La Mome (La Vie en Rose) (2007)




Director:     Olivier Dahan.

Cast:     Marion Cotillard (Edith Piaf), Sylvie Testud (Mômone), Pascal Greggory (Louis Barrier),   Emmanuelle Seigner (Titine), Jean-Paul Rouve (Louis Gassion), Gérard Depardieu (Louis Leplée), Clotilde Courau (Anetta), Jean-Pierre Martins (Marcel Cerdan), Catherine Allégret (Louise), Marc Barbé (Raymond Asso), Caroline Sihol (Marlene Dietrich), Manon Chevallier (Edith - 5 years old), Pauline Burlet (Edith - 10 years old), Elisabeth Commelin (Danielle Bonel), Marc Gannot (Marc Bonel).

very rough life of Edith Piaf, one of the world's greatest singers


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

New York, February 16, 1959.  Edith Piaf faints on stage. 

Belleville, Paris, 1918.  Edith Piaf (under a different name) is born into poverty.  Her mother would sing on the streets for street change.  Her husband is fighting in the trenches during WWI.  Her mother leaves Edith with her grandmother. 

Bernay, Normandie, 1918.  The father takes Edith with him, saying:  "Enough is enough."  She is with her paternal grandmother who is a Madame in a house of prostitution.  Dad tells his mother than he is returning to the circus.  Grandmother tells her son that people will gossip, but Edith's father says they always do anyway.  In the bordello the prostitute known as Titine and her friend acts as mothers for  Edith.  They become very attached to Edith and she to them. 

New York.  Edith Piaf sits in the green room of a recording studio.  Copies of the Billie Holiday records hang on the wall.  Edith really likes the sound of Billie's voice.  She goes to perform with the orchestra. 

Bernay, Normandie.  Edith develops keratitis, involving an inflammation of the eyes.  She has to wear a blindfold over her eyes for a long, long time.

Lisieux, Normandie.  Titine prays to Saint Therese to heal Edith's eyes.  Not long afterwards, Edith takes the blindfold off herself.  The women notice that Edith can see and are extremely happy.  One day dad comes for Edith.  Titine and her friend put up a fight to keep her, but it is of no use.  Edith cries for Titine and Titine for Edith. 

Orly, Paris, June 1959.  The reporters ask Edith what she brought back from New York.  She shows them that she brought back an American.  At a party with friends she is a bit tipsy, but is the life of the party.  A fellow comes to her room.  Edith tells an older man named Loulou not to play the broken-hearted lover. She adds:  "Get lost, we're busy.'  He waits outside the door for awhile.  When he reenters the room, he sees the needles the pair used for their drugs. 

Normandie.  Her father has Edith with him as he works in the circus as a contortionist.  Later her dad quits the circus.  Edith prays to Saint Theresa to change his mind.  Dad starts drinking heavily.  He works on the street as a contortionist for spare change.  When the audience wants his daughter to do something, she sings to them.  They are very impressed and shout "Bravo!"

Grasse, October 1963.  Edith looks really old, even though she is only 48 years of age.  She tells her caretaker Simone that the last three years for her have been disastrous.  She asks:  "I won't sing again, will I?"

Paris, Montmarte, October 1935.  She and her half-sister Momone run around Paris having a ball.  She sings on the street for change.  A policeman approaches them and tells her that she cannot sing on the streets.  But then he tells her if she will sing a song for him, he will let her off.  She sings a song.  In a restaurant Momone and Edith see Edith's mother.  Mom asks her for any spare change.  Edith just wants her to leave, but mom just keeps talking to her.  Finally the two start to tussle a bit, are broken up and Momone and Edith run out of the place.

A night club owner named Louis Leplée watches Edith sing on a street corner.  He tells her:  "You will hurt your vice singing like that."  She knows, she says, but she has to earn some money.  He gives her his card and says that she should contact him.  Coming to the night club, Edith is accosted by her boyfriend Albert the pimp.  She gives him the money she earned from singing and he threatens to put her into prostitution if she does not get him more money.  Momone tells her that she should drop that loser.  Edith sings for Louis.  He says she's incredible.  He calls her the little sparrow and tells her that she will start on Friday. 

When Friday rolls around, Edith has a bad case of stage fright and feels like throwing up.  Louis helps her through this and introduces her to the audience.  Again she wows the audience.  After she sings she meets Marguerite Monnot, pianist and composer.  Marguerite tells Edith that she would like to compose songs for her.  Edith is very flattered.  Then she meets a very influential man, Jacques Canetti, the director of Radio City.  In the press there are lots of articles about her and her singing. 

1936.  At a Happy New Year party Edith is tipsy.  A writer, composer, performer, poet named Raymond Asso meets her. He gives her his card.  He knows he can help improve her singing and her performances. 

Grasse, Oct 1963.  An old-looking Edith listens to her own records.  Her caretaker gives her carrot juice but she can't stand that drink any more.  She knocks it off the arm of her chair.    

Paris.  Louis Leplée is dead, murdered in fact.  The police suspect the Mob.  They question Edith about her connections to Albert and the Mob.  She has some very unsavory friends.  Edith later says that they dragged her through the mud. 

