Un de la légion (1936) Poster

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From the frying pan into the fire....
dbdumonteil7 October 2007
...or Goofy joins the legion (reluctantly).

One of Christian-Jaque's funniest comedies,but an odd one;towards the ending,and for a short while ,the comedy turns into a drama ,something which was unheard of in the French thirties.

When the film begins,we are so far from the Legion Etrangere that we wonder how the hero will become one of these brave warriors.On a train ,he explains to people that he travels with his cousin who is no more his cousin cause he married her.They come to Marseille from Canada (where "when you have a wee-wee ,beware! it's so cold there that you might be pinned down to the ground ,the liquid freezes!") The cousin treats her husband like a little child,seeing to everything : he must not drink alcohol,he must not eat too much meat,he must wait for her when she visits her notary (sollicitor) to take possession of a rich heritage (the reason for the Atlantic crossing).

What about the Legion Etrangere?I shall now come to it.A deserter needs a sucker to replace him.So he takes the poor lad to a bistro where he gets drunk.When he awakes,he is on a ship bound for Sidi Bel Abbès. First reluctantly,our hero is forced to become a legionnaire.But are the officers worse than his less-than-attractive missus?That's the question.

Meanwhile,in Europa,the lady is still searching ,she pulls out all the stops....

In the barracks,now,our hero is not afraid of the Legion anymore.Sooner or later ,she will find him...

A marvelous Fernandel,in a tailor-made part.In the grand tradition of the movies where the courageous soldiers fight the "salopards" (=b....;that is to say : the Arabs)as in such works as Ford's "lost patrol" or Duvivier's "la Bandera" ,we never see the enemy.Anyway,in his welcome speech,the officer warns his men: "We have built bridges,we've opened up roads,we've cleared;before us ,there was no civilization:only brigandage and plundering".

The story is so far-fetched it sometimes becomes sublime.Vive Fernandel!
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Graham Greene
harrysdixonjr16 December 2012
Graham Greene gave it a pretty good review in the Spectator 11 August 1939. See pages 318-21 of The Graham Greene Film Reader. . . edited by David Parkinson. He compared this to the famous 1939 Beau Geste, which he considered vile sentimental rubbish. This Film Reader contained priceless comments for anyone who is serious about literature, history or cinema. Graham Greene feels that pandering has been beaten to death long before 1939 and that romantic schmaltz and sentimental rubbish is still trash even if beautifully accomplished. Unlike some organizations, his publishers let him write very brief reviews like Pauline Kael's capsules for her Cinema Guild. Some people have never heard "Many words are weariness."
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