Les Merveilles du Cinéma

by M30V | created - 19 Jun 2012 | updated - 11 Jul 2014 | Public

This is a List of the films referenced in the book Les Merveilles du Cinéma (The Wonders of Cinema) by French journalist Georges Sadoul, published in 1957. I have added a brief comment according to the book, which I hope, will be helpful for those interested in filmmaking.

Sadoul was a member of the surrealist group and later became a communist. He died in 1967. The Prix Georges Sadoul is named after him.

Please, feel free to comment and discuss.

Missing from IMDB:

Dong Cunrui (China, 1955) Si Pincang (Indonesia, 1952)

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1. Fever Mounts at El Pao (1959)

97 min | Drama

Aroused citizens assassinate an unpopular Caribbean despot, then two men vie for his gorgeous widow Ines. Ojeda is a steamy, isolated island, the penal colony for an oppressive dictatorship... See full summary »

Director: Luis Buñuel | Stars: Gérard Philipe, María Félix, Jean Servais, Miguel Ángel Ferriz

Votes: 1,032

Last film made by actor Gérard Philipe, to whom the book is dedicated. Directed by his friend and fellow surrealist Luis Buñuel.

2. Bold Adventure (1956)

84 min | Adventure, Comedy

Tyll Ulenspiegel's adventures fighting the Spanish occupants lead by the duke of Alba.

Directors: Gérard Philipe, Joris Ivens | Stars: Gérard Philipe, Jean Vilar, Fernand Ledoux, Nicole Berger

Votes: 112

The book is largely based around the making of this film. Thus is used to explain basic notions of lightening, set design, shooting, cutting, edition, costume design, make up, etc.

3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

Passed | 150 min | Drama, Romance, War

An extended family split up in France and Germany find themselves on opposing sides of the battlefield during World War I.

Director: Rex Ingram | Stars: Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard

Votes: 2,935 | Gross: $9.20M

As a reference to director Rex Ingram, founder of Victorine Studios.

4. The Rules of the Game (1939)

Not Rated | 110 min | Comedy, Drama

A bourgeois life in France at the onset of World War II, as the rich and their poor servants meet up at a French chateau.

Director: Jean Renoir | Stars: Marcel Dalio, Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost, Mila Parély

Votes: 24,785

One of the films whose production he witnessed.

5. Man About Town (1947)

100 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

1910 : A friend leaves his daughter, Madeleine, with Emile a French film producer. Emile falls in love with her. Problems starts when his young friend Jacques returns from military service ... See full summary »

Director: René Clair | Stars: Maurice Chevalier, François Périer, Marcelle Derrien, Dany Robin

Votes: 395

One of the films whose production he witnessed.

One of the films whose production he witnessed.

7. A Man Escaped (1956)

Not Rated | 101 min | Drama

A captured French Resistance fighter during WWII engineers a daunting escape from a Nazi prison in France.

Director: Robert Bresson | Stars: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clainche, Maurice Beerblock, Roland Monod

Votes: 16,570

One of the films whose production he witnessed.

8. L'affaire Dreyfus (1899)

13 min | Short, Biography, Drama

Dramatized re-enactments of the events of the Dreyfus-affair from 1894 to 1899.

Director: Georges Méliès | Star: Georges Méliès

Votes: 456

Example of early films, whose production values were more similar to those of theatre.

9. L'Atalante (1934)

Not Rated | 89 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Newly married couple Juliette and a ship captain Jean struggle through marriage as they travel on the L'atalante along with the captain's first mate Le père Jules and a cabin boy.

Director: Jean Vigo | Stars: Dita Parlo, Jean Dasté, Gilles Margaritis, Louis Lefebvre

Votes: 13,323

It points a continuity error due to Jean Vigo's lack of economic resources. He (apparently) could not afford a script supervisor (or "script girl") and he wasn't able to re-shoot the scene.

10. The Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895)

Not Rated | 1 min | Comedy, Short

An impudent child plays a prank on a gardener innocently watering his plants.

Director: Louis Lumière | Stars: François Clerc, Benoît Duval

Votes: 4,112

Noted as one of the first narrative films, it points the importance of props (the hose) and sets (the garden).

11. Cabiria (1914)

Not Rated | 148 min | Adventure, Drama, History

Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna. She is sold as a slave in Carthage, and as she is just going to be sacrificed to... See full summary »

Director: Giovanni Pastrone | Stars: Italia Almirante-Manzini, Lidia Quaranta, Bartolomeo Pagano, Carolina Catena

Votes: 2,840

Early use of tridimensional (not painting) sets. To enhance the feeling of depth, Pastrone introduced the travelling shot.

