Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol (French: [maʁsɛl paɲɔl]; 28 February 1895 – 18 April 1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Regarded as an auteur,[1] in 1946, he became the first filmmaker elected to the Académie française. Although his work is less fashionable than it once was, Pagnol is still generally regarded as one of France's greatest 20th-century writers and is notable for the fact that he excelled in almost every medium—memoir, novel, drama and film.

Marcel Pagnol
Marcel Pagnol 1931
Born28 February 1895
Aubagne, France
Died18 April 1974 (aged 79)
Paris, France
Film director
Notable worksMarius
Jean de Florette
Manon des sources
La Gloire de mon père
Le Château de ma mère

Early life

Marcel Pagnol was born on 28 February 1895 in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône département, in southern France near Marseille, the eldest son of schoolteacher Joseph PagnolA and seamstress Augustine Lansot.B[2] Marcel Pagnol grew up in Marseille with his younger brothers Paul and René, and younger sister Germaine.

School years

In July 1904, the family rented the Bastide Neuve,[2] – a house in the sleepy Provençal village of La Treille – for the summer holidays, the first of many spent in the hilly countryside between Aubagne and Marseille.[3] About the same time, Augustine's health, which had never been robust, began to noticeably decline and on 16 June 1910 she succumbed to a chest infection ("mal de poitrine") and died, aged 36.[4] Joseph remarried in 1912.[2]

In 1913, at the age of 18, Marcel passed his baccalaureate in philosophy[2] and started studying literature at the University in Aix-en-Provence. When World War I broke out, he was called up into the infantry at Nice but in January 1915 he was discharged because of his poor constitution ("faiblesse de constitution'').[2] On 2 March 1916, he married Simone Colin in Marseille and in November graduated in English.[2] He became an English teacher, teaching in various local colleges and at a lycée in Marseille.[2]


Time in Paris

In 1922, he moved to Paris, where he taught English until 1927,[2] when he decided instead to devote his life to playwriting. During this time, he belonged to a group of young writers, in collaboration with one of whom, Paul Nivoix, he wrote the play, Merchants of Glory, which was produced in 1924. This was followed, in 1928, by Topaze, a satire based on ambition.[2] Exiled in Paris, he returned nostalgically to his Provençal roots, taking this as his setting for his play Marius, which later became the first of his works to be adapted into a film in 1931.

Separated from Simone Collin since 1926 (though not divorced until 1941), he formed a relationship with the young English dancer Kitty Murphy. Their son Jacques Pagnol was born on 24 September 1930.[2] (Jacques later became his father's assistant and subsequently a cameraman for France 3 Marseille.)

Filmmaking career

In 1929, on a visit to London, Pagnol attended a screening of one of the first talking films and he was so impressed that he decided to devote his efforts to cinema.[5] He contacted Paramount Picture studios and suggested adapting his play Marius for cinema. This was directed by Alexander Korda and released on 10 October 1931.[2] It became one of the first successful French-language talking films.

In 1932 Pagnol founded his own film production studios in the countryside near Marseille.[2] Over the next decade Pagnol produced his own films, taking many different roles in the production – financier, director, script writer, studio head, and foreign-language script translator – and employing the greatest French actors of the period. On 4 April 1946, Pagnol was elected to the Académie française, taking his seat in March 1947, the first filmmaker to receive this honour.[2]

Themes of Pagnol's films

In his films, Pagnol transfers his playwriting talents onto the big screen. His editing style is somberly reserved, placing emphasis on the content of an image. As a pictorial naturalist, Pagnol relies on film as art to convey a deeper meaning rather than solely as a tool to tell a story. Pagnol also took great care in the type of actors he employed, hiring local actors to appear in his films to highlight their unique accents and culture. Like his plays, Pagnol's films emphasize dialogue and musicality. The themes of many of Pagnol's films revolve around the acute observation of social rituals. Using interchangeable symbols and recurring character roles, such as proud fathers and rebellious children, Pagnol illuminates the provincial life of the lower class. Notably, Pagnol also frequently compares women and land, showing both can be barren or fertile. Above all, Pagnol uses all this to illustrate the importance of human bonds and their renewal.[6]

