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French Costume Drama of the 1950s

Fashioning Politics in Film

When political and civil unrest threatened France’s social order in the 1950s, French cinema provided audiences a unique form of escapism from such troubled times: a nostalgic look back to the France of the nineteenth century, with costume dramas set in the age of Napoleon and the Belle Époque. Film critics, however, have routinely dismissed this period of French cinema, overlooking a very important period of political cultural history. French Costume Drama of the 1950s redresses this balance, exploring a diverse range of films including Guitry’s Napoléon (1955), Vernay’s Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1943), and Becker’s Casque d’Or (1952) to expose the political cultural paradox between nostalgia for a lost past and the drive for modernization.

480 pages | 20 halftones | 7 x 9 | © 2010

Film Studies

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"This may be the best film book of the year, and it is certainly the most minutely researched."—Choice


Table of Contents

List of Figures and Illustrations

Part I: Contexts
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Setting Out the Terrain: Genre and History
Chapter 3: Setting Out the Terrain: Technologies, Technicians and Stars
Part II: Fairytales, Foxy Women and Swashbuckling Heroes
Chapter 4: Costume Drama from Late-Medieval to the Eighteenth Century: An Overview
Chapter 5: Mysterious Microcosms: Three ’Fairytales’
Chapter 6: Foxy Women: Queens, Mistresses and Minxes
Chapter 7: Swashbuckling Heroes
Part III: Representing History: Epics, Courtesans and Master Narratives 1796–1888
Chapter 8: Setting the Terrain: France 1796–1888
Chapter 9: Representing History: 1796–1814 Napoleon Bonaparte/Napoleon I
Chapter 10: Representing the Social: Restoration–July Monarchy (1814–1848)
Chapter 11: Epic Grandeur: Part One, Philanthropists
Chapter 12: Epic Grandeur: Part Two, Avengers
Chapter 13: From the Second to the Third Republic: Innovation, Corruption and New Identities
Chapter 14: The Second Empire in the Pink: Violets, Waltzes, and the Pursuit of Knowledge
Chapter 15: The Second Empire in the Raw: Martine Carol’s Celebrity Courtesans
Chapter 16: From Empire to Republic: A Modernized France Emerging
Chapter 17: Censoring the Classics: Bel-Ami, Louis Daquin (1954; released in France 1957) 
Part IV: Belle Epoque Mania: Paris, the Provinces and Biopics
Chapter 18: Belle Epoque Films: An Overview
Chapter 19: Parisian Society of the Belle Epoque through Film
Chapter 20: Truth and Lies and the Pursuit of Marriage: Love Intrigues outside Paris
Chapter 21: Making Li(v)es: Belle Epoque Biopics

Appendix: French Costume Drama of the 1950s

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