Mauvaise Graine (1934): Billy Wilder’s Screen Debut, French Drama, Starring Danielle Darrieux

On his way to Hollywood, Billy Wilder directed Mauvaise Graine (English: Bad Seed), French drama, co-helmed with Alexander Esway.

Mauvaise Graine
Mauvaise Graine poster.jpg

Promotional release poster

The screenplay by Wilder, Jan Lustig [de], Max Colpet, and Claude-André Puget focuses on a wealthy young playboy who becomes involved with a gang of car thieves.

Although Wilder and Esway shared the directing credit, in later years star Danielle Darrieux recalled that Esway had been involved, but was never seen him on the set.

Set in 1930s Paris, the story centers on Henri Pasquier, whose wealthy father decides to no longer support his playboy lifestyle. Dr. Pasquier sells his son’s beloved Buick roadster, which Henri later sees parked on a street. Unable to resist temptation, he takes the car to keep a date with a young lady.

Henri is followed by three men who bring him to the service station that serves as the front for a gang of thieves. Believing he is one of them, they warn him not to compete with them. At the garage, Henri is introduced to Jean-la-Cravate, who invites him to stay at his flat with him and sister Jeannette, who lures men away from their cars so her brother’s henchmen can steal them. Henri joins his gang, and soon he and Jeannette engage in some daring thefts. When they steal three luxury Hispano-Suizas, Henri insists everyone be entitled to better compensation.

Release date: 1934
Running time: 86 minutes