12. La Strada (1954)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama

A care-free girl is sold to a traveling entertainer, consequently enduring physical and emotional pain along the way.

Director: Federico Fellini | Stars: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart, Aldo Silvani

Votes: 54,114

In the spirit of realism; actress Giuletta Massina and her husband, director Federico Fellini acquired used clothes at the flea market in Porta Portese.

13. Bitter Rice (1949)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama

Two criminals on the run end up working in a rice field and decide to recruit other workers for their next robbery.

Director: Giuseppe De Santis | Stars: Vittorio Gassman, Doris Dowling, Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone

Votes: 3,274

Reference to symbolism in the dress worn by Silvana Mangano.

14. La Grande Illusion (1937)

Not Rated | 113 min | Drama, War

During WWI, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are eventually sent to a seemingly inescapable fortress.

Director: Jean Renoir | Stars: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim

Votes: 31,627 | Gross: $0.17M

Film shoted by cinematographer Christian Matras. He also shot "Les aventures de Till".

15. Fanfan la Tulipe (1952)

Not Rated | 102 min | Adventure, Comedy, Romance

69 Metascore

Swashbuckling adventures of young army recruit Fanfan la Tulipe during the reign of King Louis XV in 18th century France.

Director: Christian-Jaque | Stars: Gérard Philipe, Gina Lollobrigida, Marcel Herrand, Olivier Hussenot

Votes: 2,377

Same as above.

16. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956)

PG | 104 min | Drama, History

The timeless tale of the seductive gypsy Esmeralda and the tortured hunchback Quasimodo.

Director: Jean Delannoy | Stars: Gina Lollobrigida, Anthony Quinn, Jean Danet, Alain Cuny

Votes: 2,269

Jean Delannoy recreated the famous cathedral's porch in the studio to avoid lightening difficulties (this is obvious nowadays).

Book Ilustration: A production shot showing the visual effect of a 6m cathedral behind some 4m houses giving the impression of a real 70m cathedral.

17. Notorious (1946)

Not Rated | 102 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Romance

100 Metascore

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Louis Calhern

Votes: 86,728 | Gross: $10.46M

Description of a complex crane shot. Panning the camera in a long shot, then descending to an extreme close up.

18. Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)

Not Rated | 96 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

Albert is smitten for Pola but ends up wrongly committed in jail, in the meantime her affections are sought after by his friend, and on his release both love and friendship must be tested.

Director: René Clair | Stars: Albert Préjean, Pola Illéry, Edmond T. Gréville, Bill Bocket

Votes: 1,859

Example of sound production. In the film's first scene, the camera slowly approaches a group of street singers. As we get near them, the sound gradually increases.

19. La Chartreuse de Parme (1948)

170 min | Drama, Romance

Fabrice del Dongo, a young archbishop, gives his all to romance rather than to the Church, creating complications for everyone around. The Countess of San Severina, is but one of the women ... See full summary »

Director: Christian-Jaque | Stars: Renée Faure, Lucien Coëdel, Louis Salou, María Casares

Votes: 344

An instance of star value. According to Sadoul, people often referred to this film as a "Gérard Philipe movie" rather than a "Christian-Jaque movie" or a "Stendhal film"

20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

Approved | 110 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

A clumsy daydreamer gets caught up in a sinister conspiracy.

Director: Norman Z. McLeod | Stars: Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Boris Karloff, Fay Bainter

Votes: 5,267

A comparisson betwen the audience and Danny Kaye's character, who likes to imagine he is a Hollywood hero.

21. It Happened One Night (1934)

Not Rated | 105 min | Comedy, Romance

87 Metascore

A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

Director: Frank Capra | Stars: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns

Votes: 86,753 | Gross: $4.36M

Another instance of star value. This time is the famous urban legend about the sales of undershirts declining, because of Clark Gable not wearing any.

22. Camille (1912)

Drama, Romance

Marguerite is a courtesan in Paris. She falls deeply in love with a young man of promise, Armand Duval. When Armand's father begs her not to ruin his hope of a career and position by ... See full summary »

Directors: André Calmettes, Louis Mercanton, Henri Pouctal | Stars: Sarah Bernhardt, Lou Tellegen, Paul Capellani, Jean Chameroy

Votes: 22

Actress Sarah Bernhardt, was a stage performer. When she repeated the same gestures and acting style in film, she looked (in Sadoul words) ridiculous.

23. The Wages of Fear (1953)

Not Rated | 131 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

In a decrepit South American village, four men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot | Stars: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck, Folco Lulli

Votes: 49,724

Actor Yves Montand, before being a screen actor was a jazz singer. He was successful in getting rid of the singer persona and acquiring on-screen presence.

