French theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jacques Becker|
|Produced by||Raymond Hakim|
|Written by||Jacques Becker|
|Music by||Georges Van Parys|
|Cinematography||Robert Le Febvre|
|Edited by||Marguerite Renoir|
Casque d'Or ("Golden Helmet") is a 1952 French film directed by Jacques Becker. It is a Belle Époque tragedy, the story of an ill-fated love affair between characters played by Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani. The story was loosely based on an infamous love triangle between the prostitute Amélie Élie and the Apache gang leaders Manda and Leca, which was the subject of much sensational newspaper reporting during 1902.
Marie (Simone Signoret), a beautiful woman of the demimonde known for her cap of golden hair, is distressed at her treatment by Roland, a criminal who is a part of a local syndicate headed by Félix Leca. When Marie is introduced to the handsome young carpenter Georges Manda, by his friend Raymond, also a member of Leca's gang, she is strongly and obviously attracted to him, much to the chagrin of Roland. Manda and Raymond were in prison together, and have a strong bond of friendship. Roland's jealousy builds after he observes Marie's interest in Manda. Roland decides to confront Manda behind a club where several members of his syndicate watch. What might have been a fistfight is intensified when Leca throws a knife on the ground between the two men. Manda gains control of the knife and stabs Roland, killing him. When the police arrive at the scene, everyone flees, including Marie, who seeks refuge away from the syndicate at a nearby village.
Manda decides it is best to flee town. He is contacted by Marie and the two meet at her village. They live an idyllic life there until Leca, with connections to a crooked cop, has framed Raymond for the murder of Roland. Leca knows this will bring Manda out of hiding so he can win control of Marie. When Manda hears the news that his good friend Raymond has been arrested, he returns to town and turns himself in to the police. Rather than free Raymond, the police charge him as an accessory. While the two men are being transported between jails, Marie helps them escape, but Raymond is fatally shot. Manda now knows that Leca has not only framed Raymond but also forced his way with Marie, and goes after Leca for revenge. When he finds him in the presence of the police, he kills him anyway, condemning himself in the process. With the two murders on his hands, Manda is sentenced to die by the guillotine, and a broken Marie watches in horror as he is executed.
- Simone Signoret as Marie 'Casque d'Or'
- Serge Reggiani as Georges Manda
- Claude Dauphin as Félix Leca
- Raymond Bussières as Raymond
- William Sabatier as Roland Dupuis
- Gaston Modot as Danard
- Paul Barge as Police Insp. Juliani
- Odette Barencey as La mère d'Eugène
- Loleh Bellon as Léonie Danard
- Dominique Davray as Julie
- Jacqueline Cantrelle
The film's final sequence is famous. After Manda's surrender to the police, the film shows Marie arriving at night, with one of Leca's ex-henchmen, at a cheap inn in the city, where she rents a room. The filmmakers provide no immediate clues for the audience as to why this is happening. Only later is it revealed that the room in which she is staying overlooks the courtyard in which her lover, Manda, is to be executed. British film critic Roy Armes wrote: "Becker shows all the hurried ugliness and squalor that surrounds the guillotine, so that we feel this execution to be an affront to humanity."
French New Wave director François Truffaut, who was a fervent admirer of the film's director, Jacques Becker, particularly praised this scene. He wrote: "If you're at all interested in how stories are constructed, you cannot fail to admire the ingenuity of the plot, particularly the strong, oblique, unexpected way it gets abruptly to Manda's execution in a scene that is as beautiful as it is mysterious, as the Casque d'Or [Marie] arrives in the middle of the night at a disreputable hotel. When I or any of my fellow scenarists are in trouble, we often say to each other, 'How about a Casque d'Or solution?'"
The Lexikon des Internationalen Films (Encyclopedia of International Film) wrote: "With Casque d'Or, Jacques Becker has made the most stylistically clear and filmically convincing film about belle époque. The drawing of the shady milieu, the deeply human interpretation of the love relationship between Manda and Marie – that is fascinatingly dramatised and convinced not least by the excellent actors Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani. Becker proves to be a master of character representation in mastering a poetic realism that only a few directors of this time succeeded in doing."
Das große Personenlexikon des Films (The Great Biographical Dictionary of Film Persons) found: "His milieu portrait from the turn of the century, the clearly structured story about a gangster rivalry, is considered Becker's masterpiece".
Reclams Filmführer (Reclam's Film Guide) says: "Becker was not interested in making a "historical gangster film"; he created a very unusual film about the "belle époque", in which people are more important than events, feelings more real than criminal involvement. A film of unusual beauty, strict will to style, clear dramaturgy – probably Becker's masterpiece."
Buchers Enzyklopädie des Films (Bucher's encyclopedia of film) reads: "Becker gives a masterly account of Paris at the turn of the century, both in the set-up and in the drawing of the characters. Despite the bleak plot, the film has a life-affirming trait, especially in the exterior shots, which is primarily due to the strong charisma of Simone Signoret in the leading role."
In 1986 the French Government issued a postage stamp dedicated to centenary of the French cinema depicting Jacques Becker's "Casque d'Or".
- "Casque d'or". unifrance.org. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
- Armes, Roy (1985). French Cinema. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 151. ISBN 0195204727.
- Truffaut, François (1985). The Films in My Life (PDF). New York: Touchstone (Simon & Schuster). pp. 177–178. ISBN 0671246631. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
- Brüne, Klaus, ed. (1987). Das Lexikon des Internationalen Films. p. 1376.
- Weniger, Kay (2001). Das grosse Personenlexikon des Films : die Schauspieler, Regisseure, Kameraleute, Produzenten, Komponisten, Drehbuchautoren, Filmarchitekten, Ausstatter, Kostümbildner, Cutter, Tontechniker, Maskenbildner und Special Effects Designer des 20. Jahrhunderts. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf. p. 297. ISBN 3-89602-340-3.
- Krusche, Dieter, ed. (1973). Reclams Filmführer. Jürgen Labenski. p. 253.
- Buchers Enzyklopädie des Films. CJ Bucher. 1977. p. 124.
- "Casque d'Or (1952) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
- "Stamp dedicated to centenary of the French cinema shows Jacques Becker "Casque d'Or"". 123rf.com. 123RF Limited. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
- A.H. WEILER (Jan 31, 1965). "Teamwork On The Seine". New York Times. p. X9.