Mademoiselle Fifi (1944)

69 mins | Drama | 1944

Director:

Robert Wise

Producer:

Val Lewton

Cinematographer:

Harry Wild

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Silent Bell . In the opening credits, the title appears as "Guy de Maupassant's Mademoiselle Fifi ." The film opens with the following prologue: "1870 The Franco Prussian War. Then as in our time, there was an occupied and an unoccupied territory." According to a memo contained in the RKO Legal Files, in Oct 1943, producer Val Lewton, hoping to enhance his reputation by moving out of the horror film genre, proposed that the studio make a period piece based on the stories of de Maupassant starring Erich von Stroheim and Simone Simon. Charles Koerner, RKO's production chief at the time, responded that although he believed the studio could exploit the use of de Maupassant's name in the project, he was fearful of the film's subject matter. Koerner's reservations proved justified as in previews of the film, the audience objected to the ending, which they viewed as showing submission to the Prussians. The film fared poorly at the box office, losing more than any previous Lewton film. According to a pre-production news item in HR , the studio negotiated with George Sanders to play the role of "Fifi." Another news item in HR adds that the snow sequences were shot around Big Bear, CA. Captain Carl F. Cook, who served as the film's technical advisor, was a German Naval officer in World War I, according to HR . Other films based on de Maupassant's story "Boule de Suif" were the 1934 Russian film Boule de Suif and the 1945 French film of the same ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Silent Bell . In the opening credits, the title appears as "Guy de Maupassant's Mademoiselle Fifi ." The film opens with the following prologue: "1870 The Franco Prussian War. Then as in our time, there was an occupied and an unoccupied territory." According to a memo contained in the RKO Legal Files, in Oct 1943, producer Val Lewton, hoping to enhance his reputation by moving out of the horror film genre, proposed that the studio make a period piece based on the stories of de Maupassant starring Erich von Stroheim and Simone Simon. Charles Koerner, RKO's production chief at the time, responded that although he believed the studio could exploit the use of de Maupassant's name in the project, he was fearful of the film's subject matter. Koerner's reservations proved justified as in previews of the film, the audience objected to the ending, which they viewed as showing submission to the Prussians. The film fared poorly at the box office, losing more than any previous Lewton film. According to a pre-production news item in HR , the studio negotiated with George Sanders to play the role of "Fifi." Another news item in HR adds that the snow sequences were shot around Big Bear, CA. Captain Carl F. Cook, who served as the film's technical advisor, was a German Naval officer in World War I, according to HR . Other films based on de Maupassant's story "Boule de Suif" were the 1934 Russian film Boule de Suif and the 1945 French film of the same title. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Jul 1944.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Jul 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 44
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 44
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Jun 44
p. 1958.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Jul 44
pp. 2017-18.
Variety
2 Aug 44
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Supv prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Mademoiselle Fifi" by Guy de Maupassant in Mademoiselle Fifi and Other Stories (Paris, 1882) and his short story "Boule-de-suif" in Les Soirées de Médan (Paris, 1880).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Guy de Maupassant's Mademoiselle Fifi
The Silent Bell
Production Date:
23 March--late April 1944
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 August 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12791
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
69
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10066
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian war, the little French village of Cleresville is occupied by Prussian invaders. In defiance of the ruthless German officer Lt. von Eyrick, known as Fifi because he proclaims the town to be his "Fifidom," the curé of Cleresville refuses to ring the church bell. Meanwhile, in the town of Rouen, the young priest who is to replace the retiring curé prays at the tomb of Joan of Arc and then boards the coach bound for Cleresville. Among his fellow passengers are the Count and Countess de Breville; a wine wholesaler and his wife; a merchant and his wife; the outspoken liberal Jean Cornudet and Elizabeth Rousset, a poor laundress returning home to Cleresville. On the long cold journey through the barren French countryside, Cornudet denounces the bourgeoise among the passengers as corrupt and self- serving. Although Elizabeth has been snubbed by the others, she offers to share her hamper of food with them and later voices her defiance of the Prussian occupiers. When the coach stops at an inn for the night, von Eyrick, a guest at the inn, demands to speak to Elizabeth. She returns from her interview flustered, and the next morning, von Eyrick refuses to allow the coach to continue unless Elizabeth agrees to dine with him. When Elizabeth refuses to eat with her enemies, her fellow travelers applaud her patriotism. As the next day dawns, however, they grow impatient and denounce her scruples. When Cordunet, who has expressed his admiration for Elizabeth, concurs with the others, she relents and agrees to dine with von Eyrick. In a private dining room upstairs, von ... +


In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian war, the little French village of Cleresville is occupied by Prussian invaders. In defiance of the ruthless German officer Lt. von Eyrick, known as Fifi because he proclaims the town to be his "Fifidom," the curé of Cleresville refuses to ring the church bell. Meanwhile, in the town of Rouen, the young priest who is to replace the retiring curé prays at the tomb of Joan of Arc and then boards the coach bound for Cleresville. Among his fellow passengers are the Count and Countess de Breville; a wine wholesaler and his wife; a merchant and his wife; the outspoken liberal Jean Cornudet and Elizabeth Rousset, a poor laundress returning home to Cleresville. On the long cold journey through the barren French countryside, Cornudet denounces the bourgeoise among the passengers as corrupt and self- serving. Although Elizabeth has been snubbed by the others, she offers to share her hamper of food with them and later voices her defiance of the Prussian occupiers. When the coach stops at an inn for the night, von Eyrick, a guest at the inn, demands to speak to Elizabeth. She returns from her interview flustered, and the next morning, von Eyrick refuses to allow the coach to continue unless Elizabeth agrees to dine with him. When Elizabeth refuses to eat with her enemies, her fellow travelers applaud her patriotism. As the next day dawns, however, they grow impatient and denounce her scruples. When Cordunet, who has expressed his admiration for Elizabeth, concurs with the others, she relents and agrees to dine with von Eyrick. In a private dining room upstairs, von Eyrick tries to humiliate Elizabeth and break her spirit, while downstairs, the others celebrate. The next morning, when Von Eyrick announces that he plans to ride the coach to Cleresville, the passengers welcome him and snub Elizabeth. In Cleresville, Elizabeth, von Eyrick and the priest leave the coach, and after the others begin to make snide comments about the laundress, Cornudet denounces them for betraying her and goes to beg her forgiveness. Although Elizabeth refuses his apology, her defiance has renewed his sense of patriotism, and he vows to defend the bell against the Prussian soldiers. Meanwhile, at the chateau, the bored Prussian officers decide to throw a party and send the corporal to town to find five beautiful girls to entertain them. When the corporal states that the Prussians will take their business away from her aunt's laundry unless Elizabeth joins them, she has no choice but to attend the party. Before the festivities begin, the Prussian captain decides to visit the church with his troops to ring the bell, but he is met by an armed Cordunet, who shoots him and runs away. Learning that Elizabeth has gone to the chateau, Cordunet follows her there. Meanwhile, at the party, Elizabeth is paired with the haughty von Eyrick. Infuriated by his boasts of French cowardice, she stabs him and flees the chateau. When Cornudet pulls her into a passageway to protect her from the soldiers, her faith is restored by his newfound patriotism. The two find refuge in the church, and when the Prussians order the bell to be rung at von Eyrick's funeral, the priest agrees, knowing that Elizabeth has already struck the first blow for freedom by killing the Prussian officer. As the bell peals, signaling an awakening of pride and resistance in the village, Cornudet leaves to join the resistance fighters. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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