24. Desperate Decision (1952)

84 min | Drama

1922:Irish Revolution.Catherine, a servant in a convent ,goes to Dublin to meet up with her young brother in danger.

Director: Yves Allégret | Stars: Danièle Delorme, Henri Vidal, Nicolas Vogel, Maurice Ronet

Votes: 20

Book illustration. A comparison between a sketch and the finished set.

25. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Not Rated | 116 min | Biography, Drama

The biopic of the famous French muckraking writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfuss Affair.

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: Paul Muni, Gale Sondergaard, Joseph Schildkraut, Gloria Holden

Votes: 6,480

Outstanding use of makeup (grimage) on actor Paul Muni.

26. Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1944)

Not Rated | 95 min | Biography, Drama, History

During the early part of his reign, Ivan the Terrible faces betrayal from the aristocracy and even his closest friends as he seeks to unite the Russian people.

Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein | Stars: Nikolay Cherkasov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya, Serafima Birman, Mikhail Nazvanov

Votes: 8,392

Outstanding use of makeup (grimage) on actor Nikolai Cherkasov.

Outstanding use of makeup (grimage) on actor Aleksandr Borisov, who interpreted the main character trough his teens to old age.

28. Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Not Rated | 93 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

92 Metascore

A beautiful young woman takes her father's place as the prisoner of a mysterious beast, who wishes to marry her.

Directors: Jean Cocteau, René Clément | Stars: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parély, Nane Germon

Votes: 22,729 | Gross: $0.30M

An impressive achievement in makeup by Hagop Arakelian and ill-fated painter, Christian Bérard.

29. People Who Travel (1938)

108 min | Drama

Due to an accident at the Barlay Circus, animal trainer Flora finds Fernand, a former prison escapee, and refers him to manager, Edouard Barlay.

Director: Jacques Feyder | Stars: Françoise Rosay, André Brulé, Marie Glory, Fabien Loris

Votes: 48

To play the part of a lion tamer, actress Françoise Rosay frequented real female lion tamers.

30. Chapayev (1934)

93 min | Biography, Drama, History

This film is based on the book about Vasili Ivanovich Chapaev (1887 - 1919) who was in real life the Commander of the 25th Division of the Red Army. Chapaev is an uneducated peasant and a ... See full summary »

Directors: Sergey Vasilev, Georgi Vasilyev | Stars: Boris Babochkin, Leonid Kmit, Varvara Myasnikova, Boris Blinov

Votes: 1,058

As part of the Stanislavski's system, Boris Babochkin frequented soldiers who served under the orders of the real-life Vasily Chapayev.

31. Yunost Maksima (1935)

92 min | Drama, History, War

A 1935 USA trade-paper reviewer called it... "an impressive and technically outstanding historical drama dealing with czarist terrorism and revolutionary boiling in the days of 1907. ... See full summary »

Directors: Grigoriy Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg | Stars: Boris Chirkov, Valentina Kibardina, Mikhail Tarkhanov, Stepan Kayukov

Votes: 221

First film of a trilogy featuring Boris Chirkov as working-class hero, Maksim. In preparation, Chrirkov lived for weeks as a common worker, interviewing people who lived in the film's period.

32. A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923)

Passed | 82 min | Drama, Romance

A kept woman runs into her former fiancé and finds herself torn between love and comfort.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Edna Purviance, Clarence Geldart, Carl Miller, Lydia Knott

Votes: 4,426 | Gross: $0.39M

Director Charles Chaplin helped his actors to get into character by building detailed, four-walls sets. Also, in the feast scene, he served real champagne instead of colored soda, as was the custom.

33. Greed (1924)

Not Rated | 140 min | Drama, Thriller, Western

The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.

Director: Erich von Stroheim | Stars: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller

Votes: 8,439 | Gross: $0.16M

In the same line, Erich von Stroheim filmed in an abandoned house, with roofed sets of real dimensions.

34. La Terra Trema (1948)

Not Rated | 160 min | Drama

In rural Sicily, the fishermen live at the mercy of the greedy wholesalers. One family risks everything to buy their own boat and operate independently.

Director: Luchino Visconti | Stars: Luchino Visconti, Antonio Pietrangeli, Antonio Arcidiacono, Giuseppe Arcidiacono

Votes: 3,924

Neorealist director Luchino Visconti shot this film in a sicilian fisherman's house with nonprofessional actors.

35. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

In post-war Italy, a working-class man's bicycle is stolen. He and his son set out to find it.

Director: Vittorio De Sica | Stars: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Elena Altieri

Votes: 132,272 | Gross: $0.33M

A famous anecdote. The protagonist, Lamberto Maggiorani was a worker without acting experience. Shortly after being back at work, the factory closed, forcing him to full-time acting.

