Bourvil-De Funès: The French comedic duo that you must know

Bourvil and Louis de Funès in Les Rois De La Comédie © TV5 Monde USA Inc,
Bourvil and Louis de Funès in Les Rois De La Comédie © TV5 Monde USA Inc,
Bourvil and Louis de Funès in Les Rois De La Comédie © TV5 Monde USA Inc,
Louis de Funès and Bourvil were beloved by French audiences. Their comedic style was very different and it wasn't until the mid 60's and director Gerard Oury...
Don't miss a special Louis de Funès tribute playing through January on TV5MONDE Cinema On Demand with these films: La Folie des Grandeurs (1971), L'Homme Orchestre (1970), Hibernatus (1969), Le P'tit Baigneur (1968), Oscar (1967), Pouic-Pouic (1963), Les Grandes Vacances (1967), Le Grand Restaurant (1966), and La Zizanie (1978).
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Bourvil and Louis de Funès in Les Rois De La Comédie © TV5 Monde USA Inc,

Before Key & Peele, Flight of the Conchords or the Palmashow in France, there was another comedic duo that made France laugh. And it was at at time when it needed it the most, the post WWII era. For two decades - from the 50s all the way to the 70's - Bourvil and Louis de Funès were beloved by French audiences. Their comedic style was very different and it wasn't until the mid 60's and director Gerard Oury that they were finally paired as the lead roles in comedies. Their association birthed three classic French movies: La Grande Vadrouille, Le Corniaud (The Sucker) and La Traversée de Paris.

Where can you watch Louis de Funès and Bourvil movies?

TV5MONDE is the place to be for classic French movies. We're talking enduring comedies like "Rabbi Jacob", "The Sucker" and "La Grande vadrouille" or New Wave dramas like "Breathless" and "Cléo From 5 to 7". The French-language network offers the largest selection of French movies and French series with English subtitles in America. With TV5MONDE, you can choose to watch the French network that offers a wide range of programming around French culture and French art-de-vivre, on top of French-language films. Or you can also stream French movies anytime you want with the streaming platform TV5MONDEplus and its thousands of French-language titles available with English or French subtitles.

Good news! In November, TV5MONDE Cinema on Demand will stream 10 French movies with Louis de Funès including the hit comedies "Le Grand restaurant", "La folie des grandeurs", "Oscar", "Les grandes vacances" and "Hibernatus".

Looking to know more about Louis de Funès' rise to fame and special place in French cinema? Watch the documentary available on the French streaming platformTV5MONDEPlus, "Louis de Funès, champion du box office" or read our article on the Top 15 Movies of Louis de Funès

The Iconic Duo: Bourvil and De Funès

When it comes to comedy duos in French cinema, none are quite as iconic as Bourvil and De Funès. Individually, they were two of the most talented and beloved comedic actors of their time. Louis de Funès was the extravagant comedian, acting in almost 10 films a year (!), a sort of mix between Jim Carrey, Jerry Lewis and Ben Stiller. Then there was Bourvil, the more reserved comedian, often playing candid and chatty characters and also a writer of sketches for TV - think of him as a Jerry Seinfeld meets Woody Allen. Through their contrasting styles and undeniable chemistry, they created some of the most memorable and enduring French comedies in French cinema history.

Contrasting Styles, Complementary Performances

Bourvil and De Funès were an unlikely pairing, at least on the surface. Bourvil, born André Raimbourg in 1917, was known for his gentle, laid-back charm and impeccable comic timing. He had a talent for physical comedy but was equally adept at delivering lines with deadpan precision. De Funès, born Louis de Funès de Galarza in 1914, was a ball of energy with a more abrasive, frenetic style. He was a master of exaggerated facial expressions and manic movement, and he often played highly-strung characters on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

They both came from very different backgrounds. Louis de Funès came from a bourgeois French family, while Bourvril was a countryman from Normandy. What they had in common is that both of their families didn't really approve of them being artists.

Despite these differences, the two actors shared a deep respect and admiration for each other's work. When they appeared on screen together, their contrasting styles only served to complement each other. Bourvil's calm, steady presence provided the perfect balance to De Funès' manic energy, and the two played off each other brilliantly.

