Cyrano de Bergerac (1950 film)

Last updated
Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac (1951 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Gordon
Screenplay by Carl Foreman
Brian Hooker (Translation)
Based on Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Starring José Ferrer
Mala Powers
William Prince
Cinematography Franz Planer
Edited by Harry W. Gerstad
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Stanley Kramer Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • November 16, 1950 (1950-11-16)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.1 million [1]
Box office$1.9 million (US rentals) [2]
Jose Ferrer and Mala Powers Jose Ferrer-Mala Powers in Cyrano de Bergerac 1.jpg
José Ferrer and Mala Powers
Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950

Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1950 American adventure comedy film based on the 1897 French Alexandrin verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It uses poet Brian Hooker's 1923 English blank verse translation as the basis for its screenplay. [3] The film was the first motion picture version in English of Rostand's play, though there were several earlier adaptations in different languages.


The 1950 film was produced by Stanley Kramer and directed by Michael Gordon. José Ferrer received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his starring performance as Cyrano de Bergerac. Mala Powers played Roxane, and William Prince portrayed Christian de Neuvillette.

The film lapsed into the public domain in the mid-1980s. [4] [5] In 2022, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant." [6] [7]


In seventeenth-century Paris, poet and supreme swordsman Cyrano de Bergerac (José Ferrer) stops a play from being shown because he ostensibly cannot stand the bombastic style of the principal actor, Montfleury (Arthur Blake). An annoyed aristocratic fop, the Vicomte de Valvert (Albert Cavens), provokes him into a duel by tritely insulting Cyrano's enormous nose. Cyrano first mocks his lack of wit, improvising numerous inventive ways in which Valvert could have phrased it (much to the amusement of the audience). He then composes a ballade for the occasion on the spot and recites it during the sword fight. With the last line, he stabs his opponent.

Cyrano's friend Le Bret (Morris Carnovsky), Captain of the Gascony Guards, warns him he has made powerful enemies of his victim's friends, but he is unconcerned. When Le Bret presses him to reveal the real reason he hates Montfleury, Cyrano admits that he became jealous when he saw the actor smiling at his beautiful cousin Roxane (Mala Powers). He confesses that he is in love with her, but harbors no hope of it being returned because of his nose. When he receives a request from Roxane to see her in the morning, he is finally emboldened to act.

Then pastry chef and fellow poet Ragueneau (Lloyd Corrigan) approaches him for help. Ragueneau has learned that a nobleman he had mocked with his verses, the Comte De Guiche (Ralph Clanton), has hired a hundred ruffians to teach him a lesson. Cyrano escorts him, kills eight of the horde, and drives off the rest.

The next day, before he can tell Roxane of his feelings, she informs him that she has fallen in love with a handsome guardsman, Christian de Neuvillette (William Prince), though she has not even spoken to him. Cyrano hides his devastation and agrees to help her.

Cyrano befriends the young man, who is in Cyrano's guards' unit, and discovers that he is infatuated with Roxane, but is too inept with words to woo her. To help him, Cyrano composes Christian's love letters to Roxane, which she finds irresistible. Later, Christian decides he wants no more help and tries to speak to Roxane face to face, but fails miserably and she re-enters her house in an angry huff. Cyrano, hiding in the bushes, comes to his rescue, but this time by imitating Christian's voice and speaking to Roxane from under her balcony. He is so eloquent that he (unintentionally) wins a kiss for Christian from Roxane.

When the arrogant Comte De Guiche, who is also wooing Roxane, pressures her to marry him, Cyrano delays him long enough for her to wed Christian instead. Furious, De Guiche, Christian's commander, orders him to join his unit immediately for a war against the Spanish, preventing the couple from spending their wedding night together.

With Cyrano under his command as well, De Guiche earns the swordsman's respect by his conduct in the war. From the field, Cyrano sends Roxane letters every day, supposedly written by Christian. Roxane visits her husband in camp and tells him that she now has fallen in love with him not merely for his looks but because of his words, and would love him even if he were ugly. Realizing that she really loves Cyrano, Christian gets his rival to agree to tell Roxane the truth and let her decide between them. But before the opportunity arises, Christian volunteers for a dangerous mission and is fatally wounded, silencing Cyrano.

Roxane enters a convent in mourning. Years pass, with Cyrano visiting Roxane weekly, having retired from the military and writing satirical articles mocking the nobility. De Guiche, who has also befriended her and has come to respect Cyrano, has overheard a courtier plotting against Cyrano. De Guiche warns Roxane that Cyrano's life may be in danger. One night, Cyrano is lured into an ambush; the poet is run down by a carriage. Near death, he hides his injuries and goes to keep his appointment with Roxane for the last time. His secret love for Roxane is finally revealed when he recites from memory the last of his love letters, which she has kept, but it is too late. Cyrano first slips into delirium, then dies, leaving Roxane to mourn a second time.


