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The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)

Nice, eccentric, idealistic and slightly mad Countess Aurelia, who believes that the good must prevail over evil, decides to stand up to corrupt powerful leaders of Paris in her own way, which grabs everyones attention.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
The General
The Commissar
The Chairman
The Prospector
Joellina Smadja ...
Prospector's girlfriend
Henri Virlojeux ...
The Peddler
The Reverend
Gordon Heath ...
The Folk Singer
Nanette Newman ...
George Hilsdon ...
Henri Cogan ...
Gerald Sim ...


Life is a Sunday in the park for Aurelia, a dotty Parisian countess. But sooner or later, Aurelia had to find out about the so-called sane world. Join her in a whimsical look at a topsy-turvy world...and at a handful of kooks crazy enough to care. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


With the world getting ready to blow itself up, look who's minding the store.


Comedy | Drama


G | See all certifications »





Release Date:

30 October 1969 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

La loca de Chaillot  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Simone Signoret was originally announced for the Giulietta Masina part. See more »


The Ragpicker: People are not the same, Countess. People are different. No one is involved with anyone anymore. There - there's been an invasion, an infiltration. The world isn't beautiful any longer. The world is not happy.
Countess Aurelia: Is this true? The world is not beautiful? The world is not happy? Why wasn't I told?
The Ragpicker: Because you've been dreaming a long time, Countess. And no - nobody wanted to disturb you.
See more »


Referenced in Webster: Strike Up the Band (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

Answer to a trivia question - mixed results as a film
17 September 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Question: In 1943 what movie starred Katherine Hepburn, Katherine Cornell, and Harpo Marx?


Question: In 1969 what movie starred Katherine Hepburn, Dame Edith Evans, and Danny Kaye?


Odd that Kate Hepburn should pop up in two unfair trivia questions, but it does happen. Actors do run into each other in all kinds of films, both good and bad, memorable and forgettable, and regular or short film (look at a comic short called THE STOLEN JOOLES which has most of the stars of Hollywood in the 1930s in it).

STAGE DOOR CANTEEN was done for patriotic morale boosting for our soldiers, and it celebrated the canteens used to entertain our men on furlough. So the making of that film had a reason that transcends it's current obscurity. I might add, as it is the only major movie that stage star Katherine Cornell popped up in for just a few minutes, it is worth it as a time capsule as such.

But THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT was based on a Giraudoux play about modern society endangered by the forces of power and greed. It is about the discovery that the city of light, Paris, is reposing on a huge, untapped oil field, and that various power figures without any soul (Yul Brynner, Charles Boyer, Paul Henried, Oscar Holmolka, Donald Pleasance) may be able to empty the city of it's neighborhoods, it's citizens, it's life and light, and replace it with derricks. Giraudoux made sure that the villains represent everything that he suspects. Brynner is the ultimate ruthless billionaire (he is upset when a waiter accidentally spills water on him). Boyer is a stock broker. Henried is a General. Homolka is the French head of the Communist Party (Giraudoux has no illusions about what a political label means - there are power mad people in all political parties). Pleasance is a prospector for oil. There is also John Gavin as a right wing religious demagogue.

Opposed to these villains are Kate Hepburn (the leading local social figure from the past - called "the madwoman of Chaillot") and her friends Giulietta Massina, Margaret Leighton, and Edith Evans (who is still trying to campaign in 1969 for Mr. Wilson's League of Nations). Also aiding Hepburn are the "rag picker" (Danny Kaye - in the best dramatic performance in a major motion picture in his career - also his only Oscar nomination), Richard Chamberlain, Gordon Heath, and Nanette Newman. Although Hepburn, Massina, Leighton, and Evans have social position, none have the political clout of the villains. So when they are made aware of the threat to their beloved Paris (and by extension western culture and morality) they hold a trial (in absentia) of the villains, and find these villains have to die.

This film is better for the brief vignettes of it's stars than for the total impact. Brynner's malevolent, general ruthlessness is one of his best acting jobs. So is Henried's almost comical criminal activity: he confesses to having arranged the murder of four promising young aides of his, because he suspected one of them (but not knowing which) of sleeping with his wife - it turned out his wife had been faithful after all (Brynner, Boyer, Homolka, and Gavin congratulate him on his luck!). Kaye has several great set pieces - a rag picker he wraps eloquent about the great, glory days of garbage in the past where each neighborhood's garbage had a special character all it's own (as opposed to the garbage of the modern homogenized neighborhoods of Paris, that those villains forced on the citizens). He is superb in the scene where he is the "defense" counsel for Brynner and his group - demoniacally showing what these people are really like while "defending" them. All those comic, scatterbrained, sequences in his movies built up to these scenes of poetry and passion.

Hepburn, of course, was great - that last sequence where she mistakes Chamberlain for the lost love of her youth, and mournfully laments his loss, is a highpoint in her career. She rarely had so poetic a scene of tragic delicacy.

But the story, oddly enough, for all we may approve of the hatred shown for the powerful who use and discard us, is not fully acceptable. Henried's general is too stupid (he almost launches a missile attack on Russia while talking to Hepburn). Brynner is so impossibly arrogant that a consortium of his fellow billionaires would probably ruin him to shut him up. But the acting is still so good that it one can forget these minor problems. Any film where Donald Pleasance uses his prominent proboscis by putting it into a drinking glass to smell for oil cannot be all bad. So I'll give it a "6", if not higher.

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