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14 September 2016

Une grande fille toute simple (1948)

Une grande fille toute simple/Just a Big Simple Girl (Jacques Manuel, 1948) is a French romantic comedy in which the line between artifice and reality is blurred. Beautiful Madeleine Sologne played the girl from the title, a role which was in fact about and written for another French film star, Madeleine Robinson.

Jean Desailly, Madeleine Sologne and Raymond Rouleau in Une grande fille toute simple (1948)
French postcard. This postcard was made for the exclusive release at the Madeleine cinema. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Jean DesaillyMadeleine Sologne and Raymond Rouleau in Une grande fille toute simple/Just a Big Simple Girl (Jacques Manuel, 1948).

Jean Desailly and Madeleine Sologne in Une grande fille toute simple (1948)
French postcard. This postcard was made for the exclusive release at the Madeleine cinema. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Jean Desailly and Madeleine Sologne in Une grande fille toute simple/Just a Big Simple Girl (Jacques Manuel, 1948).

Love Triangle


The tour of a theatre group is troubled by a love triangle backstage. The young and beautiful actress Stepha can’t choose between the lead actor of the play and the director.

The actors gamely act out their roles as if everything is okay, but then a strange woman walks on stage and begins digressing from the script. The line between artifice and reality blurs.

Une grande fille toute simple was directed by former costume designer Jacques Manuel. The production was supervised by Marcel L’Herbier, who had directed Le vertige (1926), which had been Manuel’s first film job.

The screenplay was written by André Roussin based on his own 1942 stage play of the same name. When he wrote Une grande fille toute simple, Roussin was inspired by his love affair with actress Madeleine Robinson during rehearsals of the play Musique légère (Light music) by Louis Ducreux.

Paradoxically, the role of Stepha, especially written for Madeleine Robinson, was entrusted to Madeleine Sologne in the film adaptation of the play. The other parts went to Raymond Rouleau and director Jean Desailly. Gabrielle Dorziat played aunt Edmée. Author Louis Ducreux played a bit part.

Madeleine Sologne and Louis Ducreux in Une grande fille toute simple (1948)
French postcard. This postcard was made for the exclusive release at the Madeleine cinema. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Madeleine Sologne and Louis Ducreux in Une grande fille toute simple/Just a Big Simple Girl (Jacques Manuel, 1948).

Jean Desailly and Madeleine Sologne in Une grande fille toute simple (1948)
French postcard. This postcard was made for the exclusive release at the Madeleine cinema. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Jean Desailly and Madeleine Sologne in Une grande fille toute simple/Just a Big Simple Girl (Jacques Manuel, 1948). The sets were by Robert Gys.

The most completely incoherent lot of twaddle


When Une grande fille toute simple was released in the US as Just a Big Simple Girl, critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times reviewed: “But we've got to confess quite frankly that we can't be entirely sure that it's the girl in the case who is simple and not the people who made the film.

For this tale of a platinum-blonde French actress, who appears to be two or three kinds of maniac, is the most completely incoherent lot of twaddle we ever heard or saw.

For almost an hour and three-quarters, this dame is all over the lot, pushing and grabbing at fellows and talking them blue in the face.

What it is precisely that she wants we never know, for the cutting is quite as provoking as the writing and directing of this film.”

Jacques Manuel directed one more film, the Colette adaptation Julie de Carneilhan (1950).

Madeleine Sologne and Jean Desailly in Une grande fille toute simple
Belgian postcard. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Artistes Associés. Madeleine Sologne and Jean Desailly in Une grande fille toute simple (Jacques Manuel, 1948). This card was for the showing of the film at the Palais des Arts/ Feestpaleis in [Antwerp?Ghent?].

Jean Desailly in Une grande fille toute simple.
French postcard. Photo: Prod. CAPAC. Jean Desailly in Une grande fille toute simple (Jacques Manuel, 1948). This postcard was for the exclusive release at the Madeleine cinema. The sets were by Robert Gys.

Sources: Bosley Crowther (The New York Times), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

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