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Later French Films

La Chance et l’amour (1964)

Toboggan was not literally Carpentier’s last time in a feature film. In 1964, he appeared in Claude Berri’s La Chance et l’amour, the subject of an interview in a segment of the film entitled “Les interviews-vérité.”

Chantons sous l’Occupation (1976)

This documentary about artists and entertainers in Occupied France, directed by André Halimi, includes archival footage of Carpentier.

L’As des as (1982)

Some seven years after Carpentier’s death, a fictionalized version of him was the main character in Gérard Oury’s L’As des as (1982) (the film was a smash success among moviegoers--its first day in theaters set a French box-office record—but skewered by critics). The protagonist of the film, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, is Georges (“Jo”) Cavalier, a World War I flying ace and former professional boxer who is serving as coach of the French boxing team headed for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. In an early scene, a little boy on a train asks Cavalier for his autograph, saying that he recognizes him from having seen his face on a collector’s card that came in a chocolate bar. The parallels between Georges Carpentier and Georges Cavalier are obvious: boxing champ before WW I, flying ace during the war, face made famous on trading cards, and of course the nearly identical name.

Cavalier, who is explicitly anti-Nazi throughout, ends up as the hero of a complicated plot to save a little Jewish boy from the Nazis. One might speculate that this may have been Oury’s attempt to clear the name of the late Carpentier from the collaborationist stain that still, to some degree, clung to it in the minds of the World War II generation. (One of the members of the 1936 French boxing team, both in real life and in the film, was Roger Michelot, who served as Carpentier’s sparring partner for the exhibition bout at his controversial collaborationist birthday “gala” in 1944). Oury may have been particularly sensitive to the necessity of name-clearing, given the fact that his long-time companion was Michèle Morgan, the great French actress who was herself, rightly or wrongly, accused of collaboration at one point and whose name continued to recall that accusation, in some minds at least, decades later. It is easy to imagine that Belmondo, co-producer as well as star of the film and himself a former amateur boxer and lifelong fan of the sport, may have been eager to participate in a film that cleaned up the posthumous image of the greatest (or at least second greatest) French boxer of all time. In any event, In any event, Oury’s decision to created a character clearly intended to evoke Carpentier and transform that character into an anti-Nazi hero was surely neither arbitrary nor coincidental.