Ferrer and Ralph Clanton had previously appeared in the 1946 Broadway revival of the play in the same roles that they would play in the film.


The film was produced on a significantly lower budget than most costume dramas, because the producers were afraid that it would fail at the box office (it did). The sparseness of the sets is concealed by camera angles and by the lighting. Darkness is frequently used to hide the fact that the production design was not especially elaborate.

The film was one of the first to employ the then-new Western Electric magnetic sound recording system, which would become commonplace by 1953 and which was a necessity for stereo sound recording and reproduction.

Additions to the screenplay

The screenplay for the film, written by Carl Foreman, was mostly faithful to the play and to Brian Hooker's translation, though it was trimmed to 113 minutes (Cyrano plays for more than two-and-a-half hours onstage). However, Foreman did add his own dialogue for two or three additional scenes inserted into the film for better continuity between the five acts of the original play, and these are obviously not in verse.

The play characters of Le Bret and Carbon de Castel-Jaloux were combined, as were those of Ragueneau and Ligniere (although Ragueneau is not a drunk in the film). Le Bret consequently has a much larger and more important role in the film than in the play, and Ragueneau's role is slightly increased by his being the one threatened by a hundred ruffians that Cyrano fights off. The fight is shown in the film; in the play it takes place offstage between Acts I and II.

The role of the unnamed cardinal (Richelieu, to judge from his appearance) was specially written for the film.

In the film, Cyrano dies after being trampled by a carriage as part of an ambush rather than by being hit on the head by a falling log as in the play. As with the fight against the hundred ruffians, the fatal attack on Cyrano is shown onscreen rather than taking place offstage (in the play it takes place between Acts IV and V). Previous to the attack, there is a new scene in the film in which his enemies are seen discussing the possibility of his being killed in a so-called "accidental" way.


If the film was decried for its low-budget, stagy look, as well as for some of its supporting actors, it was almost universally admired for Ferrer's star performance, in what is acknowledged to be his greatest role. [8] The New York Times ' film critic Bosley Crowther praised Ferrer, stating that he "speaks the poetry of Rostand with richness and clarity such as only a few other actors have managed on the screen." [3] However, he was less than impressed with Powers ("a lovely but lifeless girl"), Prince ("a solemn young dunce"), and Ferrer in his romantic moments, opining that "his maundering and mooning over Roxane is considerably hard to take."

Variety stated that "Michael Gordon's direction doesn't always fulfill the romantic, tragic, comedic and action possibilities, but permits a number of players to account for solid moments in a story that, essentially, belongs to one performer, Ferrer." [9] Time also gave the film a mixed review. It called Ferrer "the very embodiment of Rostand's self-sacrificing, self-dramatizing hero" while deriding the play's "soft core of unblushing sentiment, unstinted gallantry, unending heroics". [10] However, it was more kind than Crowther to Powers ("uniformly good support") and Prince ("does well as the tongue-tied Christian").

The movie recorded a loss of $300,000. [1] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Cyrano de Bergerac holds a score of 75% from 28 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. [11]

Awards and honors

José Ferrer became the first actor to receive an Oscar and a Tony for the same role.

Academy Awards Best Actor José Ferrer Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Michael Gordon Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama José FerrerWon
Most Promising Newcomer Mala Powers Nominated
Best Cinematography – Black and White Franz Planer Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 8th Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor José FerrerNominated

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyrano de Bergerac</span> French novelist and dramatist (1619–1655)

Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was a French novelist, playwright, epistolarian, and duelist.

<i>Roxanne</i> (film) 1987 film by Fred Schepisi

Roxanne is a 1987 American romantic comedy film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. It is a modern retelling of Edmond Rostand's 1897 verse play Cyrano de Bergerac, adapted by Steve Martin. Rostand is mentioned in the opening credits.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benoît-Constant Coquelin</span> French actor

Benoît-Constant Coquelin, known as Coquelin aîné, was a French actor, "one of the greatest theatrical figures of the age."

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (play) Play by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano de Bergerac is a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. The play is a fictionalisation following the broad outlines of Cyrano de Bergerac's life.

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (1990 film) 1990 film by Jean-Paul Rappeneau

Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1990 French period comedy-drama film directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau and based on the 1897 play of the same name by Edmond Rostand, adapted by Jean-Claude Carrière and Rappeneau. It stars Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet and Vincent Perez. The film was a co-production between companies in France and Hungary.

Panache is a word of French origin that carries the connotation of flamboyant manner and reckless courage, derived from the helmet-plume worn by cavalrymen in the Early Modern period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zacharie Jacob</span> French actor and playwright

Zacharie Jacob, known as Montfleury, was a famed French actor and playwright of the 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antoine de Gramont, 2nd Duke of Gramont</span> French military commander

Antoine de Gramont, 2nd Duke of Gramont,comte de Guiche,comte de Gramont,comte de Louvigny,Souverain de Bidache was a French military commander and diplomat. He served as Marshal of France from 1641, Viceroy of Navarre and Béarn, and Governor of Bayonne.