As a novelist

In 1945, Pagnol remarried, to actress Jacqueline Pagnol.[2] They had two children together, Frédéric (born 1946) and Estelle (born 1949).[2] Estelle died at the age of two. Pagnol was so devastated that he fled the south and returned to live in Paris. He went back to writing plays, but after his next piece was badly received he decided to change his job once more and began writing a series of autobiographical novels – Souvenirs d'enfance – based on his childhood experiences.

In 1957, the first two novels in the series, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère were published to instant acclaim.[2] The third Le Temps des secrets was published in 1959,[2] though the fourth Le Temps des Amours was to remain unfinished and was not published until 1977, after his death. In the meantime, Pagnol turned to a second series, L'Eau des CollinesJean de Florette and Manon des Sources – which focused on the machinations of Provençal peasant life at the beginning of the twentieth century and were published in 1962.[2]

Pagnol adapted his own film Manon des Sources, with his wife Jacqueline in the title role, into two novels, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, collectively titled L'Eau des Collines.


Marcel Pagnol died in Paris on 18 April 1974.[2] He is buried in Marseille at the cemetery La Treille, along with his mother, father, brothers, and wife. His boyhood friend, David Magnan (Lili des Bellons in the autobiographies), died at the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918, and is buried nearby.


Pagnol was also known for his translations of Shakespeare (from the English) and Virgil (from the Latin):

  • 1944 : Le Songe d'une nuit d'été (A Midsummer Night's Dream) by William Shakespeare, first presented in 1947, at the Grand Théâtre de Monaco; Paris, Œuvres complètes, Club de l'Honnête Homme, 1971
  • 1947 : Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Paris, Nagel
  • 1958 : Bucoliques (The Eclogues) by Virgil, Paris, Grasset

Pagnol's Hamlet is still performed in France, although some have criticized his portrayal of Hamlet as somewhat effeminate.[7]

Film adaptations

In 1986, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were remade by filmmaker Claude Berri.

In 1990, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère, Pagnol's affectionate reminiscences of childhood, were filmed by Yves Robert.

In 2000, Jacques Nahum produced Marius, Fanny, and César for French television.

In 2011, La Fille du puisatier was filmed by Daniel Auteuil.

In 2013, Marius and Fanny were remade by Daniel Auteuil.


  • 1939: Best foreign film for Harvest - New York Film Critics Circle Awards
  • 1940: Best foreign film for The Baker's Wife - New York Film Critics Circle Awards
  • 1950: Best foreign film for Jofroi - New York Film Critics Circle Awards



See also


  • ^A Born 25 October 1869. Died 8 November 1951, age 82.
  • ^B Born 11 September 1873. Died 16 June 1910, age 36.


  1. ^ Oscherwitz, Dayna; Higgins, Mary Ellen (2009). The A to Z of French Cinema. Scarecrow Press. p. 332. ISBN 978-0-8108-7038-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Castans (1987), pp. 363–368
  3. ^ Castans (1987), p. 22.
  4. ^ Castans (1987), pp. 27, 32.
  5. ^ Lewis, Hannah (2018). French Musical Culture and the Coming of Sound Cinema. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-19-063597-8.
  6. ^ Williams, Alan (1992). Republic of Images. London, England: Harvard University Press. pp. 200–206. ISBN 0-674-76267-3.
  7. ^ Maurois, André. Pagnol et Shakespeare, Opéra, 1948
  8. ^ Marius and its sequels, Fanny and César, formed the basis for the libretto of Vladimir Cosma's 2007 opera Marius et Fanny.
  9. ^ Manon des Sources (1952 film) on IMDb


  • Castans, Raymond (1987). Marcel Pagnol. Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès. ISBN 978-2-7096-0622-6

External links

Angèle (film)

Angèle is a 1934 French drama film directed, produced and written by Marcel Pagnol, based on the novel Un de Baumugnes by Jean Giono. It stars Orane Demazis.

