|Le Grand Jeu|
|Directed by||Jacques Feyder|
|Produced by||Films de France|
|Edited by||Jacques Brillouin|
|Music by||Hanns Eisler|
|111 minutes (on DVD 2007); original runtime quoted as 115 or 120 minutes|
Le Grand Jeu is a 1934 French film directed by Jacques Feyder. It is a romantic drama set against the background of the French Foreign Legion, and the film was an example of poetic realism in the French cinema. The title Le Grand Jeu refers to the practice of reading the cards. Blanche asks whether her client wants the 'full works', the whole story: "Alors... je te fais le grand jeu?"
Pierre Martel (Pierre Richard-Willm), a young Parisian businessman, is brought to financial ruin and disgrace through the extravagant lifestyle that he pursues with his lover Florence (Marie Bell). Forced to leave the country, he joins the Foreign Legion, as Pierre Muller, and seeks to submerge his own despair in a new life in North Africa alongside other unhappy refugees such as the Russian Nicolas (Georges Pitoëff). When not on campaign, they lodge in a cheap hotel run by the greedy and lecherous Clément (Charles Vanel) and his sadly stoical wife Blanche (Françoise Rosay), who passes the time by reading the cards to tell her customers their fortunes.
When Pierre encounters Irma (Marie Bell) working in a local bar as a singer and a prostitute, he finds her almost identical to his former lover Florence, except for her voice and the colour of her hair. Irma is vague about her past and Pierre becomes ever more obsessed with the apparent reincarnation of his old love. They live together at the hotel, and when Clément forces himself on Irma, Pierre kills him in a struggle; Blanche makes it appear to be an accident.
When Pierre's term of service finishes, he and Irma plan a new life together back in France where he has now inherited some money. But on the eve of their embarkation in Casablanca, Pierre happens to meet again the real Florence, now mistress to a wealthy Arab, and his feelings for Irma are shattered. Having duped Irma into returning to France alone, he re-enlists in the Legion. Blanche's cards foretell a brave death for him in his next campaign.
Jacques Feyder had been working in Hollywood since 1929. However, in 1932, when he and MGM failed to reach an agreement on any new projects, he returned to France. One of his last unrealized projects in Hollywood had been to direct Greta Garbo in an adaptation of Pirandello's Come tu mi vuoi ( As You Desire Me ), in which he proposed to give a different voice to Garbo for part of her role. He carried this same idea into the scenario for Le Grand Jeu, in which two different roles would be played by the same actress, but with one of them dubbed by a different voice to create a disconcerting dramatic effect.  Marie Bell's own voice was used in the role of Florence, but Claude Marcy dubbed her voice in the character of Irma. (Marcy also regularly dubbed the dialogue of Greta Garbo for French distribution of her films.) 
With Charles Spaak as his scenarist, Feyder developed a romantic drama set in the colonial world of French North Africa, which he had previously explored in his silent film L'Atlantide.
For the central character of Pierre, Feyder had originally wanted Charles Boyer, but after a disagreement between them he chose the popular film and theatre actor Pierre Richard-Willm.  The supporting cast included Charles Vanel and Feyder's wife Françoise Rosay.
Filming took place in the autumn of 1933, and the film was released in May 1934. In addition to the atmospheric set designs of Lazare Meerson, Feyder wanted to film some scenes on location. When however he took his cast and crew to Morocco, he failed to obtain the cooperation of the Legion for his story, and he was obliged to film some scenes of legionnaires at work and on the march in real life as though he were making a documentary. 
One of the assistant directors on this film (and others by Feyder) was Marcel Carné, some of whose later films ( Le Quai des brumes , Le jour se lève ) would create a similar mood of romantic fatalism (and poetic realism).
On its release in France, the film enjoyed considerable success, and was rated one of the best French films of 1934 by both the public and the press.  In addition to its superior production values, there was much interest in the technical device of the double role with a dubbed voice.  A contemporary film historian wrote: "Le Grand Jeu is one of the few films to have made use of a new idea since talkies came in. This might not have been sufficient to hold our attention but for a certain vulgar brutality which sustained the interest of the plot. Though the film was overromantic, we had the impression of seeing real people. ...There is a rare quality of truthfulness which always saves Feyder, and his rather vulgar characters exude a strange atmosphere of destiny and death." The same author concluded that "out of this rather absurd plot, Feyder made a profoundly human film". 
Critics have subsequently tended to find weaknesses in the acting of the two principals, now overshadowed by the supporting contributions of the better-known Charles Vanel and Françoise Rosay, but the vivid portrayal of a colonial garrison has continued to impress. 
Le Grand Jeu contributed to the series of films which used the French Foreign Legion as a colourful background. It was followed in 1935 by Julien Duvivier's La Bandera , also scripted by Charles Spaak, though actually about the Spanish Foreign Legion. Other French films with similar background were Un de la légion (1936, dir. Christian-Jaque - a comedy with Fernandel) and Les Hommes sans nom (1937, dir. Jean Vallée). Meanwhile, American cinema showed a continuing interest in the Foreign Legion with remakes of Beau Geste and Under Two Flags , among many others.
Le Grand Jeu was also one of the films which defined a characteristic mood of romantic despair in the French cinema of the 1930s, a mood shared by films such as Pépé le Moko , Hôtel du Nord , Le Quai des brumes , and Le jour se lève .
Although there is no reason to claim a connection, the theme of a man re-inventing a new lover in the image of his old one was later explored by Alfred Hitchcock in Vertigo .
