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Drole de Drame (1937)
"Drôle de drame ou L'étrange aventure du Docteur Molyneux" (original title)

 |  Comedy  |  20 March 1939 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,208 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 8 critic

A French farce set in Victorian London where a botanist and his wife get into trouble when they pretend to go missing in order to hide from their sanctimonious cousin -- an Anglican bishop who is leading a campaign against such writing.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Louis Jouvet ...
Françoise Rosay ...
Margaret Molyneux
...
Irwin Molyneux
...
Billy
...
William Kramps dit Le tueur de bouchers
Nadine Vogel ...
Eva
...
L'inspecteur-chef Bray (as Alcover)
...
Buffington
Agnès Capri ...
La chanteuse des rues
René Génin ...
Le balayeur (as Génin)
Ky Duyen ...
L'hôtelier chinois de Soho
Marcel Duhamel ...
Le fêtard amoureux des enterrements
Jane Loury ...
Mrs. McPhearson (as Jeanne Lory)
Madeleine Suffel ...
Victory
Jenny Burnay ...
Madame Pencil
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Storyline

In Victorian London, the botanist Irwin Molyneux and his wife Margaret Molyneux are bankrupted but still keeping the appearance due to the successful crime novels written by Irwin under the pseudonym of Felix Chapel. Their cook has just left the family, when Irwin's snoopy and hypocrite cousin Archibald Soper that is in campaign against the police stories of Felix Chapel invites himself to have dinner in Irwin's house. Margaret decides to keep the farce of their social position secretly cooking the dinner, while the clumsy Irwin justifies her absence telling the bishop Soper that she had just traveled to the country to meet some friends. However Soper suspects of Irwin and calls the Scotland Yard, assuming that his cousin had poisoned his wife. Irwin and Margaret decide to hide the truth to avoid an exposition of their financial situation, moving to a low-budget hotel in the Chinese neighborhood, getting into trouble. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 March 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bizarre, Bizarre  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shot in 23 days. See more »

Quotes

The Bishop: Moi j'ai dit bizarre, bizarre ? Comme c'est étrange... Pourquoi aurais-je dit bizarre, bizarre ?
Molyneux (Michel Simon): Je vous assure, cher cousin, que vous avez dit bizarre, bizarre.
The Bishop: Moi j'ai dit bizarre ? Comme c'est bizarre...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Un compositeur pour le cinéma: Maurice Jaubert (1985) See more »

Soundtracks

Complainte
Written by Jacques Prévert
Composed by Maurice Jaubert
Performed by Agnès Capri
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Magical, Chestertonian French farce.
12 June 2000 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

An absolutely wonderful Carne/Prevert jeu d'esprit that owes more to the modernist whimsy of a Rene Clair than the claustrophobic pessimism of their later works. Although acclaimed as the greatest exponents of poetic realism, films like QUAI DES BRUMES and LE JOUR SE LEVE can be seen today as flagrantly artificial, most especially in the sets and almost classical plots. Here, they let the artifice run riot, allowing plots run into strange digressions or non-sequiters. The sense of freedom absent from their more famous works is invigorating.

Set in Edwardian England, Archibald Soper is a lecherous, hypocritical, poker-faced bishop who holds sparsely attended public meetings denouncing the evils of detective fiction, apparently an English 'craze' of the time. His cousin, Irwin Molyneaux, is a timid gardener married to a splendidly imperious snob, Margaret. He writes, unknown to his family, hugely successful detective novels under the pseudonym Felix Chapel, with plots pilfered from his maid's hyperactive milkman admirer, Billy.

One day, Soper forces himself on the Molyneaux for dinner, but Margaret has exasperated her cooking staff too far, and they have vamoosed. Aghast at the potential humiliation of having no servants, she pretends to be visiting friends and cooks the meal herself. However, Irwin's ineptness at deceit leads Soper to report a murder to Scotland Yard.

The film's starting point is the English fondness for detective fiction, and much of the film's humour, its sense of the absurd, its command of farce, its playing with appearance and class, gives the film an English comic eccentricity, rarely found in the French cinema. DROLE, however, is the complete opposite of the typical English detective novel, which offers an opening chaos and enigma, with the social disruption of a crime and a series of wildly disparate clues and leads, but achieves order and social restoration through the figure of the detective who can see, interpret and control everything.

In DROLE, following Chesterton, say, rather than Conan Doyle, events start in relative order - characters are firmly set in their social positions. But as the plot proceeds, as characters are revealed to be leading double lives, as the profusion of secondary characters complicates rather than explicates the story, as events become more preposterous and unlikely, the social divisions represented by clear-cut spaces are blurred, and the film

escalates into chaos represented by the mob, that great terror of the English, spilling into the narrative, destroying the respectable middle-class home, flouting and mocking the law, making its own judgements. The resolution, such as it is, is a complete lie, because there is no crime, and yet it is brilliantly subversive because it completely disrupts the duplicitous order at the beginning, it alienates people living convenient compartmentalised lives from themselves, forcing them to confront, if only for a moment, their true desires, which contradict their public faces,

DROLE is ridiculously funny, and Prevert's arch theatricality has never been used to greater effect. Another plus is one of the most remarkable casts ever assembled - Michel Simon is immensely touching as the bemused gardener forced to abandon the comforts of his mimosa for the chaos of life on the run (private property being the conservative definition of self); Francoise Rosay is incomparable as the grande dame, besotted by social propriety, yet seething with untapped lust; the young Jean-Louis Barrault is a little callow compared to his seasoned elders, but endearingly impudent - the scene in the greenhouse pond with Rosay is a mock-classical treasure.

Standing out, though, is possibly the greatest French actor of the 1930s, Louis Jouvet, the funniest straight man in the film, keeping his gloriously calm poker-face through all kinds of humiliations and revelations, including the donning of an elaborate kilt to find an incriminating picture from an 'actress'. Best of all is Carne's style, completely unrestrained, unafraid to go for 'gag'-like effects (the mugging of dandies for buttonholes is particularly piquant), beavering through fairy-tale sets that do for London what TOP HAT did for Venice, completely at ease with the farce, yet still pulling off evocative shots that reveal the emotional reality behind the nonsense.


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