Young Girls of Rochefort, The (1967): Jacques Demy’s Followed Up Musical to Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Starring real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac

Jacques Demy followed up his seminal musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with The Young Girls of Rochefort (French: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort), a musical comedy, toplined by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac.

The all star international cast includes Gene Kelly, and features Jacques Perrin, Michel Piccoli, Danielle Darrieux, George Chakiris, and Grover Dale.

The choreography was by Norman Maen.

Michel Legrand composed the score, to Demy’s lyrics.

The most famous songs from this score are “A Pair of Twins” (“Chanson des Jumelles” in French) and “You Must Believe in Spring” (“Chanson de Maxence”). The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.

The film was a success for Demy in France, earning 1,319,432 admissions, but not in the U.S.

In the seaside town of Rochefort, a caravan of trucks arrives, bringing the fair to the town square over the weekend.

The story centers on twin sisters Delphine and Solange. Delphine teaches ballet classes and Solange gives music lessons, but each longs to find her love and life outside of Rochefort.

When the fair comes to town, Delphine and Solange meet two smooth-talking but kind-hearted carnies, Étienne and Bill.

The twins’ mother Yvonne, who owns a café, pines for the fiancé she left impulsively years earlier because of his embarrassing last name, Dame. Yvonne’s café becomes a central hub for Étienne and Bill, as well as the other characters, including a waitress named Josette.

In the café, Yvonne meets Maxence, a sailor about to be dsicharfed from the navy. Maxence, a poet and painter, is searching for his ideal woman.

Meanwhile, Delphine ends her frustrating relationship with egotistical gallery owner Guillaume. Leaving the gallery, she notices a painting that looks like her, painted by Maxence. Delphine becomes determined to meet her secret admirer.

Unbeknownst to Yvonne, her former fiancé Simon Dame has opened a music store in Rochefort. He knows his fiancée had twins from previous relationship, but he never met them.

Solange, an aspiring composer, enlists Simon’s help—unaware of his relationship with her mother—and he promises to introduce her to his successful American colleague Andy Miller.

On her way to pick up her younger brother Booboo from school, Solange bumps into a charming foreigner, who turns out to be Andy, though the two do not exchange names.

When the two female dancers in Étienne and Bill’s show run off with sailors, Delphine and Solange are asked to perform, which offers them free ride to Paris in return.

After the fair, as the twins are packing, Simon stops by and urges Solange to meet Andy at the music store. Maxence stops by the café to say goodbye to Yvonne before departing for Paris.

After he leaves, Delphine shows up to say goodbye as well. Once Yvonne learns that Simon volunteered to pick up Booboo from school, she asks Delphine to watch the café and rushes over to see Simon. Maxence briefly returns to retrieve a bag he had forgotten, but he and Delphine again miss each other.

At the music store, Solange realizes that the foreigner is Andy, and the two dance and kiss.

The truck caravan is leaving, and tired of waiting for Yvonne to return, Delphine takes the road to Paris with Étienne, Bill and Josette.

Along the road, Maxence tries to hitchhike his way to Paris. The truck that stops to pick him up is the one in which Delphine is, though the long-awaited reunion between the two does not occur on-screen.

Darrieux’s role (as the mother) was the only one in which a principal actor in any of Demy’s film-musicals sang his or her own musical parts.

Gene Kelly, though he spoke French well, did not record his own songs. According to Michel Legrand, “Kelly had short tessitura, only one octave. In Hollywood, where I often worked with him, he used to record with two other singers: one on his left for the low notes and one on his right for the high notes.” Legrand asked English-speaking Canadian singer Don Burke to record the songs, who sang in French with American accent.

An English-language version was shot simultaneously with the French-language version. That version was released in the U.S., but  it didn’t perform well.

Recycling:

A stage musical, based on Demy’s film, was produced in France in 2003, having been adapted by Alain Boublil and directed by Daniel Moyne.

Cast
Catherine Deneuve as Delphine Garnier
George Chakiris as Etienne
Françoise Dorléac as Solange Garnier
Jacques Perrin as Maxence
Michel Piccoli as Simon Dame
Jacques Riberolles as Guillaume Lancien
Grover Dale as Bill
Geneviève Thénier as Josette
Henri Crémieux as Dutrouz
Pamela Hart as Judith
Leslie North as Esther
Patrick Jeantet as Booboo
Gene Kelly as Andy Miller
Danielle Darrieux as Yvonne
Singing voices

Anne Germain as Delphine
Christiane Legrand as Judith
Alice Gerald as Josette
Romuald as Etienne
Olivier Bonnet as Booboo
Claude Parent as Solange
Claudine Meunier as Esther
José Bartel as Bill
Donald Burke as Andy
Georges Blaness as Simon
Jacques Revaux as Maxence