A 1954 remake of Le Grand Jeu was directed by Robert Siodmak and featured Gina Lollobrigida and Arletty. It was released in the USA as Flesh and the Woman and in the UK as The Card of Fate.
Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s. More a tendency than a movement, poetic realism is not strongly unified like Soviet montage or French Impressionism but were individuals who created this lyrical style. Its leading filmmakers were Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, and, perhaps the movement's most significant director, Jean Renoir. Renoir made a wide variety of films some influenced by the leftist Popular Front group and even a lyrical short feature film. Frequent stars of these films were Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Simone Signoret, and Michèle Morgan.
Jacques Feyder was a Belgian actor, screenwriter and film director who worked principally in France, but also in the US, Britain and Germany. He was a director of silent films during the 1920s, and in the 1930s he became associated with the style of poetic realism in French cinema. He adopted French nationality in 1928.
Françoise Rosay was a French opera singer, diseuse, and actress who enjoyed a film career of over sixty years and who became a legendary figure in French cinema. She went on to appear in over 100 movies in her career.
Pierre Richard-Willm was a French stage and film actor during the 1930s and 1940s.
Carnival in Flanders is a 1935 French historical romantic comedy film directed by Jacques Feyder. It is also widely known under its original title in French, La Kermesse héroïque. A German-language version of the film was made simultaneously and was released under the title Die klugen Frauen, featuring Ernst Schiffner in one of his early film roles.
Charles-Marie Vanel was a French actor and director. During his 76-year film career, which began in 1912, he appeared in more than 200 films and worked with many prominent directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Jacques Feyder, and Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is perhaps best remembered for his role as a desperate truck driver in Clouzot's The Wages of Fear for which he received a Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.
L'Atlantide is a 1921 French-Belgian silent film directed by Jacques Feyder, and the first of several adaptations of the best-selling novel L'Atlantide by Pierre Benoit. It was also released under various English titles at different times.
Marie Bell, born Marie-Jeanne Bellon-Downey, was a French tragedian, comic actor and stage director. She was the director of the Théâtre du Gymnase in Paris from 1962 onwards, and this theatre now bears her name.
Faces of Children is a 1925 French-Swiss silent film directed by Jacques Feyder. It tells the story of a young boy whose mother has died and the resentments which develop when his father remarries. It was a notable example of film realism in the silent era, and its psychological drama was integrated with the natural landscapes of Switzerland where much of the film was made on location.
La Loi du nord is a 1939 French adventure drama film directed by Jacques Feyder who co-wrote screenplay with Alexandre Arnoux and Charles Spaak, based on novel "Telle qu'elle était de son vivant" by Maurice Constantin-Weyer. The films stars Michèle Morgan, Pierre Richard-Willm and Charles Vanel. It tells the story of an escaped prisoner, his woman secretary and two guardsmen in the Far North. It was entered for the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film at the 1939 Cannes Film Festival.
Flesh and the Woman is a 1954 French-Italian drama film directed by Robert Siodmak. It was entered into the 1954 Cannes Film Festival. It was released in the USA under the title Flesh and the Woman, and in the UK as The Card of Fate. It is a remake of the 1934 film Le Grand Jeu.
Charles Spaak was a Belgian screenwriter who was noted particularly for his work in the French cinema during the 1930s. He was the son of the dramatist and poet Paul Spaak, the brother of the politician Paul-Henri Spaak, and the father of the actresses Catherine Spaak and Agnès Spaak.
Pension Mimosas is a 1935 French drama film directed by Jacques Feyder. Based on an original scenario by Feyder and Charles Spaak, it is a psychological drama set largely in a small hotel on the Côte d'Azur, and it provided Françoise Rosay with one of the most substantial acting roles of her career. It was produced by the French subsidiary of the German company Tobis Film.
People Who Travel is a 1938 French-German film directed by Jacques Feyder. The film was a co-production with a separate German version Travelling People also released. It is a circus film.
Back Streets of Paris is a 1946 French drama film directed by Marcel Blistène. Jacques Feyder also contributed to the film in the role of artistic director.
Southern Mail or Southern Carrier is a 1937 French action film directed by Pierre Billon and starring Pierre Richard-Willm, Jany Holt and Raymond Aimos. It is adapted from the 1929 novel of the same name by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Jenny is a 1936 French drama film, the first full-length feature by Marcel Carné and the first of his successful collaborations with the dialogue writer Jacques Prévert and the composer Joseph Kosma. The leading roles are taken by Françoise Rosay, Albert Préjean, Charles Vanel, and Lisette Lanvin. It tells the story of a middle-aged woman in Paris who with underworld support has built up a smart night club, but her life starts falling apart when the young gangster she maintains as her lover falls in love with her daughter. At times the film moves into the realm of poetic realism, where the cinematography, music and dialogue infuse the lives and surroundings of ordinary people with poetry.
Life Dances On or Christine or Dance Program is a 1937 French drama film directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Marie Bell, Françoise Rosay and Louis Jouvet. Duvivier's American film Lydia (1941) is to some extent a remake of this one.
Ramuntcho is a 1938 French drama film directed by René Barberis and starring Paul Cambo, Louis Jouvet and Madeleine Ozeray. It is based on Pierre Loti's 1897 novel of the same title.
Eyes of Love is a 1959 French-Italian romantic drama film directed by Denys de La Patellière and starring Danielle Darrieux, Jean-Claude Brialy and Françoise Rosay.