César (film)

César is a 1936 French film, written and directed by Marcel Pagnol. It's the final part of his Marseille trilogy, which began with the film Marius and was followed by Fanny. Unlike the other two films in the trilogy, César was not based on a play by Pagnol, but written directly as a film script. In 1946 Pagnol adapted the script as a stage play.

Dear John (novel)

Dear John is a romance novel by American writer Nicholas Sparks released in 2006. Its plot is an adaptation to present day's American culture of three plays Marius, Fanny and César, called la Trilogie Marseillaise written by French author Marcel Pagnol c. 1930. Sparks took inspiration from the real-life story of his cousin Todd Vance who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2007.The story is about a romantic couple who fall in love over one summer. They are separated during the man's military service. John Tyree, the main character, has a father with Asperger's syndrome. The story is partially set in Wilmington, North Carolina where John's father was a single parent who had difficulty having meaningful conversation with his son and has an obsession with coin collecting. John knows there is something wrong with him but he has never been to a doctor to find out what it is. Feeling a lack of direction and no good fatherly influence in his life, John enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.John returns home on leave from the army when he gets news of his father's death. After the return he seeks out Savannah, where he is surprised to learn of her life events following her marriage to another man. It was obvious to John, Savannah, and even her new husband, that Savannah still had love for John. But he decided to let Savannah go- because he cared about her more than himself.

Although drained by battle overseas and the loss of Savannah, he realizes that due to a legacy from his father, he's able to express his love in an unexpected way.

Fanny (1932 film)

Fanny is a 1932 French romance and drama film directed by Marc Allégret, based on the play by Marcel Pagnol. It is the second part in the Marseillaise film trilogy that started with Marius (1931) and concluded with César (1936). Like Marius, the film was a box office success in France and is still considered to be a classic of French cinema.

Fanny (musical)

Fanny is a musical with a book by S. N. Behrman and Joshua Logan and music and lyrics by Harold Rome. A tale of love, secrets, and passion set in and around the old French port of Marseille, it is based on Marcel Pagnol's trilogy of plays entitled Marius, Fanny and César.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1954 and ran for 888 performances, and later was staged in the West End.

Harvest (1937 film)

Harvest (French: Regain) is a 1937 French drama film directed by Marcel Pagnol, starring Fernandel, Orane Demazis, Marguerite Moreno and Gabriel Gabrio. The narrative revolves a farming village where only three inhabitants remain, but they are told that if only one of them, Panturle, manages to find a wife, the village will be able to prosper again. The film is based on the 1930 novel Second Harvest by Jean Giono. It was released in France on 28 October 1937 and in the United States on 2 October 1939.

Letters from My Windmill (film)

Letters from My Windmill (French: Les lettres de mon moulin) is a 1954 French comedy-drama film directed by Marcel Pagnol, starring Rellys, Robert Vattier, Fernand Sardou and Édouard Delmont. Set in the countryside of Provence, the film is based on three tales from Alphonse Daudet's 1869 short story collection Letters from My Windmill: "The Three Low Masses", "The Elixir of Father Gaucher" and "The Secret of Master Cornille". It premiered on 5 November 1954 and had 2,399,645 admissions in France.In 1968 Pagnol made a television film based on another story from the same collection, Le curé de Cucugnan. Roger Crouzet was hired again and reprised his role as Daudet from Letters from My Windmill.

Lycée Français International Marcel Pagnol

Lycée Français International Marcel Pagnol (Spanish: Liceo Francés Internacional Marcel Pagnol) is a French international school in Asunción, Paraguay. The school serves levels maternelle through lycée (senior high school).