Read more: Discover Louis De Funès, Bourvil, Jean Marais: The Icons of French Cinema You Should Know

Their Impact on French Cinema and Comedy

Bourvil and De Funès first appeared together on-screen in the 1954 film "Poisson d'avril" ("April Fool's Day"). While "Poisson d'avril" is not as well-known as some of the later films that Bourvil and De Funès made together, it is notable for being the first time the two actors shared the screen. Even in this early film, their contrasting comedic styles are on full display, with Bourvil delivering deadpan one-liners while De Funès flits around the screen like a man possessed. The film may not be as iconic as some of their later collaborations, but it laid the foundation for the classic duos that would come. At the time, Bourvil was already the superstar of French cinema, while Louis de Funès had not had any major box-office hits yet.

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"La Traversée de Paris", a first iconic film

"La Traversée de Paris" (Pigs Across Paris), released in 1956, is a French film directed by Claude Autant-Lara and starring Jean Gabin, Bourvil, and Louis de Funès. The film is set in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II and tells the story of two men, a black marketeer named Grandgil (Bourvil) and a working-class painter named Martin (Gabin), who are assigned to transport a stolen pig across the city. Along the way, they encounter a number of obstacles as they try to avoid being caught by the Nazis.

Bourvil and de Funès do not share many scenes in "La Traversée de Paris" as the movie relies more on Gabin and Bourvil. The film was a hit with audiences and critics alike, and is still remembered today as a classic of French cinema. The relationship between Bourvil, de Funès, and Gabin is an interesting one. Gabin was something of a mentor to the younger actors, and he took them under his wing on set. Bourvil and de Funès both spoke highly of Gabin, and they credited him with helping them to refine their craft as actors.

"Le Corniaud" (The Sucker), a big moment for French cinema

"Le Corniaud" (The Sucker), directed by Gérard Oury, tells the story of a wealthy Frenchman named Léopold Saroyan (Louis de Funes) who enlists the unwitting help of a naive car mechanic named Antoine Maréchal (Bourvil) in a smuggling operation. The film was a massive production for French cinema at the time, with filming taking place in both France (Carcassonne, Bordeaux) and Italy (Tivoli, Naples) and costing a lot of money. This was a sharp departure from the typical French comedy films of the time, which were often low-budget affairs and not taken seriously by the film industry.

Despite the difficulties of the production, "Le Corniaud" was a huge success and remains a beloved classic of French cinema. The chemistry between Bourvil (Antoine Maréchal) and de Funès (Léopold Saroyan) was undeniable, and the film's mix of physical comedy and action made it an instant hit with audiences. It also marked a turning point in the careers of both actors, with de Funès becoming a household name and Bourvil solidifying his status as one of France's biggest stars. And how can we not mention the 2cv scene in which Bourvil's small car is hit by De Funès big modern car and break down in hundreds of pieces. The scene represents so well their duo and the roles they've had in movies : Louis de Funès is the arrogant, rich Parisian with no time to spare, while Bourvil is the naïve, defenceless countryman who can't be bothered by rude people.

The relationship between Bourvil and de Funès at the time was a close one, both on and off-screen. They were both established actors in their own right, but they clearly had a great deal of respect and admiration for one another. Gérard Oury, the director of "Le Corniaud," was also a close friend of de Funès, and it was through this friendship that the idea for the film first came about. Oury had previously directed more serious films, but he saw the comic potential in pairing Bourvil and de Funès and took a risk on creating a big-budget comedy. The gamble paid off, as The Sucker went on to become one of the most successful French films of the era. However, the film was not without its difficulties; de Funès was initially unhappy with the amount of screen time he was given, but Oury eventually made some changes to the script to give him a more prominent role alongside Bourvil's Antoine Maréchal.

La Grande Vadrouille, the epitome

 "La Grande Vadrouille" (Don't Look Now, We're Being Shot At! or sometimes know as The Great Stroll) is a 1966 comedy film directed by Gérard Oury and starring Bourvil and Louis de Funès. The film tells the story of two Frenchmen who help British airmen escape from Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II. It was a massive success upon its release, becoming the highest-grossing film in French cinema history at the time and holding that title for over decades (until "Titanic" and "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis"). It was a landmark achievement for French cinema and solidified Bourvil and de Funès as the most popular actors of the time.

Why is Louis de Funès the king of French comedy

"La Grande Vadrouille" has since become a classic of French comedy and is still considered by many to be the best comedy film ever made in France. The humor is broad and slapstick, but it is delivered with a deft touch that makes it feel fresh and endlessly entertaining. Despite being over 50 years old, the film remains hugely popular in France and is still regularly shown on television.

In France, "La Grande Vadrouille" is more than just a film - it is a cultural touchstone that has helped to shape the country's identity and sense of humor. Its lighthearted approach to a dark period in French history has helped to make it a beloved classic. It is what makes the movie a cherished memory and an essential part of France's cultural heritage.

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