IMDb > La Grande Illusion (1937)
La grande illusion
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La Grande Illusion (1937) More at IMDbPro »La grande illusion (original title)

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La Grande Illusion -- During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.


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Down 5% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Charles Spaak (scenario and dialogue) &
Jean Renoir (scenario and dialogue)
View company contact information for La Grande Illusion on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
12 September 1938 (USA) See more »
A Great Drama of Human Emotions See more »
During the first World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 5 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Its Historical Significance Is No Illusion See more (120 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Jean Gabin ... Le lieutenant Maréchal

Dita Parlo ... Elsa

Pierre Fresnay ... Le captaine de Boeldieu

Erich von Stroheim ... Le captaine von Rauffenstein (as Eric von Stroheim)

Julien Carette ... Cartier - l'acteur (as Carette)
Georges Péclet ... Le serrurier (as Peclet)
Werner Florian ... Le sergent Arthur
Jean Dasté ... L'instituteur (as Daste)
Sylvain Itkine ... Le lieutenant Demolder (as Itkine)
Gaston Modot ... L'ingénieur (as Modot)

Marcel Dalio ... Le lieutenant Rosenthal (as Dalio)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Jacques Becker ... L'officier anglais (uncredited)
Habib Benglia ... Le sénégalais (uncredited)
Pierre Blondy ... Un soldat (uncredited)
Albert Brouett ... Un prisonnier (uncredited)
George Forster ... Maison-Neuve (uncredited)
Georges Fronval ... Le soldat allemand qui tue le capitaine de Boeldieu (uncredited)
Karl Heil ... Un officier de la forteresse (uncredited)
Carl Koch ... L'ordonnance de von Rauffenstein (uncredited)
Little Peters ... La petite fille d'Elsa (uncredited)
Claude Sainval ... Le capitaine Ringis (uncredited)
Michel Salina ... (uncredited)
Claude Vernier ... L'officer prussien (uncredited)

Directed by
Jean Renoir 
Writing credits
Charles Spaak (scenario and dialogue) &
Jean Renoir (scenario and dialogue)

Produced by
Albert Pinkovitch .... producer (uncredited)
Frank Rollmer .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Joseph Kosma (music)
Cinematography by
Christian Matras (photography)
Film Editing by
Marthe Huguet (film editor) (as Huguet)
Renée Lichtig (1958 version)
Marguerite Renoir (film editor) (as Margueritte)
Production Design by
Eugène Lourié  (as Lourié)
Set Decoration by
Eugène Lourié  (as Lourié)
Costume Design by
René Decrais (costumes) (as Decrais)
Makeup Department
Raffels .... make-up
Production Management
Raymond Blondy .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Jacques Becker .... assistant director
Robert Rips .... assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Alexandre Laurié .... props (as Lourié)
Raymond Pillon .... props (as Pillon)
Sound Department
Joseph de Bretagne .... sound engineer (as De Bretagne)
Camera and Electrical Department
Jean Bourgoin .... assistant cameraman (as Bourgoin)
Ernest Bourreaud .... assistant cameraman (as Bourreaud)
Claude Renoir .... assistant cameraman
Sam Levin .... set photographer (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Suzy Berton .... wardrobe (uncredited)
Music Department
Emile Vuillermoz .... musical director (uncredited)
Other crew
Maurice Barnathan .... location manager (as Barnathan)
Pierre Blondy .... general manager
Françoise Giroud .... script girl (as Gourdji)
Carl Koch .... technical consultant
Robert Rips .... set manager
Herman G. Weinberg .... subtitler: English (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"La grande illusion" - France (original title)
"Grand Illusion" - Australia (video box title), USA
See more »
114 min | 94 min (1937 release) | Germany:107 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Argentina:13 | Australia:G | Finland:K-8 (1959) | Finland:(Banned) (1942) | Finland:K-16 (1937) | Germany:12 (f) (1948) | Germany:(Banned) (1937-1945) | Italy:T (re-rating) (1947) | Italy:(Banned) (original rating) (1938-1947) | Malaysia:U | Netherlands:14 (re-rating) (1958) | Netherlands:14 (re-rating) (1947) | Netherlands:14 (original rating) (1937) | Norway:12 (1959) | Norway:16 (1937) | Portugal:M/6 | South Korea:12 | Sweden:15 | UK:A (original rating) (cut) | UK:U (video rating) | USA:Unrated

Did You Know?

Although they were fully behind the production, the producers got nervous as shooting progressed and told Jean Renoir they had grave doubts about continuing with the production. So he halted photography long enough to edit some scenes that had already been shot, hoping to change their mind, and luckily, he succeeded.See more »
Continuity: When Lt. Maréchal is climbing down the rope from the watchtower the wooden window shutters can be seen closing above him even though he closed them himself minutes prior.See more »
L'ingénieur:I hate the way German bulletins exaggerate.
Lieutenant Maréchal:And our papers don't? Remember "the Russian steamroller"?
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Annie Hall (1977)See more »
Il était un petit navireSee more »


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
26 out of 34 people found the following review useful.
Its Historical Significance Is No Illusion, 12 October 2006
Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas

Franklin Roosevelt said of it: "Everyone who believes in democracy should see this film". Mussolini banned it in Italy, and Hitler's Ministry of Propaganda banned it in Nazi Germany. The film vanished during WWII, and was thought to have been destroyed. Then it was recovered in 1946, but in an altered state. Decades would then pass before the original negative could be confirmed.

The Nazis hated the film because of its pacifist, anti-war, theme. The setting for the film is Germany in 1914, during WWI. Germans capture several French officers and take them to a POW camp, specifically for officers. After several escape attempts, the French officers get shuffled off to a presumably escape proof castle, run by Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), a flamboyant German officer with a forbidding persona.

Unlike other war movies, "La Grande Illusion" shows no actual combat, and the number of deaths is minimal. The film's tone is surprisingly lighthearted. Writer/Director Renoir conveys a sense of community among the French prisoners, despite their differences in social class. We see them several times sitting around a table eating, and chatting amiably. The cordiality between prisoners and their jailers is also surprising. It's not exactly a hug fest, but the predominant feeling among the men is respect for fellow officers, even if those officers are your enemy. None of the French or German officers want war; it's just their "duty", when called on.

In most of the film, scenes take place in small rooms or in that castle. Toward the film's end, outdoor vistas provide a visual contrast. Except at the film's end, I was amazed at how drab the surroundings are. Room furnishings are unadorned and contain the barest of essentials. Tables and floors are made of simple wood. The clothes are dreary and depressing. The stone castle is dank and forbidding. Music is made with simple instruments, like a harmonica or a flute. Of course, given the time period and considering the setting, such drabness and simplicity are not surprising. But the contrast with today's complex world of modern luxuries, that we take for granted, is striking. The film's B&W cinematography accentuates the drab environment.

The story can be a bit confusing in the first half, because the relationship between the jailers and the prisoners is so unusual. Viewers need to give the film wide latitude on this. Watching the film a second time helps clarify who is doing what to whom. The plot is easier to follow in the second half.

The film's acting is credible. I especially liked the performance of von Stroheim, all decked out in that imposing uniform, that monocle, and with that stiff bearing.

"La Grande Illusion" is an unusual "war" film, one that had real significance during WWII. For this reason alone, it deserves to be seen.

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See more (120 total) »

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