"Crainquebille" (1922)

also known as "Bill"

A Trarieux Film, produced by Legrand Films
Directed by Jacques Feyder,
Screenplay by Jacques Feyder, based on a novel by Anatole France (L'affaire Crainquebille), with a running time of approximately 70 min when released in France in 1922. Re-edited to 60 minutes and re-titled as "Bill" in the United States by Hugo Riesenfeld and distributed by Red Seal Pictures.

Cast: Maurice de Feraudy, Jean Forest, Felix Oudart, Marguerite Carre and Francoise Rosay.


"Crainquebille" is the simple story of Crainquebille (Maurice de Feraudy)a street peddler who has been selling produce on the Paris streets for over forty years. While waiting for a customer to pay for her purchases, a policeman tells him to move, and, misunderstanding him, Crainquebille tells the policeman," I'm not a fathead." The policeman accuses the peddler of calling him a "fathead," and Crainquebille is unjustly arrested by the policeman.

Crainquebille is assigned a dis-interested lawyer who spends his time checking a racing form, his trail is a mockery of justice. The old peddler, unaware of what is occurring, is sent to prison.

Upon his release, his former customers have forgotten him, and he has lost the locations where he used to park his pushcart to other peddlers. Realizing that the jail was rather comfortable in comparison to the wet streets, he tries to get arrested by calling the policeman a "fathead" again, but the policeman ignores him.

Crainquebille loses his self-respect and becomes a tramp. While standing by the river Seine contemplating suicide, he is approached by a young homeless boy (Jean Forest) who has a dramatic impact on Crainquebille's life.

Jacques Feyder and the success of "Crainquebille"

"Crainquebille" was directed by Jacques Feyder (1885-1948), born in Belgium, who came to France in 1914 as a stage actor. During the war he had minor roles in a few films, and he then became a director with the Gaumont Studios. His first efforts were rather mediocre until he directed "L'Atlantide " in 1921 which was a commercial success. On an artistic level, "Crainquebille" was Feyder's first important film. Adapted from a novel by Anatole France, it would have passed unnoticed by avant-garde criticism were it not for Feyder's introduction in the court room scene where, with ingenious trick effects, he has the diminutive Crainquebille overshadowed by a gigantic policeman. At the time of it's release, it was criticized that the director had chosen his basic story from the novel of an academician and that he had called upon Maurice de Feraudy, who was a member of the Comedie Francaise, to accept the title role.

"Crainquebille" has come to be regarded as one of the major works of the French cinema, and D.W. Griffith, upon seeing "Crainquebille," declared to a journalist, "I have seen a film that, for me, symbolizes Paris. That man with his barrow load of vegetables - what a striking image - and how forceful! And Feraudy - great, powerful acting! A fine work, beautiful, compelling, bold!"

The New York Times, which selected "Crainquebille" as one of the best films of the year, reviewed the film at the Rialto Theater on September 3,1923. "'Bill,' which is Anatole France's 'Crainquebille,' was shown privately the other day and now is enjoying the honor of sharing the Rivoli screen with 'Salomy Jane' in which Jacqueline Logan has the principal role. .. This is a beautiful, simple production with an inspiring actor in the title role."

"Crainquebille" was one of the forerunners of French realism that would dominate the Gallic cinema of the 1930s.

The Players

Maurice de Feraudy, a member of the Comedie Franchise, had played or directed several films D'Art and gives an extraordinary performance as the old peddler, Crainquebille. Standing among the many peddlers on the busy narrow cobblestoned streets of Paris, Feraudy's performance has an authenticity that influenced a generation of French actors.

Jean Forest (1912-1980) who plays the young gamin, made his screen debut in "Crainquebille," and later Feyder used him in his two follow-up features, "Visage d'Enfants" and "Gribiche." Forest's last screen appearance was in 1935.

copyright 2001 by John DeBartolo. All rights reserved.

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