What Makes 'Louis De Funès La Grande Vadrouille' a French Timeless Classic

Louis de Funès unexpected "chef d'orchestre" in La Grande Vadrouille © Getty Images
Louis de Funès unexpected "chef d'orchestre" in La Grande Vadrouille © Getty Images

La Grande Vadrouille, starring Louis De Funès and Bourvil, is a must-watch French classic, probably one of the most famous among the top Louis de Funès movies including Rabbi Jacob, that captivated audiences with its witty humor, memorable characters, and poignant human connections at a difficult time in France.

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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Do you know how you can tell if someone is French? They've seen "La Grande Vadrouille", the cult classic from 1966 with Louis de Funès and Bourvil, one of the best Louis de Funès movies of all time.

"La Grande Vadrouille" is a heartwarming comedy that has achieved legendary status in French cinema. The film was directed by Gérard Oury, the king of French comedies, and written by Danièle Thompson, Georges and André Tabet. It became an instant box office sensation, climbing to the top of the French movie charts and remaining the highest-grossing French movie for over 40 years - until the release of "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" by Dany Boon in 2008. The film is a must-watch French classic that captivated audiences with its witty humor, memorable characters, and poignant human connections at a difficult time in France.

Where can I stream La Grande Vadrouille and other Louis de Funès movies?

TV5MONDE offers the largest selection of French movies and French series with English subtitles in America. It is your best chance to watch any classic or recent French movies. In November, TV5MONDE Cinema on Demand will stream 10 French movies with Louis de Funès including "Le Grand restaurant", "La folie des grandeurs", "Oscar", "Les grandes vacances" and "Hibernatus". The other option is to move to France where Louis de Funès and Bourvil movies are played on TV all the time, especially during the holidays!

Don't miss the documentary in French with English subtitles "Funès, le rire éternel" available on TV5MONDEplus to learn more about the fascinating career and legacy of France's most beloved comedic actor.

"La Grande Vadrouille", what is it about?

The movie is an inspired blend of comedy and war-time drama. Set in 1942 Germany-occupied Paris during the Second World War, it revolves around the misadventures of a British bomber crew from the British Royal Air Force attempting to flee German soldiers, but was shot down over Paris. The crew, Sir Reginald (John MacCarthy), Peter Cunningham (Terry Thomas) and Alan MacIntosh (Mike Marshall) is forced to parachute out over Paris and land in various places around town. One ends up in the Vincennes zoo, one at the house of a painter  named Augustin Bouvet (Bourvil), and one on the Opéra Garnier where he encounters a grouchy chief conductor Stanislas Lefort (Louis de Funès). All of them have to form an unexpected alliance between them to flee the city while evading the watchful eyes of the German soldiers, which are on the manhunt led by nazi Major Achbach.

Along the way, Stanislas Lefort, Augustin Bouvet, Macintosh, Reginald and Cunningham encounter many quirky characters, including the benevolent nun Sœur Marie-Odile (played by Andréa Parisy), and the fierce French Resistance fighter Juliette (played by Marie Dubois) who risks her life to support the group's mission.

Wartime comedy, a risqué yet popular genre in France

"La Grande Vadrouille" belongs to the wartime comedy genre, which was popular in France during the 1960s and 1970s. Movies like "La Septième Compagnie," "La Traversée de Paris," and films featuring Bourvil, Fernandel, and others, also embody this genre. However, this genre of comedy was not without controversy, especially considering the weighty historical topics of the two world wars. At first glance, it may seem inappropriate to use humor to address such a topic. However, the films that emerged from this era embraced the challenge and offered a way to ease the tension of the time period by shining light on the absurdity of war. "La Grande Vadrouille" successfully balanced comedy with seriousness, making it one of the most enduring classics of the genre. Even after the 70's the wartime comedy genre produced some cult classics, including "Papy fait de la résistance" (Gramps is in the resistance, 1983) and "La folle histoire de Max et Léon" (2016).

The film was well-received both locally and internationally. The director, Gérard Oury, was praised widely for his masterful ability to switch between moments of high-stakes action and light-hearted comedy whilst maintaining the integrity of the story. Furthermore, the movie's impact on modern pop culture is impressive to this day. Aesthetically, the characters of Augustin Bouvet, Sir Reginald and Juliette and settings in "La Grande Vadrouille" are French icons themselves, with cinephiles and tourists alike seeking out locations in Paris where some of the most memorable scenes were filmed.

"La Grande Vadrouille" is a French timeless classic and a masterpiece of the wartime comedy genre. The characters are well-rounded, likeable, and attractively goofy. The Turkish bath scene is a fan-favourite, while the comedic writing is a testament to the director's (Gérard Oury) talent, leading to both critical acclaim and commercial success throughout the years. Despite its timelessness, the film tackles the sensitive subjects of WWII and its aftermath, with an unexpected but refreshing lightheartedness - a definite feel-good movie of the era and a must-watch for cinema lovers all around the world.

Where was La Grande Vadrouille filmed?

  1. Paris: Many scenes were shot in the city of Paris, including the famous sequence in the Turkish baths. Some sequences of the German invasion of Paris were also shot in this location.
  2. Douaumont-Ossuaire: This is a military cemetery and ossuary in the region of Lorraine, France. The well-known sequence where Bourvil and Louis de Funès disguise themselves as German officers was shot in this location.
  3. Le Bourget Airport: The airport was used as the location for the opening sequence of the film, capturing the moment when the British bombers are shot down and forced to land in Paris.
  4. Berchtesgaden: The mountainous region of Berchtesgaden in southern Germany was used for some of the outdoor sequences in the film, including the ending scenes. Overall, La Grande Vadrouille was shot on a combination of location and studio-based sets, capturing the essence of both France and Germany during World War II.

Watch French comedies and much more on the only French channel available in the US TV5MONDE.


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