<i>Cyrano: The Musical</i>

Cyrano: The Musical is a musical with music by Ad van Dijk, an original book and lyrics by Koen van Dijk. For the Broadway production, English lyrics were provided by Peter Reeves, with additional lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

<i>Cyrano</i> (musical)

Cyrano is a musical with a book and lyrics by Anthony Burgess and music by Michael J. Lewis.

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (2008 film) American TV series or program

Cyrano de Bergerac is a 2008 made-for-television adaptation of the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, starring Kevin Kline as Cyrano, Jennifer Garner as his cousin Roxanne, and Daniel Sunjata as Christian. The production captures the 2007 Broadway revival, recorded before a live audience. The film was first broadcast on PBS' Great Performances on 7 January 2009.

Cyrano is an opera in three acts by David DiChiera, with orchestration by Mark Flint, to a libretto in French by Bernard Uzan, based on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It premiered on 13 October 2007 at the Michigan Opera Theatre, and was then presented on February 8 to 17, 2008 at the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Florida Grand Opera presented it in April 2011. It was revived November 4, 2017 by Opera Carolina.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ralph Clanton</span> American actor (1914–2002)

Ralph Woodward Clanton was an American character actor of film, stage, and television. His most seen performance was Comte De Guiche in the 1950 film Cyrano de Bergerac, the first sound version in English of Edmond Rostand's play, and the film for which José Ferrer won his only Academy Award for Best Actor. Besides Ferrer as Cyrano, Clanton was the only holdover from the cast of the 1946 Broadway revival of the play, and would play the role of De Guiche opposite him once more, in a New York City Center production in 1953.

Cyrano de Bergerac is a musical with a book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and music by Frank Wildhorn. It is based on the 1897 play of the same title by Edmond Rostand.

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (1974 film) 1974 American film

Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1974 videotaped television production of Edmond Rostand's famous 1897 play about the lovestruck swordsman with the long nose. This production was originally staged by American Conservatory Theater and shown on PBS as part of the Theater in America series. It uses Brian Hooker's 1923 translation of the play, and stars Peter Donat as Cyrano, Marsha Mason as Roxane, Marc Singer as Christian de Neuvillette, and Paul Shenar as the Comte de Guise. Kathryn Grant has a brief role as Lise, the unfaithful wife of pastry cook Ragueneau – a role cut in some productions of the play because of its brevity.

<i>Cyrano</i> (Damrosch) Opera by Walter Damrosch, 1976

Cyrano is an opera in four acts composed by Walter Damrosch to an English language libretto by William James Henderson based on Edmond Rostand's 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac. It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on February 27, 1913, with Pasquale Amato in the title role and Frances Alda as Roxane.

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (1946 film) 1946 film by Fernand Rivers

Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1946 French romantic comedy film directed by Fernand Rivers and starring Claude Dauphin, Ellen Bernsen and Pierre Bertin. It is based on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.

<i>Cyrano de Bergerac</i> (1925 film) 1925 film

Cyrano de Bergerac is a Franco-Italian silent romantic drama film directed by Augusto Genina in 1922 based on the 1897 play of the same name by Edmond Rostand. Genina began filming in 1922, at age 30, with the help of his cousin Mario Camerini, but its release was delayed by the colorization of the film.

<i>Cyrano</i> (film) 2021 film by Joe Wright

Cyrano is a 2021 romantic drama musical film directed by Joe Wright and with a screenplay by Erica Schmidt, based on Schmidt's 2018 stage musical of the same name, itself based on the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac. The film stars Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Ben Mendelsohn.


  1. 1 2 Balio, Tino (December 15, 1987). United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry . University of Wisconsin Press. p. 47. ISBN   978-0299114404.
  2. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952
  3. 1 2 Crowther, Bosley (November 17, 1950). "Cyrano De Bergerac (1950)". The New York Times . Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  4. Gray, Marianne (1991). Depardieu. Sinclair-Stevenson, Limited. p. 160. ISBN   9781856190954 . Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  5. Zuckerman, Faye (23 March 1985). "Prism Into Public Domain: 24 Film Classics Set for Release". Billboard . Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  6. Carrie, Titicut Follies, Tongues United, Pariah & More Added to National Film Registry|The Film Stage
  7. 2022 National Film Registry Announcement - Library of Congress on YouTube
  8. Prigge, Matt (2008). "Repertory". Philadelphia Weekly.[ dead link ]
  9. "Cyrano de Bergerac". Variety . December 31, 1949.
  10. "The New Pictures". Time. November 20, 1950. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  11. "Cyrano de Bergerac". Rotten Tomatoes . Fandango Media.
  12. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2005. Retrieved 2016-08-18.