The Grangier of the day

Rhine Virgin



It is the beginning of both a friendship and a metamorphosis.

The friendship, starting with the shooting of Rhine Virgin, will unite Gilles Grangier and Jean Gabin. They had already encountered each other before the war, when Grangier was an assistant and all of French cinema cohabited in the same studios, had lunch in the same canteens; their polite greetings became warmer as they discovered their common passions, particularly for cycling. Almost fifteen years have passed; Gabin's career has not quite regained its pre-war lustre, while Grangier has moved on to directing, churning out inconsistent comedies.

Grangier’s name was proposed to Gabin – among three filmmakers - to direct Rhine Virgin. Gabin chose Grangier, and they set off to shoot on location, touring the inns along the Rhine together after each day's work, and then to Strasbourg, where the team had settled. He was now part of the little “Gabin” gang. The latter would always call Grangier "Gilles". They made twelve films together.


Jean Gabin and Elina Labourdette

The metamorphosis refers to the director of comedies who becomes a more ambitious filmmaker: La Vierge du Rhin, a novel by Pierre Nord (a former military intelligence officer and author of numerous spy stories) is adapted by Jacques Sigurd, a screenwriter for Yves Allégret and Marcel Carné (whom Truffaut will group with Aurenche, Bost and a few others in his manifesto against the "Tradition of Quality").

A tale of return and revenge, somewhere between Le Colonel Chabert and The Count of Monte Cristo – the modern version. Gabin plays an entrepreneur, the owner of several barges that travel the Rhine, loading and unloading goods. Reported missing during the Second World War, the victim of a frame-up, he returns to find his wife remarried, and his company on the verge of bankruptcy. Grangier takes on this unusual darkness, making the savvy decision to shoot on location, on the Rhine and in the independent port of Strasbourg, which guarantees a certain authenticity.

Another novelty (due to the story but undoubtedly accentuated by Sigurd and Grangier) is the role of the women, who end up practically dictating the behaviour of Gabin’s rather passive character; Nadia Gray and the late Andrée Clément (who died at 35 at the dawn of a promising career), face Elina Labourdette, whom Gabin deemed too snobbish, but who lends her commanding beauty to her femme fatale character. A major rediscovery.


Aurélien Ferenczi


Screenings :

Rhine Virgin de Gilles Grangier (La Vierge du Rhin, 1953, 1h22)
Comoedia ma12 11h15 | Pathé Bellecour me13 14h | Institut Lumière ve15 19h15 | UGC Confluence di17 11h15



Categories: Lecture Zen