Paris, Montmarte, 1935.  Her half-sister Momone is told by the police that the doctors and her mother are sending her to the girl's detention home.  Edith and Momone strenuously object.  Edith shouts at them:  "You want to kill me?" 

Paris, 1936.  The police blame Edith for killing Louis.  Her reputation starts to take a dive.  When she sings now there is a lot of booing and hissing from the audience. 

1959?   Edith receives an injection of drugs (probably).  She tells her staff to bring the American to her dressing room.  She tells the American that she wants to go to Chalons.  They drive in the rain and get into a car accident.  Edith suffers two broken ribs. 

1936.  Edith finally calls Raymond Asso.  They meet and he tells her that her cabaret life is now at an end.  He turns out to be a real task master.  So tough, that he often makes Edith cry.   He tells her that she slurs her words.  And she must start to think like an actress.  She must live the song.  Edith says to the pianist:  "He's mocking me!"  Raymond says:  "Do what I say or go back to the gutter."  Edith quits the lessons.  Then Raymond comes to her.  She goes back to practicing.  He tells her: "Use your hands."   He also tells her that she is very pig-headed. 

Edith will perform at a huge music hall.  Before her performance she starts panicking and Raymond has to talk her onto the stage.  When she does get on stage she looks petrified.  It takes her a while to warm up to the audience.  But soon she is remembering what Raymond taught her and wins over the audience.  At the end she receives a standing ovation.  Piaf goes on tour!., scream the headlines. 

Paris February 14, 1940.  A corporal about to head for the front lines, Michael Emer, gets five minutes of Edith's time to perform a song he composed.  She listens and really likes it.  She tells him:  "I want it."

New York, 1947.  Edith moans that the Americans don't like her, they only want beauties as singers.  "They think I'm sad."  But one of her staff shows her a newspaper article about her full of her praise by the very influential critic Virgil Thompson.  (With that article the Americans start coming in large numbers to hear her sing.) Edith goes out on a date with Frenchman Marcel Cerdan, later middle weight boxing champion of the world.  He takes her to a coffee shop and Edith is none too pleased, even if it is his local spot.  So they go to a fancy restaurant.  She tells him that she has been in New York for eight weeks.  People seem to recognize him a lot more than her.  He lives in Morocco and raises pigs with his wife and children.  After the date she tells Momone all about it and says "He's the love of my life!"

Edith sings what is her signature song "La Vie en Rose".  The actress Marlene Dietrich comes over to thank her for the song saying:  "It made me cry."   In the hotel room she has sex with Cerdan.

Dreux December 13, 1959.  Edith almost faints on stage.  She has to excuse herself from the performance.  The staff feel that she must be hospitalized, but she insists on going back on stage.  She does so, but faints again. 

New York 1947.  Edith prays and thanks Saint Theresa for sending Cerdan to her.  She also asks her to protect him.  She goes to his fight with Tony Zale.  She shouts at him to knock the guy out.  Zale is hurt during the fight and Cerdan wins.  Edith and her boxer then celebrate in their hotel room. 

Paris February 1960.  Edith is running short on money and she owes a lot of back taxes.  She also has a very bad liver. 

New York 1949  At a party, Edith speaks with Cerdan on the phone.  She tells him that she misses him.  Momone is a bit jealous and threatens to go back to Paris.  Marcel shows up later.  She tells him that she has a present for him and goes to look for it.  She can't find it and starts demanding that her staff find the present.  But apparently this last part was just a dream, for her staff looks extremely downcast.  They tell her that she will have to be brave.  The plane crashed!  Marcel is dead.  Edith goes screaming "Marcel, Marcel" throughout the large apartment!  Edith visits a psychic to try and contact Marcel in the afterlife.  Later she cuts her long hair short.  

California August 1955.  Edith is out driving with her friends and is a little tipsy.  She talks about her first husband, Jacques Pills.  They stop the car to let a woman named Ginou get out and throw up.  Edith insists on taking the wheel and runs the car into a tree.  She shouts:  "We killed a tree!" 

Edith has the shakes and is taken to the doctor.  She tells him that she has been taking up to ten injections a day.  The doctor does not approve, but she tells the doctor that it's "so my body will shut up."  She is now arthritic and cannot knit as she loves to do.  She is sent to rehabilitation. 

October 1960.  5 years later.  Edith is very hunched over.  She tells Bruno she will not perform at Olympia.  But later she listens to a song by composer Charles Dumont.  Very quickly she tells him that she likes it.  She tells her staff:  "It's exactly what I've been waiting for."  She tells them she will perform at Olympia.  At the performance singer Charles Aznavour, playwright Cocteau and singer Yves Montand are in attendance.

Edith is on the beach waiting for her interviewer who is a little late.  The young woman shows up and asks Edith a small number of questions. 

Grasse October 1963.  Edith is afraid that she is losing her memory.  She says she has been thinking about Marcel.  She has a number of flashbacks, including one of the prostitute Titine.  One of the memories is about something we did not know before.  She had a child over whom she and the child's father fought.  The father takes the child away from the rather neglectful Edith.  The child is put in the hospital with meningitis.  She dies.

