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Gervaise (1956)

A poor laundrywoman tries to cope with a depressing burden of society.


René Clément


Émile Zola (novel), Jean Aurenche | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Maria Schell ... Gervaise Macquart Coupeau, une blanchisseuse douce et courageuse
François Périer ... Henri Coupeau - le second compagnon de Gervaise, un ouvrier zingueur
Jany Holt ... Mme Lorilleux - la soeur revêche de Coupeau
Mathilde Casadesus Mathilde Casadesus ... Mme Boche - la concierge curieuse
Florelle ... Maman Coupeau - la vieille mère d'Henri
Micheline Luccioni ... Clémence - une blanchisseuse, ouvrière chez Gervaise
Lucien Hubert Lucien Hubert ... M. Poisson - un gendarme le mari de Virginie
Jacques Harden ... Goujet - un forgeron, ami de Gervaise et d'Henri
Jacques Hilling Jacques Hilling ... M. Boche - le mari de la concierge
Amédée Amédée ... Mes Bottes - un camarade de Coupeau
Hubert de Lapparent Hubert de Lapparent ... M. Lorilleux - un chaîniste, le mari souffreteux de Mme Lorilleux (as Hubert Lapparent)
Hélène Tossy Hélène Tossy ... Mme Bijard
Rachel Devirys ... Mme Fauconnier (as Rachel Devyris)
Jacqueline Morane Jacqueline Morane ... Mme Gaudron
Yvonne Claudie Yvonne Claudie ... Mme Putois - une invitée au repas de fête
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Gervaise Macquart, a young lame laundress, is left by her lover Auguste Lantier with two boys... She manages to make it, and a few years later she marries Coupeau, a roofer. After working very hard a few more years, she succeeds in buying her own laundry (her dream)... But Coupeau starts to drink after having fallen from a roof, and Lantier shows up... A faithful adaptation of Emile Zola's novel "L'Assomoir", depicting the fatal degeneration of a family of workers, mainly because of alcohol. Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The pen of Emile Zola...the Paris of Renoir See more »




See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Official submission of France for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 29th Academy Awards in 1957. See more »


Gervaise Macquart Coupeau, une blanchisseuse douce et courageuse: [singing "Let Me Sleep"] What's the use of dreaming of birds and nests If the bird flies away and abandons the nest If the pigeon dies so does his mate What's the use of dreaming of birds and nests What's the use of sleeping if the night disappears If I must wake and face the day If I only wake to shed more tears What's the use of sleeping If the night disappears Days and nights whirl through my head Days and nights fill me with dread What's the use of dreaming Let me sleep Let me...
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Alternate Versions

Art Cinema postwar film culture, allowed the original version of GERVAISE (1956) to be made in France, with 116 minutes running time. Unfortunately GERVAISE (1956) became the very heavily edited "Australian Film Censorship Board" true cinéaste version of this brand new release of a foreign language film, with a shorter running time of 112 minutes, when finally released in Australia in 1958. Cleverly re-edited scenes, there were no obvious signs that a total of four minutes of image and soundtrack and English language subtitles had been removed. CUSTOMS (CINEMATOGRAPH FILMS) REGULATIONS 1956 No.94 was the Australian Government Commonwealth Legislation, that prevented Australians from sitting in a cinema watching the original version of films that without cuts would be "blasphemous, indecent or obscene, OR likely to be injurious to morality, OR to encourage or incite to crime, OR a matter the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest." All female nudity had to be removed, cat-fighting between Gervaise Macquart Coupeau (Maria Schell) and Virginie Poisson (Suzy Delairs) was minimized, and those sadistic and brutal acts of Gervaise Macquart Coupeau (Maria Schell) slapping the bare buttocks of Virginie Poisson (Suzy Delairs) with the wooden paddle (washerwoman's battledore) were removed. See more »


Version of Drink (1902) See more »


Chanson de Gervaise
Music by Georges Auric
Lyrics by Raymond Queneau
Performed by Maria Schell
See more »

User Reviews

René Clement at his most controversial, outrageous & (for some) candid & sickening moment
26 November 2019 | by jgcorreaSee all my reviews

A terribly tragic and horrible story of the growing degradation and poverty of a working class family becomes a raw and cynical movie, a kind of naturalist manifesto. Its characters are frustrating in their self destruction. From the start we know that they have no chance of salvation, because degradation and vice surround them and impel them at every step. For example, Gervaise, the protagonist, dreams of a ransom from poverty and seems almost to succeed, but a mere accident to sink her slowly into a physical and psychological brutalization that will reduce her to an animal level is enough. The central point of the movie is precisely this: the poor act by survival instinct and for them the laws of decorum or morality are not valid: prostitution is a way of not starving, alcoholism distracts from the ugliness of a miserable life. What makes it an excellent film, however, is not so much the message as the style: René Clement is a superb storyteller. He builds images of great descriptive power, so vivid that they almost seem to smell and taste. Gervaise is an adaptation of L'Assomoir, the seventh volume in Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle of 20 novels. Along with 'Nana' and 'Germinal' it is probably Zola's most famous. Zola's novel title is a metonymy: Father Colombe's Tavern, known as the Assommoir, was on the corners of the Rue des Poissonniers and of the Boulevard de Rochechouart. Parisian life in the 19th century remains a study for anthropologists to this day. Lower classes were grim. Their life was all but ruined by the brutality brought on, for instance, by alcoholism. Gervaise is the heroine. For a time she seems fortunate enough, but she succumbs as well. This was definitely one of the 20 best movies released in 1956, together with The Searchers Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut The Killing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Nuit et brouillard Bob le flambeur, Toute la mémoire du monde, Aparajito, Patterns, Giant, The Harder They Fall, Bigger Than Life, Voici le temps des assassins..., The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Wrong Man, La traversée de Paris, Written on the Wind, Attack, Friendly Persuasion

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Release Date:

11 November 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Gervaise See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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