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Still France's most favourite film
on 6 September 2010
Ask any Frenchman what his favourite film is, and chances are this one will come out on top. The film came out in 1966 and it held the French box-office record until Dany Boon's 'Les Ch'tis' in 2008! It stars two of the country's best-loved comic actors, Louis de Funès and Bourvil, in a WW2 comedy also featuring the talents of Terry-Thomas. The original title "La Grande Vadrouille" is difficult to render but refers to the mad dash across occupied France. In 1942, an RAF plane is shot down over Paris and the three airmen parachute to safety: one lands on Bourvil's painter's scaffolding, another on the roof of the Opera house where the orchestra (led by de Funès) is rehearsing and Terry-Thomas ends up in the seal's bathing pond at the zoo. Our two heroes somewhat reluctantly join forces to take them under their wing(s) and thwart the occupying German police's efforts to capture them before they can escape to the 'free zone'.
The comic moments from this film by Gérard Oury and now firmly engraved in the French people's subconscious are too numerous to mention. Watch it in French with subtitles rather than a dubbed version - there's a fair amount of English in it anyway. You'll find yourself whistling 'Tea for Two' the next time you visit the Turkish baths, that's for sure! It's hard to believe that this film is practically unknown in Britain. Don't neglect it any longer. If you like it, give "Le Corniaud" a try as well - by the same director and with the same two stars - the scene of the crash with a 2CV at the beginning is THE classic comedy moment in French cinema!