The character Arsène Lupin, created by French novelist Maurice Leblanc, is making a come-back thanks to Netflix’ Lupin with Omar Sy. But the new show is only the latest adaptation of the adventures of Arsène Lupin. A French series in the 90’s based on the gentleman thief — Les nouveaux exploits d'Arsène Lupin — already made headlines and is now available to watch in America on TV5MONDE.
80 years after his death, Maurice Leblanc has yet never been more relevant. His books are back on the best-sellers list in France and his name is associated with the biggest streaming platform. Highschoolers of 2022 are finding out, just like their parents and grand-parents before them, how thrilling his writing was. Maurice Leblanc is no stranger to French readers. But Americans as well as the rest of the world have recently discovered him through the success of Lupin, Netflix’s latest French series. The streaming platform had a lot of hope when they released their adaptation of Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin. George Kay, the creator of the show, used the books to write the script but the series itself doesn’t in fact follow any novel. Omar Sy actually plays an admirer of Arsène Lupin, who uses the character’s tricks to get revenge on a rich Parisian family who are responsible for the death of his father.
Lupin was an instant hit and was the first ever French series to be on Netflix’s top 10 in the United States. The first season was watched by 76 million viewers, and the second season by 54 million, making it one of Netflix’s biggest successes to date. It’s no surprise a season 3 is expected for early 2023. In the two weeks following the release of the Netflix series, the number of Arsène Lupin books sold was the equivalent of a normal full year of sales of the Maurice LeBlanc character.
Arsène Lupin, a copycat of Sherlock Holmes?
Maurice Leblanc, born in 1864 and a descendent of Gustave Flaubert on his mother’s side, always wanted to pursue a career in writing. As a teenager, he was already hanging out with two of the biggest names in French literature, Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. Not much of a manual worker, he started as a journalist, like many writers before him. At 29, he wrote his first book, a best-seller, Une femme. After a few misfires, he was then asked by an editor to write a short story inspired by the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Arsène Lupin was born. L’arrestation d’Arsène Lupin was an immense success. Two years later, the first novel based on the character came out, Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur. The book gently poked fun at Sherlock Holmes and Watson, with two side characters named Herlock Sholmès and Wilson. A joke not to the taste of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… Book after book, Maurice Leblanc became one of the most popular writers of his time but suffered from not being recognised by his peers, who saw the Arsène Lupin novels as cheap literature.
Arsène Lupin and Hollywood
Very early on, the persona of Arsène Lupin appealed to the TV and movie industry. Arsène Lupin is street-smart, funny, taking from the rich, solving criminal investigations but is an outlaw himself. A perfect combo for an endearing anti-hero. The first film adapted from the Arsène Lupin books came from Hollywood in 1908. Edwin Stratton Porter, the father of Western, stepped away from his favorite genre with The Gentleman Burglar. At the time, the character of Arsène Lupin was not well-known in America and the film was a massive flop. From 1910 to 1917, 5 more Arsène Lupin movies were released, coming from France, England and Germany. But Hollywood was not done with Arsène Lupin. In 1919, Chester Withey brought back Arsène Lupin to America with the silent movie The Teeth of the Tiger, which is now considered a lost movie as no film reels have been located. Many, many more adaptations were released until the late 50’s coming from all over the world including Japan, Hungary and Mexico.
It didn’t take long for Arsène Lupin to become a TV character once TV sets became available to the masses. The first adaptation came from Québec but the one TV adaptation that made headlines in France is with no doubt Le retour d’Arsène Lupin. The twelve episodes were released in 1989 and 1990 and brought back the gentleman robber to the spotlight. The show was such a hit that a follow-up was broadcast in 1995 with the same characters. Les nouveau exploits d’Arsène Lupin was a thrilling mini-series and is now available to watch on TV5MONDE USA.
Interested in reading Arsène Lupin before watching the show on TV5MONDE? You’ve got plenty to binge-read with 26 novels, the last one being an unfinished draft published posthumously.
Here are every Arsène Lupin book in order:
Your free time is sparse and rare but you still want to find out what Arsène Lupin is all about? Here are the 3 Arsène Lupin books you should read.
1. Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur (Arsène Lupin, the Gentleman-Thief)
The one that started everything. Following the short story written by Maurice Leblanc, this book was the very first long format telling the story of Arsène Lupin. The book already showcased the witty confidence of the burglar, his hate of the rich and powerful who profit from the poor. His disdain for Sherlock Holmes was also pretty obvious early on and the English investigator is often mocked as someone incapable of thinking outside the box.
2.L’aiguille creuse (The Hollow Needle)
The third adventure of Arsène Lupin has been one of the most adapted in movies or series. Why? Because it is tied with the history of France as Arsène Lupin is trying to find a secret treasure that has been passed on from kings to kings until it was lost at the death of Marie-Antoinette.
3. L’Île aux Trente cercueils (The Island of Thirty Coffins)
This novel published in 1919 is an odd one out. This story, set on a strange island where a woman is looking for her presumed dead father and brother, slightly delves into science-fiction as the many twists are revealed.
Watch now on TV5MONDE USA, Arsène Lupin, La robe de Diamants.
Arsène Lupin taunts the Council’s president with the theft of a designer dress, adorned with 487 diamonds, which the governor intends to offer to the wife of the Sultan of Brunei. Everything must happen during the fashion contest organized at the Countess Adrienne's, interpreted by Michel Laroque. With a police device set up by Commissioner Ganimard (Paul Le Person) proven ineffective, a masked man pretending to be Lupin seizes the precious dress during the ceremony…but is it the real dress or a copycat?