Carné, Marcel: French Director of Children of Paradise

Born in Paris, on August 18, 1906, France, Carne was the son of a cabinet maker whose mother had died when he was five.

Carné began his career as a film critic, before becoming editor of the weekly publication, Hebdo-Films, and working for Cinémagazine and Cinémonde between 1929 and 1933.

In the same period he worked in silent film as a camera assistant with director Jacques Feyder.  At 23, Carné directed his first short film, “Nogent, Eldorado du Dimanche” (1929).

He then served as assistant to Feyder and Rene Clair on several films.

When Feyder was invited to work in England for Alexander Korda, for whom he made Knight Without Armor (1937), Carné took over his project, Jenny (1936), as its director.

The film marked the beginning of a successful collaboration with the surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert. This collaborative relationship lasted for more than a dozen years, during which Carné and Prévert created their best-known films. Together, they were involved in what is known as the poetic realism film movement and style.

Under the German occupation of France during World War II, Carné worked in the Vichy zone where he subverted the regime’s attempts to control art.  Several members of his team were Jewish, including Joseph Kosma and set designer Alexandre Trauner.

Under difficult conditions, Carné made his masterpiece, Les Enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise, 1945), which was released after the Liberation of France.

In the late 1990s, the film was voted “Best French Film of the Century” in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals.

After WWII, Carne and Prévert followed this triumph with what was at the time the most expensive production ever in French film. But the result, titled Les Portes de la nuit, was panned by the critics and a box office failure. It became their last completed film.

By the 1950s, Carné’s reputation was in decline as the critics of Cahiers du Cinema, who became the leaders of the New Wave, dismissed him and placed his film’s merits solely with Prevert.

Other than his 1958 hit Les Tricheurs, Carné’s postwar films met with uneven success and many were met with  negative criticism.

In 1958, Carné was the Head of the Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Carné made his last film, Le Bible, in 1976.

Though not flaunting it in public, Carné was gay and  several of his films contain references to male homosexuality or bisexuality.  One of his partner, Roland Lesaffre, appeared in many of his films.

Carné died October 31, 1996 in Clamart, Hauts-de-Seine.

Partial filmography as director

Jenny (1936)

Drôle de drame (1936)

Le Quai des brumes (1938)

Hôtel du Nord (1938)

Le Jour se lève (1939)  Daybreak

Les Visiteurs du soir (1942)

Les Enfants du paradis (1945)

Les Portes de la nuit (1946)

La Marie du port (1949)

Juliette ou La clef des songes (1951)

Thérèse Raquin (1953)

L’Air de Paris (1954)

Les Tricheurs (1958)

Terrain vague (1960)

Trois chambres à Manhattan (1965)

Les Jeunes loups (1968)

Les Assassins de l’ordre (1971)

La Merveilleuse visite (1973)

La Bible (1976)