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Mauvaise graine (1934)

A young man-about-Paris, cut off from his father's money, falls in with a picaresque gang of car thieves.


Alexander Esway (as Alexandre Esway), Billy Wilder (as Billie Wilder)


Jan Lustig (scenario) (as Lustig), Billy Wilder (scenario) (as Wilder) | 2 more credits »


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Credited cast:
Danielle Darrieux ... Jeannette
Pierre Mingand ... Henri Pasquier
Raymond Galle Raymond Galle ... Jean-la-Cravate
Paul Escoffier ... Le docteur Pasquier
Michel Duran Michel Duran ... Le chef
Jean Wall ... Le zèbre
Marcel Maupi Marcel Maupi ... L'homme au panama (as Maupi)
Paul Velsa Paul Velsa ... L'homme aux cacahuètes
Georges Malkine Georges Malkine ... Le secrétaire
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Georges Cahuzac Georges Cahuzac ... Le monsieur
Gaby Héritier Gaby Héritier ... Gaby


In the 30's, in Paris, the playboy Henri Pasquier is supported by his father, Dr. Pasquier with money and a brandy new car. When Dr. Pasquier decides to suspend the allowance and sell the car to force Henri to get a job, he leaves home and associates to a gang of car thieves. Henri falls in love for the thief Jeannette, and when they are betrayed by their boss, they decide to move to Casablanca and straight their lives. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Romance







Release Date:

5 July 1934 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Amore che redime See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


First film directed by Billy Wilder. See more »


Pasquier's Buick has different plate numbers in different locations. 03:00 Car enters repair shop. Back plate: 2454RG6 06:50 Arriving at his father's offices. Front plate: 24554OU3 08:50 New owners driving the car away. Back plate: 6439I2 10:20 Pasquier's sees his car parked. Front plate: 2454OU3 11:00 Running away from the bad guys. Back plate: 6439I2 14:50 Arriving at Garage Monico. Front plate: 2454OU3 See more »


Version of The First Offence (1936) See more »

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User Reviews

A solid (French) directorial debut by the to-be-famous Billy Wilder…
9 May 2015 | by agboone7See all my reviews

This film was actually co-directed by Wilder and a Hungarian named Alexander Esway, who I'm not familiar with. Having seen only five films by Wilder at this point, I can't offer a great deal of input into how this film relates to the rest of his body of work, but there are a few things worth mentioning here.

First off, it's well known that Wilder was a massive admirer of Ernst Lubitsch, the great German film director who came to America in 1923 and forever transformed Hollywood cinema, bringing to it his European sensibilities, sophistication, and sexual innuendo. Wilder, an Austrian by birth, also would leave Germany and come to America, although both his trip and the reasons for it were quite different than Lubitsch's, who left Germany by choice, not necessity.

Wilder had been a successful screenwriter in Germany from 1929 through 1933, when, aware of his Jewish ancestry, he fled the country upon Hitler's rise to power. He went to France, and shortly after came to America, where he broke into Hollywood, first as a screenwriter, then later as a highly successful director.

While he was in France, before arriving in America, he co-directed this film, "Mauvaise graine" ("Bad Seed"), in 1934. The first thing that struck me was that the film was very much in the vein of other French comedy-dramas from its time (for example, I was immediately reminded of "Under the Roofs of Paris" by René Clair, and, to a lesser extent, "Boudu Saved From Drowning" by Renoir and "L'atalante" by Vigo). Despite the fact that the two significant portions of Wilder's career were in Germany and America, this film feels neither German nor American. It sounds like Wilder was only in France for about a year, maybe less, yet he managed to perfectly imitate the style, aesthetic, and overall feel of other, similar French films of the time. I considered the possibility that this was more a result of Esway's influence than Wilder's, but even Esway, I believe, had only made one French film before this. So, either the general style and feel of French cinema permeated his film largely without his knowledge or intent, or Wilder was simply born gifted in absorbing and regurgitating the milieu and aesthetic of his environment. I lean toward the latter, though I'm sure both are true, to some extent.

The second thing that struck me was that, already, at such an early point in Wilder's career as a filmmaker, Lubitsch's influence was evident. Peter Bogdanovich, in discussing Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise", made the observation that, while the film's protagonists were obviously thieves, Lubitsch made a point to never show them in the act of thievery. As Bogdanovich said, "Lubitsch was much too sophisticated for that." Lubitsch being the master of innuendo and implication that he was, everything in his films was, strictly speaking, implicit, even when he often left no doubt as to what he intended to convey. Of course, censorship plays its role in such things, but there's no doubt that this method perfectly reflected Lubitsch's unique sensibility as a director, and Wilder had clearly taken notes. Early in the film, when our protagonist first steals a car, he is shown standing nearby it, looking it over, and then after a cutaway to some gangsters watching him, the next thing we see is him driving away in the presumably stolen car. It was not smoothly executed, and lacked that notorious sophistication that Bogdanovich referred to in Lubitsch's films, but the important thing, in an early work such as this, is to take note of the influence. And Wilder was clearly heavily influenced by Lubitsch, even in '34. (Note, also, the way the main character models much of his demeanor after Maurice Chevalier, a frequent star of Lubitsch's films in the early '30s, and even does an impression of him early in the film.)

Another thing I found interesting watching this film was the recurring theme of the youth's reluctance to work, to live by the 9-to-5 and sustain any kind of "respectable" job. The film even seemed to sympathize with this attitude, although I'm ambivalent as to whether or not the screenwriters (Wilder and three others) were really supporting this mentality, or simply acknowledging it as a reality for many youths of the day. In either case, there was certainly nothing condemnatory about their depiction of these kids. These are about the most innocuous car thieves you could ever conceive of.

"Mauvaise graine" stars Danielle Darrieux as the female lead, who I recently saw in Anatole Litvak's 1936 film "Mayerling". She's a quality actress. The film is also notable for having Franz Waxman as one of two musicians working on the film's score. Waxman later went on to score films for directors such as, to name a few, Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Fuller, Lewis Milestone, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, and many of Wilder's later films.

This is by no means a great film. I really can't even say that it's a truly good film. But it's very decent, and worth the watch for anyone who's interested either in Wilder himself or in French cinema from this time period. The film is generally lighthearted, slightly poignant, and on the whole solidly executed. It lacks thematic substance and narrative impact, but given that its main interest is as a curio for Wilder fans (or as a necessity for Wilder completists), it ended up being somewhat superior to my expectations. I don't suspect anyone will write home over this one, and yet, I can't imagine many will consider it a waste of time either. For a debut feature, I'm fairly impressed. Especially considering the very early work of other great Hollywood filmmakers like Kubrick or Coppola, "Mauvaise graine" is a respectable piece of cinema, and an entry into Wilder's filmography that should not be tossed aside lightly, or at all.

RATING: 5.33 out of 10 stars

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