36. Port of Shadows (1938)

Not Rated | 91 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A military deserter finds love and trouble (and a small dog) in a smoky French port city.

Director: Marcel Carné | Stars: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur

Votes: 7,553 | Gross: $0.03M

In one scene, Jean Gabin must give a slap to Pierre Brasseur. For better results, director Marcel Carné asks Gabin to "take it easy" during rehearsals, but on the first take, "hit really hard". Brasseur was taken by surprise giving a great performance.

After eight takes of a fist fight scene, the actors are wornout, however Vladimir Petrov asks for a ninth take which leaves Nikolai Cherkasov with a broken tooth. The take that made it into the final cut was the sixth. This example and the one before, are instances of risk scenes filmed without stunt doubles.

38. Marty (1955)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance

A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who have given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other.

Director: Delbert Mann | Stars: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli

Votes: 19,722

Example of a film with a relative low budget ($350,000 says the book), that turn out to be highly successful due to argument and performances.

39. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Passed | 238 min | Drama, History, Romance

97 Metascore

A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods.

Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood | Stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil

Votes: 269,705 | Gross: $198.68M

Example of a best-seller made into a high-grossing movie.

40. The Iron Curtain (1948)

Approved | 87 min | Biography, Crime, History

The story of Soviet cypher-clerk Igor Gouzenko who was posted to the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa,Canada in 1943 and defected in 1945 to reveal the extent of Soviet espionage activities directed against Canada.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, June Havoc, Berry Kroeger

Votes: 704

Sadoul deemed this movie as the "first anti-communist film", very controversial with no artistic values or commercial success.

41. The Seven Deadly Sins (1952)

127 min | Drama

A French/Italian co-production with two episodes from Italy and five from France covering the seven deadly sins---actually eight as two of the sins are covered in one episode while a new "... See full summary »

Directors: Yves Allégret, Claude Autant-Lara, Eduardo De Filippo, Jean Dréville, Georges Lacombe, Carlo Rim, Roberto Rossellini | Stars: Michèle Morgan, Françoise Rosay, Jean Debucourt, Marcelle Praince

Votes: 170

Due to a little anti-capitalist piece of dialogue, the financing banks threaten to retire their investment if the dialogue is not retired. An example of censorship at a time when the french films had to undergo an official censure.

42. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Not Rated | 66 min | Drama, History, Thriller

In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.

Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein | Stars: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barskiy, Grigoriy Aleksandrov, Ivan Bobrov

Votes: 49,229 | Gross: $0.05M

After the Russian revolution, the film industry was nationalized, unfortunely many filmakers and actors emigrated abroad, so the restoration was slow. In 1919 they founded th first film school (today Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography).

43. Mother (1926)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

The Film Version Of Gorki's Great Story Of The 1905 Revolution

Director: Vsevolod Pudovkin | Stars: Vera Baranovskaya, Nikolay Batalov, Aleksandr Chistyakov, Anna Zemtsova

Votes: 2,268

This and the one before are examples of the socialist films boom around 1925.

44. The Last Stage (1948)

110 min | Drama

Female prisoners of various ethnic background struggle to survive the hardships of Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Director: Wanda Jakubowska | Stars: Tatjana Gorecka, Antonina Gordon-Górecka, Barbara Drapinska, Aleksandra Slaska

Votes: 220

From Poland, BAFTA Award.

The following films were produced by (at the time) socialist countries. They achieved critical acclaim, thanks to film festivals.

45. Five from Barska Street (1954)

108 min | Drama

In war-ravaged Warsaw, five juvenile delinquents are given probation for stealing, to rehabilitate themselves, but remain under the influence of their profiteer-boss.

Director: Aleksander Ford | Stars: Aleksandra Slaska, Tadeusz Janczar, Andrzej Kozak, Tadeusz Lomnicki

Votes: 78

Poland, International Prize at Cannes

46. Trevoga (1951)

115 min | Drama

The action takes place in the last years of the Second World War, immediately before the socialist revolution in Bulgaria. It centers on the life of the middle-class family of Lazarov, ... See full summary »

Director: Zahari Zhandov | Stars: Stefan Savov, Nadya Stanislavova, Gancho Ganchev, Dimitar Gachev

Votes: 7


47. Heroes of Shipka (1955)

90 min | Drama, History, War

Epic historical drama. The Russo - Turkish War of Liberation of 1878 and the role of the Bulgarian Volunteer Gorps.

Director: Sergey Vasilev | Stars: Ivan Pereverzev, Viktor Avdyushko, Georgiy Yumatov, Konstantin Sorokin

Votes: 234

Bulgaria/URSS. Best Director at Cannes.