Untel pPre et fils (Heart of a Nation) (1943)
Director: Julien Duvivier.
Starring: Raimu (L'oncle Jules Froment), MichPle Morgan (Marie Froment-Léonard), Louis Jouvet (Pierre Froment/Félix Froment), Suzy Prim (Estelle Froment adulte), Renée Devillers (Gabrielle Froment), Georges Biscot (Noblet), Colette Darfeuil (L'entraîneuse habituée du Moulin Rouge), Harry Krimer (Robert Léonard), René Génin (Le pPre de Gabrielle), Fernand Ledoux (Le maire), Daniel Mendaille (Clémenceau), Jean Mercanton (Alain Froment), Lucien Nat (Bernard Froment adulte), René Bergeron (Sénéchal), Colette Borelli (Estelle enfant).
the Froment family of Montmartre, France from the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 to Nazi occupation in World War II
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
An o.k. movie. Introduction by actor Charles Boyer:
June 14, 1940. German troops enter Paris. Humiliation had come to France once again.
On March 3, 1871, 30,000 German troops marched past the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées.
1871. For seven months now France has been at war with Germany (Franco-Prussian War). But this time too, peace-loving France was not prepared for war. Germany was. She always has been. France's resistance was desperate, but her badly equipped armies were beaten back. During the winter of 1871, the enemy besieged the gates of Paris.
It is now January. Montmartre. For four months from the surrounding heights, the Germans have steadily shelled the capital.
The Froment family consists of simple peasant parents, two boys (Bernard and Félix) and a girl (Estelle). This year Estelle receives her first kiss from a boy. It is a time of shortages with bread lines (and at times they run out of bread). The French have decided to try to break through the surrounding German lines. They see this as their only chance. Father Froment sends a letter to his brother with his last will and testament enclosed (just in case).
Father Froment is killed in action and the Germans march on the Champs Elysées. Felix runs from the house crying. France has lost the war and Alsace and Lorraine.
Life marches on. Trolleys appear in Paris; Offenbach is at the height of his glory, Pasteur makes his discoveries in medicine; the bicycle is still seen as a strange contraption; author Victor Hugo receives a state funeral; Eiffel submits plans for a 900 foot tower; and the 1889 world fair opens.
1889, July 30. Bernard is marrying Gabrielle. They decide to have the wedding procession using bicycles as the means of transportation. Felix announces that he is going to leave France next month. (He loved Gabrielle too and does not want to be around her now.)
Bernard and Gabrielle have a baby boy, Alain, and a baby girl, Marie, fraternal twins.
1900. The automobile arrives, driven by Uncle Jules. He takes Bernard and Gabrielle out to the Moulin Rouge.
1906. Bernard is pained to learn that his son Alain has not been going to his medical school classes. Alain finally tells his father that he likes mechanics and wants to work on building successful airplanes with another of his uncles. The two men get their plane off the ground and it flies for a short distance, but it then crashes and burns with no one injured.
1910. Bernard pays a visit to Marie's boyfriend, Robert Léonard, a painter, at the painters' studio. Marie thought her father would disapprove, but is surprised when he gives his blessings.
1914. Alain is up in an airplane when the bells start ringing announcing the beginning of World War I. Marie has a son, Christian.
1916. An opera house is now being used as a hospital. For her outstanding services, nurse Estelle, is presented with the medal for the Knight of the Legion of Honor.
1918. The Germans have reached the Marne. Alain goes up to do some reconnaissance. His mother and father learn that he has been killed in action. Frenchmen celebrate the Allied victory at the Marne with 16,000 prisoners taken and 300 cannons captured.
1918 (November). The end of World War I.
1925 (November). Estelle and Uncle Jules reminisce about World War I and friends. A wife of one of the men who was saved by Estelle visits the former nurse to say that her husband would have written on this the anniversary of the end of World War I, but he has past away.
1931. Felix is an old man now. He has been in Africa for some 30 years. He has done so much that a bridge is being named in his honor.
1938. A cheer goes up for Christian Léonard, now a doctor of medicine. Grandfather arrives to tell Christian just how proud he is of the young man. His father and he had dreamed that one day they would have a doctor in the family and now the dream has come true. Grandfather meets Nicole, Christian's girlfriend.
1939. Christian, in army uniform, marries Nicole.
And France for the third time in an average man's lifespan has to fight for peace: "We had to pay dearly to live in peace."
The movie is an old one. The film quality is not the best. And the dubbing, especially of the children's voices, sounds funny at times. The movie did a pretty good job of covering some 70 years of French history in just 113 minutes.
In more recent days many conservative Americans counter French criticism of the USA with references to the weak French military compared to that of the Germans. (They usually add that it was the USA who saved the hides of the Frenchmen. Actually more credit is due to the Soviet Union which lost 23 million people in World War II compared to America's half million.) Anyway, the movie tries to explain the situation the French found themselves in during the Second World War. A good point is made in the introduction that France was usually unprepared for war, whereas Germany, a militaristic nation, was always prepared (and usually the aggressor). Hey, France was a nation made for love and Germany for war, with the USA in the middle leaning toward the militarist tradition.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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