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  • NAPOLEON, by Sacha Guitry - 1954

Bonaparte (Daniel Gélin)
and Barras (Pierre Brasseur)
© Robert Cohen / Associated Press / BIFI
(by kind permission of Madame Jacqueline Aubart)

Josephine (Michèle Morgan),
Talleyrand (Sacha Guitry)
and Bonaparte (Daniel Gélin)
© Robert Cohen / Associated Press / BIFI
(by kind permission of Madame Jacqueline Aubart)

Napoleon (Raymond Pellegrin) with his barber and his Mameluke
© Robert Cohen / Associated Press / BIFI
(by kind permission of Madame Jacqueline Aubart)

 Country : France

 Medium : Colour

 Duration : 190'

 Video : René Chateau Vidéo - 1990

 Production : Clément Duhour / CLM / Filmsonor / Cinédis

 Scenario : Sacha Guitry

 Screenplay : Sacha Guitry

 Music : Jean Françaix

 Director of photography : Pierre Montazel

 Plot : With his friends seated around him, Talleyrand on learning of the death of Napoleon decides to tell them the story of the "greatest man in history". And Talleyrand tells it like it was, from the beginning in Corsica to the imprisonment on St Helena, passsing via the Brumaire coup d'etat, the coronation, the victory at Austerlitz and the defeat at Waterloo. Almost 50 years of political struggle, love affairs and extraordinary battles, all recounted by the ageing Bishop of Autun.

 Cast : Daniel Gélin (Bonaparte) ; Raymond Pellegrin (Napoleon) ; Sacha Guitry (Talleyrand) ; Michèle Morgan (Josephine) ; Jean Gabin (Lannes) ; Jean Marais (Montholon) ; Orson Welles (Hudson Lowe) ; Yves Montand (Lefebvre) ; Lana Marconi (Marie Walewska) ; Serge Reggiani (Lucien) ; Pierre Brasseur (Barras) ; Jean-Pierre Aumont ; Clément Duhour ; Erich von Stroheim

 Extract : « Talleyrand. - My Lord, I once made a vow never to betray you without informing you of it the day before. If Poland does not by your good agencies become independent...
Napolon. - What will happen... ? Tell me !
Talleyrand. - It will be the beginning of the end. »

 Review : Guitry trots out all the famous episodes, the best-known quotes and the most important actors in the Napoleonic epic in this star-studded blockbuster. But it is not a historical fresco à la Abel Gance. Indeed it's quite the opposite. But the cameos are good, notably Gabin's Lannes, Marais's Montholon and of course Michèle Morgan's magnificent Josephine. Here we have Guitry at his visual best. But surely the best moment is when, in a moment of historical audacity, right in the middle of the film, Bonaparte (played by Daniel Gélin) goes to the barber's and comes out (thanks to the magic of cinema and montage) as Napoleon (played by Raymond Pellegrin). Quite simply fabulous!
Watch the entire film on Youtube here (external link).



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