1961 / Best Actor / Best Picture

Film #247: Fanny (1961)

Leslie Caron featured quite prominently in two of the 1950s Best Picture winners; An American in Paris and Gigi. In the 1960s she featured in another Best Picture nominated movie, Fanny, which was essentially Gigi without the songs.

Caron’s Fanny is an eighteen year old fish-seller who is desperately in love with young bartender Marius. Marius has been ear-marked by his bar owning father Caesar to take over the family firm but his son dreams of becoming a sailor. Fanny later receives an offer of marriage from elderly bachelor Panisse but turns him down as she wants to be with her true love Marius. Fanny eventually realises that Marius feels trapped and doesn’t want to pressure him into a relationship. The two spend one last night together, but she still encourages him to go abroad and tells him that she’s rather marry Panisse for his money. Two months after Marius’ departure, Fanny discovers she is pregnant with his child and accepts Panisse’s offer of marriage mainly to save face. Even though Panisse realises he’ll be raising another man’s child, he wants his family name to continue and feels this will be the only way to do so. Marius soon discovers the truth but finds out that Panisse will not let Fanny takes his child away and so she turns down Marius once again. Obviously Fanny is torn between her love for Marius and for her young son, and so will be left heartbroken either way.

I have to say it took me a while to warm to Fanny, mainly because the first twenty minutes or so all revolved around the characters either selling fish or playing cards. It was only after Marius and Fanny had their first heart-to-heart that I really got into the story and found myself really caring about the characters. Indeed Fanny has at least four stand-out performances not least from Caron who is much improved from her turn in Gigi. It’s also interesting to see veteran actors Charles Boyer and Maurice Chevalier appear here as both have featured in films on this list since the early 1930s. Boyer, the only member of the cast to get an acting nomination, anchors the film as the passionate yet lonely Caesar. But it was Chevalier who impressed me most in what was a fairly dramatic role, his Panisse was a man who’d never truly found love and used his money to marry Fanny. However Chevalier played a man who really did care for this young woman and longed for her to love him. Horst Buchholtz was a brilliant Marius and had great chemistry with Caron and Boyer meaning that his relationships with both characters were utterly believable. Jack Cardiff’s Oscar nominated cinematography captured the French shipping town well and really added to the overall mood of the film. While Fanny was by no means perfect, I found myself getting rather emotional towards its climax and ultimately found it to be an affecting and well-played romantic drama.


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