Sog., Scen.: Roland Petit. F.: Henri Alekan. M.: Françoise Javet. Scgf.: Antoni Clavé. Mus.: Maurice Thiriet. Int.: Cyd Charisse (la moglie), Roland Petit (il seduttore), Hans Van Manen (il marito), Gérard Lemaître (cameriere), Maurice Chevalier (narratore). Prod.: Joseph Kaufman per Talma Films. 35mm. D.: 24’.
Tall, thin, in full mourning…
Agile and noble, with a leg of stone…
Might these verses drawn from Charles Baudelaire’s A Woman Passing have inspired this Deuil en 24 heures by Roland Petit, who as a choreographer never shied away from using literary masterpieces? Everything was grist to Roland Petit’s mill, from Victor Hugo to Marcel Proust. Petit was an intriguing phenomenon of the postwar French dance scene, over which he reigned with his favourite dancer, Zizi Jeanmaire. Together, they went as far as Broadway and the sound-stages of Hollywood, at a time when American musicals were at their height. What was it that Americans saw in them? Could it a super-French touch, whose supposedly good taste they lacked? The pinnacle of stylised bad taste can in fact be found in the work of the wonderful stage designer, Antoni Clavé.
Having said which, this film is a bit of a personal thing for me, a part of my family history. It has Henri Alekan’s beautiful camerawork, which I was able to use in A Strange Love Affair and dancer Gérard Lemaître (the maître at Maxims), whom I worked with for Casta Diva, Naughty Boys and, just for a cameo, in Echte Clichés, where he recalls his time as one of the boys in Zizi Jeanmaire’s music-hall number, Mon truc en plumes.
Eric de Kuyper