California 1955.  Sitting on the beach Edith answers more questions from her interviewer.  She had another husband, Theo. 

Olympia.  Edith sings one of  her best songs ever: Non Je Ne Regrette Rien composed by Charles Dumont. 

Grasse, October 11, 1963.  Edith dies in bed.


Very good movie.  My wife and I both liked it.  Poor Edith!  What a hard life she had, despite the many acclaims she received.  Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf was marvelous.  And the makeup artists were stupendous.  They really did a great job of portraying Edith at different times in her life.  And you get to listen to some great music!  I really wanted to watch the movie because of that great song: Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (and I don't know more than two words in French).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

1915  --  she is born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris.  She was named for a WWI British nurse named Edith Cavell, who the Germans executed for helping French P.O.W.s escape.  Her mother worked as a café singer under the name Line Marsa. Her father, Louis-Alphonse Gassion, was a street acrobat (with a theatre past).  Her parents abandoned her at a young child.  She lived with her maternal grandmother, Emma (Aïcha) Saïd ben Mohammed, who was a Berber from Algeria.  Édith's father took her his own mother, who was a cook in a Normandy brothel.   The prostitutes helped look after Edith.

1916  --  her father joined the French Army and fought in World War I.

1918-1922  --  Edith is blind from meningitis. Legend says that she recovered her sight when the prostitutes paid for a pilgrimage to Saint Theresa. 

1929  --  at 14 years of age Edith joined her father in his acrobatic street performances.  It was her where she first sang in public.

Edith got away from her father to be on her own.  She earned money by being a street singer in the Paris suburbs. 

Edith's half-sister Simone Berteaut ("Momone") teamed up wilth each other.  (They would remain lifelong partners.) 

1931  --  she falls in love with delivery boy, Louis Dupont.

1932  --  at age 17 she gives birth to her only child, she named Marcelle.  Edith had a hard time raising Marcelle and Dupont took the girl from her. 

1934  --  Marcelle dies of meningitis.

A pimp named Albert is her next boyfriend.  He abused her with the threat that is she didn't pay him, he would force into a lifetime of prostitution.  When Edith broke it off with Albert, he nearly shot her. 

1935  -- nightclub owner Louis Leplée discovers Édith.  He owns the Le Gerny off the Champ Elysees.  Edith was only 4' 8" tall and was extremely nervous about singing before and audience.  It was he who gave her the lifetime nicknmae of  La Môme Piaf (the Little Sparrow).  Her performances lead to her recording her first two records.  One of them is composed by Marguerite Monnot who proves to be a lifetime Piaf collaborator. 

1936 (April 6)  --  Leplée is murdered.  People thought that Albert and his kind shot the night club owner.  Piaf is accused of being an accessory, but is acquitted.  (But he had been killed by mobsters with previous ties to Piaf and this gave her so much negative publicity that it actually threatened her career.)  She gets Raymond Asso to improve her singing. He is the one who gives her the name of Edith Piaf.  (And she becomes romantically involved with him..)

1939-1945  --  the Second World War.  Edith dates a Jewish pianist. 

1940  --  Édith co-stars in a Jean Cocteau one-act play called Le Bel Indifférent.   She makes some bigshot friends such as singer/actor Maurice Chevalier and poet Jacques Borgeat. 

1944  --  she discovers Yves Montand who becomes a great French singer and actor.  He becomes her employee, mentor and lover.  She broke it off with him when he because about as popular as her. 

She becomes France's most popular entertainer.

1945  --  her signature song "La vie en rose" is written.  

1946  --   after the end of WWII, she becomes well-known internationally.  She tours the USA and South America.  In the USA she wasn't that popular, saying she was to sad.

1949 (October)  --  the love of her life, the middleweight world champion Marcel Cerdan, dies in a plane crash on his way to a rematch fight with Jake LaMotta. 

early 1950s  --  she helps Charles Aznavour, who becomes another great French singer.

1951 --  riding with Aznavour, she breaks an arm and two ribs in car crash; after this she develops serious additions to morphine and alcohol.  She gets in two later auto crashes.

1952  --  she marries the singer Jacques Pills.  He takes to rehabilitation three different times.  (It was no use.)

1955-1962  --  she performs at the important Paris Olympia concert hall, earning legendary fame. 

A prominent New York critic helps boost her career in the US by writing her a great review.  Now she is showcased on the Ed Sullivan Show eight times.

1956  --  performed at Carnegie Hall.  She divorces Jacques Pills. 

1957  --  performed again at Carnegie Hall. 

1961  --  excerpts from five of her Paris Olympia concerts (1955, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962) are issued on record and CD.

1962  --  Edith's marries a second time, this one to a 26-year old singer/actor, the Greek Théo Sarapo, who was 20 years younger than her.  He sings with her in some of her last performances.

1963  --  Edith introduces her now famous song "Non je ne regrette rien".

1963 (April)  --  she records her last song, "L'homme de Berlin".

1963 (October 11)  --  at 47 years old (she looked 10-20 years older), she dies of liver cancer at Plascassier on the French Rivera.  More than 40,000 people attend her funeral.  She is buried in Paris. 


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