Manon des Sources (1986 film)

Manon des Sources (French pronunciation: ​[manɔ̃ de suʁs]; meaning Manon of the Spring) is a 1986 French language period tragedy film. Directed by Claude Berri, it is the second of two films adapted from the 1966 two-volume novel by Marcel Pagnol, who wrote it based on his own earlier film of the same title. It is the sequel to Jean de Florette. It won an award in 1989 as best French film.

Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are ranked No. 60 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.

Marius (1931 film)

Marius is a 1931 French drama film directed by Alexander Korda. It is based on the play with the same title by Marcel Pagnol. The film is a part of a trilogy which includes the films Fanny (Marius's ex-fiancée) and César (Marius's father). The film was selected to be screened in the Cannes Classics section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The restored film was also given a limited re-release in the United States by Janus Films on January 4, 2017, first premiering at Film Forum.The film was made by Korda for the French subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. A separate Swedish-language version Längtan till havet by John W. Brunius was also released in 1931 and a German-language version The Golden Anchor, also directed by Korda, was released the following year.

Port of Seven Seas

Port of Seven Seas is a 1938 drama film starring Wallace Beery and featuring Frank Morgan and Maureen O'Sullivan. The movie was written by Preston Sturges based on the plays of Marcel Pagnol and the films based on them, and was directed by James Whale (director of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man). The cinematography is by Karl Freund, who filmed Fritz Lang's Metropolis and I Love Lucy.

The Baker's Wife (film)

The Baker's Wife (French: La femme du boulanger) is a 1938 French drama film directed by Marcel Pagnol. It is based on the novel Blue Boy by French author Jean Giono and became the basis of the American musical The Baker's Wife.

It tells how the peace of a Provençal village is shattered when the baker's wife runs off with a handsome shepherd. In his despair, the baker becomes heartbroken and can no longer bake. The villagers organise themselves to bring the wife back to her husband and so regain their daily bread.

The Golden Anchor

The Golden Anchor (German: Zum goldenen Anker) is a 1932 German-French drama film directed by Alexander Korda and starring Albert Bassermann, Ursula Grabley and Mathias Wieman. It is the German-language version of Marius (1931). Such multi-language versions were common during the early years of sound. It was made at the Joinville Studios by the European branch of Paramount Pictures.

The Pretty Miller Girl

The Pretty Miller Girl (French: La Belle Meunière) is a 1949 French musical film directed by Marcel Pagnol and starring Tino Rossi, Jacqueline Pagnol and Raoul Marco. It is part of the tradition of operetta films. The title is a reference to Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin.

The Well-Digger's Daughter (1940 film)

The Well-Digger's Daughter (French: La Fille du puisatier) is a 1940 French romantic comedy drama film directed by Marcel Pagnol.

Topaze (1933 American film)

Topaze is a 1933 American pre-Code film directed by D'Abbadie D'Arrast and starring John Barrymore and Myrna Loy. It was based on the French play of the same name by Marcel Pagnol. Another film version of Topaze, this one made in the original French was also released that year, starring Louis Jouvet in the title role. Subsequently, Pagnol himself directed another film titles Topaze in 1936.

Topaze (1936 film)

Topaze is a 1936 French comedy film directed by Marcel Pagnol and starring Alexandre Arnaudy, Sylvia Bataille and Pierre Asso. It is based on the Pagnol's own 1928 play Topaze. A separate adaptation Topaze had been directed by Louis J. Gasnier three years earlier.

Topaze (1951 film)

Topaze is a 1951 French film directed by Marcel Pagnol, based on his play of the same name. It stars Fernandel, Hélène Perdrière, Marcel Vallée.

École Française Marcel Pagnol

École Française d'Abuja Marcel Pagnol is a French international school in Kaura District, Abuja, Nigeria. It serves levels maternelle (preschool) through lycée (senior high school or sixth form). As of 2015 the school directly teaches until troisième and uses CNED for seconde and prèmiere ES.It is adjacent to the "Prince and Princess Estate" and is in proximity to the Kaura Market, in southern Abuja.

Marcel Pagnol
Films directed

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