50 years later, the wreckage of La Grande Vadrouille's car is still there...
La Grande Vadrouille in a few places
Released in 1966, La Grande Vadrouille tackles the Second World War, having taken place 20 years earlier, in a comedy tone. A house painter (Bourvil) and a conductor (Louis de Funès) find themselves forced to escort a group of British airmen into the free zone from Paris. Until 1998 with the arrival of Titanic, La Grande Vadrouille held the record at the French box office with more than 17 million spectators. Even today, Gérard Oury’s film is still the third most watched French film in France behind Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis and Intouchables.
In the capital, there are many places to follow in the footsteps of the two friends, as we mention in our guide Paris des 1000 lieux cultes de films, series, music, comics, novels.
The Garnier Opera
The English soldier MacIntosh (Mike Marshall) lands by parachute on the roof of the opera house, whose conductor is Stanislas Lefort (Louis de Funès). The scenes were shot in July, when the premises are closed every year so as not to interfere with the operation of the establishment. It was the first time a film was shot here. This was made possible thanks to the special authorisation of the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, and the director at the time, Georges Auric.
He also composed the music for the film. In order to perfectly embody his character, Louis de Funès rehearsed the conductor’s gestures for three months for perfect credibility. If we see the characters escaping by boat through an underground lake under the building, this would not have been possible in reality. There is, however, a huge water reservoir under the building to combat the pressure of underground infiltration and also serves as a water reserve for the fire brigade.
Address: 8 rue Scribe, 75009 Paris
Hammam of the Great Mosque of Paris
Augustin Bouvet (Bourvil) and Stanislas Lefort (Louis De Funès) meet for the first time whistling Tea For Two as a sign of recognition with another English comrade. This emblematic scene was shot in the studio, but the decor of the Turkish baths was faithfully reproduced. The conductor represents the aviator MacIntosh, played by Mike Marshall, son of Michèle Morgan, companion of Gérard Oury.
Address: 39 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris
Théâtre de Guignol
The theatre, run by Juliette (Marie Dubois) and her grandfather (Pierre Bertin) is located in the garden of the Champs-Elysées. Founded in 1818 and still in operation, it is the oldest in Paris. He settled shortly after the appearance of the character of Guignol, in Lyon in 1808. A small peculiarity makes it possible to distinguish between the puppets from the Rhone Valley and the Ile-de-France region. The former have a brown frock coat, while the latter have a green with a red face.
Address: 10 Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris
Among the fugitives, a man disguised himself as a prostitute and made passers-by fall into a hole used to access the sewers. When they reach the bottom of the duct, they are stripped of their clothes. The plaque in question is still on the sidewalk. However, it is the telephone line and not a sewer.
Address: 4 rue Bertin Poirée, 75001 Paris
Failed landing for “Big Moustache” (Terry-Thomas) who finds himself in the middle of the famous zoo of Vincennes. Known in France for this role, Terry-Thomas was no stranger to English audiences. His roles as unsavory members of high society and cads, his expressions and his famous “happy teeth”, made him a celebrity until 1977. He retired that year before returning to the forefront in 1989 when Jack Douglas and Richard Hope-Hawkins decided to organize a gala in his honour. This one was chaired by Michael Caine and Phil Collins. The other 120 guests were primarily artists. Big Moustache died in 1990 at the age of 78.
Address: Avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris
In addition to the capital, La Grande Vadrouille allows you to visit several French towns
Among them are the Grandval dam in the Cantal where Louis de Funès and Bourvil try to escape from the Germans, the 958 departmental road near Anthien in the Nièvre where Bourvil and Louis de Funès exchange shoes, or the Faulin castle at Lichères-sur-Yonne in the Yonne where two English aviators decide to steal a truck full of pumpkins. For the anecdote, the production had to buy 150 pumpkins at a golden price from Fauchon in Paris. It should be noted that the season for these cucurbits had passed.
The final scene was shot in the airfield of Mende in Lozere. Today partly tarred, it is however impossible not to recognize the place and in particular its immense track near the cliff.
The aviators find a 1930’s Hotchkiss to pull the gliders. To the great displeasure of the motorized machine which ends its race several meters lower in a formidable explosion.
A wreck still visible
For the more nostalgic but also the more sporty, the wreck of this sublime car is still visible today, more than 50 years after the release of the film. It is located at the foot of the Truc de Balduc, at the level of the village of Chalhac, near Saint-Étienne-du-Valdonnez.
On the spot, not one, but no less than four wrecks were discovered. If the Hotchkiss explodes well on the screen, other test cars were used for takes which are now lost but whose carcasses still remain in this part of Lozere. To get there, you will need to equip yourself with excellent hiking boots. No really practicable path exists to this day to access it.
Photo credits: La Grande Vadrouille by Gérard Oury and video by kiazele
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Cult! movies: 100 mythical places of cinema [French Edition]
Since the dawn of cinema, films have invaded the world and highlighted sometimes unexpected places. Every film location has its secrets. The latter are sometimes as exciting as the feature films themselves.
Did you know that the cemetery where the final duel of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was built from scratch and that no body lies there? Or that the bus ofInto The Wild has been moved to discourage fans from spending the night there? From the story of the construction of The Bridge on the River Kwai to the incredible encounter during the shooting of the last scene ofIndiana Jones and the Last Crusadeembark on an exciting world tour with the greatest stars of the seventh art. Shiver in the real haunted house ofAmityville and discover the terrifying anecdotes of the making ofApocalypse Now in the Philippines. Visit the building of Blade Runner before stopping at Hogwarts and finally landing in Jurassic Parkin the middle of the Hawaiian archipelago. What if we also took you behind the scenes of the making of the Hobbits’ village of Lord of the Rings ?
Produced by a team of pop-culture specialists and enhanced by numerous anecdotes, Cult! movies tells the secrets of the places that made the history of cinema.
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By Damien Duarte
Passionné par la culture pop depuis son enfance, ses références vont de Donald Duck à Batman en passant par Marty McFly. Fantripper dans l'âme, voyager sur les traces de Ghostbusters, James Bond ou des héros de romans comme Cotton Malone fait partie d'un séjour idéal et réussi !