In Le Plaisir , striking contrasts were achieved between the ornate artificiality of Maupassant's Maison Tellier brothel and the idyllic, redemptive countryside locations for Madame's day out with her girls. Similarly, in Lola Montès , the heroine's giddy, tinsel world of the circus is set against the more ordered and substantial setting of the Bavarian palace. In each undertaking, d'Eaubonne deftly satisfied through location and set design, Ophüls's expressionist style.

In the fifties d'Eaubonne was frequently required to create a studio Paris and this he largely achieved without slipping into lazy, well-worn clichés. For Jeanson's Lady Paname , he provided the capital of the belle époque, while for Jacques Becker he created a turn-of-the-century Paris to frame the tragic love story, Casque d'Or . Thereafter came fashionable domestic settings for the latter director's light-hearted comedy, Rue de l'Estrapade , the bohemian milieu of cafés and studios for Modgliani's final days in Montparnasse 19 , while in the seminal gangster film Touchez pas au Grisbi , d'Eaubonne served the narrative with luxurious apartments and expensive nightclubs. With Baum came lightweight films exploiting the city's romantic image: Nuits de Paris ; Plaisirs de Paris , and Bonjour Paris, bonjour l'amour .

The sixties saw American and British interest in Parisian locations. For Donen's thriller Charade , the scenic quais , the colonnade of the Palais Royal, and the Comédie Française were deployed, while for Quine's Paris When It Sizzles , more conventional tourist locations were used. Among d'Eaubonne's more imaginative creations was the lavish Parisian brothel for Ustinov's Lady L .

More exotic locations were also d'Eaubonne's remit. For Verneuil's Les Amants du Tage , colorful Portuguese beaches provided the essential romantic atmosphere; for Siodmark's Civil War spectacular, Custer of the West , arid Spanish locations stood in for Montana, with man-made rapids completing plot requirements. D'Eaubonne's portfolio of American productions also included Nicholas Ray's Benghazi desert war film Bitter Victory ; Minnelli's sparkling The Reluctant Debutante , with its aristocratic London settings; Swift's American comedy vehicle, Love Is a Ball ; and Fleischer's murder story, Crack in the Mirror , produced entirely in Paris. Towards the end of his career, d'Eaubonne served Lautner with conventional settings for mainstream detective thrillers while at the same time working with Audiard on films which played anarchically against the thriller formula.

The range and diversity of d'Eaubonne's portfolio confirm not only his eclecticism but also his acknowledged professionalism. Directors and producers recognized in d'Eaubonne a gifted, self-effacing craftsman who would skillfully meet their needs, whether through spare, suggestive sets for the experimental Cocteau, solid, detailed constructions and atmospheric locations for the poetic realists such as Carné or Feyder, or though lavish theatrical designs for the expressionist Ophüls.

—R. F. Cousins



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