04 March 2018

Jacqueline Francell

During the 1930s and 1940s, Jacqueline Francell (1908-1962) was a popular star of the French operetta. She also appeared in operas at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and in 1930, she created the role of Princess Blanche-Aline in Les Aventures du roi Pausole by Arthur Honegger. She also starred in a dozen films between 1931 and 1944.

Jacqueline Francell
French postcard by EC (Editions Chantal), Paris, no. 11. Photo: Pathé Natan.

Jacqueline Francell
French postcard by PC, Paris, no. 11. Photo: Pathé Natan.

The Chocolate Girl


Jacqueline Francell was born Jacqueline Anne Marie Etiennette François in Paris in 1908. Her father was the tenor and later vocal teacher Fernand Francell.

She started her operetta career in 1928 in Déshabillez-vous! (1928), at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens. Her second part, the title role in Flossie (1929) by Joseph Szulc, made her a star and critics compared her to Lilian Harvey and Meg Lemonnier.

From then on she created roles in operettas and musicals like Un soir de réveillon (New Year’s Eve) with Henri Garat, Arsène Lupin, banquier (1930), alongside Jean Gabin, La Pouponnière (1932), Oh ! Papa !... (1933) at the Théâtre des Nouveautés, and Florestan 1er, prince de Monaco (1933) by Sacha Guitry at the Théâtre des Variétés. Her affair with Jean Gabin in 1930-1931 caused the end of his marriage with Gaby Basset.

Francell also appeared in operas at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and created the role of Princess Blanche-Aline opposite Dorville in the title role in the opera Les Aventures du roi Pausole (The Adventures of King Pausole, 1930) by Arthur Honegger.

She later performed in Le guéridon Empire (1936), a revue by Rip at La Comédie des Champs-Élysées, and La Margoton du bataillon (1937) with Suzy Delair. She also recorded songs from most of these musicals. She presented her tour de chant at the Théâtre de l’Empire and played in the operetta La jeune fille dans le soleil (The young girl in the sun, 1937) by Claude Pigault, the pianist who accompanied her at l’Empire.

The following years, she starred in Mon cœur hésite (1938) at the Théâtre Antoine and Balalaïka (1938) at the Théâtre Mogador with Réda Caire.

Jacqueline Francell also starred in a dozen films. She co-starred with Raimu in her debut, the comedy La petite chocolatière/The Chocolate Girl (Marc Allégret, 1932), an adaptation of Paul Gavault's play The Chocolate Girl. It made her a star of the French cinema. In another comedy, Enlevez-moi/Abduct Me (Léonce Perret, 1932), she co-starred with Roger Tréville and Arletty.

For Paramount, she made L'amour guide (Jean Boyer, Gilbert Pratt, 1933) with Maurice Chevalier. It was alternate-language version of The Way to Love (Norman Taurog, 1933) in which Ann Dvorak played Chevalier’s love interest. It was the time of the alternate language films. She also appeared in an alternate-language version of the German film Großstadtnacht (Fyodor Otsep, 1932), Mirages de Paris/Mirages of Paris (Fyodor Otsep, 1933) in which she replaced Dolly Haas.

She was the co-star of Adolph Wohlbruck in the French-German operetta Der Zigeunerbaron/Le baron tzigane/The Gypsy Baron (Pierre Chomette, 1935). The drama L'Appel du Silence/The Call of Silence (Léon Poirier, 1936), also starring Jean Yonnel and Pierre de Guingand, is a biography based on the life of the Catholic missionary Charles de Foucauld who worked in the Sahara. Two years later, she made her final feature film Coeur de gosse/Kid's heart (George Pallu, 1938) featuring Gabriel Farguette.

Jacqueline Francell
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 760. Photo: Braunberger-Richebé.

Jacqueline Francell
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 876. Photo: Lipnitzki.

Jeanne d'Arc


The war and the occupation did not stop Jacqueline Francell’s career. In 1941, she took over the lead of the stage operetta Passionnément (Passionately) at the Théâtre Marigny. In 1944, she was one of the narrators of the documentary De Jeanne d'Arc à Philippe Pétain/1429-1942 (Sacha Guitry, 1944).

DB DuMonteil at IMDb: “This film was shown in the movie theaters two months before the landing and afterward completely disappeared only to reappear in 1993. This is of course a propaganda movie. But not more than Stelli's Le Voile Bleu. Beginning his movie with an evocation of Joan of Arc was not completely incongruous; Guitry probably thought it was a sign from God; 1429: Joan's odyssey begins; birth of the Homeland, 1942: under the yoke of the Nazis, but still proud of its past, the country remembers. 1429-1942 sinister anagram. Joan found since taken over by the far right wing.”

After the war, Jacqueline Francell played with Jimmy Gaillard in Plume au vent (1948) by Jean Nohain and Claude Pingault at the Comédie des Champs-Élysées.

She married Gabriel Bouillon, brother of the conductor Jo Bouillon and returned to the Marigny Theatre for Chives. She then performed at the Monte-Carlo Opera and became a star of the National Radio. At the Théâtre de la Potinière, she played La Bride sur le cou (1947) by Philippe Parès with Yves Furet, with whom she also co-starred at the Casino de Cannes in Mozart (1948) by Sacha Guitry. Marcel Achard asked her to take over the role of Jandeline in Patate at the Théâtre Saint-Georges.

In 1962, after fainting, she was transported to the emergency room at the Ambroise-Paré clinic in Neuilly and died there after an operation. Jacqueline Francell was 54.

Jacqueline Francell in Le baron tzigane (1935)
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Photo: Ufa. Publicity still for Le baron tzigane/The Gypsy Baron (Pierre Chomette, 1935).

Sources: Marlène Pilaete (La Collectionneuse – French), Jacques Gana (ECMF - French), DB DuMonteil (IMDb), Wikipedia (French and English), and IMDb.
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