That was a little over half a century ago, at a time when there were no plans to replace supermarket cashiers with machines. Just as they were about to adjust the contents of their cart, Louis Velle and Frédérique Hébrard discovered that the cashier was wearing a sumptuous tiara, obviously fake. The couple interrogates her and she explains that this set is linked to a promotional operation for a new household product. Once in the car, Frédérique laughs and exclaims, "What if she really was a princess? What if she had found herself in exile, forced to work to earn a living? ». The question becomes a topic of daily conversation. Little by little, an idea begins to take hold. This is how La demoiselle d'Avignon was born, which Madelen invites you to discover or rediscover.
Completely unaware of what would become of this story, Louis Velle and Frédérique Hébard decided to devote several days a week to writing a screenplay and dialogues. Originally, they thought of a 90-minute film. With the help of imagination, the twists and turns multiply so much that after a year of work, the couple finds themselves with a script divided into six one-hour episodes. It is addressed to several producers and one of them responds almost immediately. We get along with the authors. After the arrival of a Canadian co-producer, it was decided by mutual agreement to entrust the direction to a young director with obvious talent, Michel Wyn. The latter is interested but sets a condition that is non-negotiable. The budget included a black-and-white shoot, but for this fairy tale to truly touch the hearts of viewers, it is essential that the images are in colour. He ended up, not without difficulty, getting a green light.
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In parallel to this problem, there is the problem of the female interpreter. Who will play opposite Louis Velle, to whom the role of François Fonsalette almost naturally falls? The name Marthe Keller was coined by Frédérique Hébrard. She noticed his charm and talent in two comedies directed by Philippe de Broca, The Devil by the Tail and Les Caprices de Marie. One Sunday afternoon, Louis Velle went to the Théâtre de la Gaîté Montparnasse, where she was starring in a dramatic play: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols. Once the curtain is down, he goes to her dressing room where she greets him with a shout "Good morning, doctor!" The entire room had been rented that day by doctors, and she mistook the actor for one of them. He introduces himself, explains his reason for his coming, and concludes his remarks by launching, with a smile on his lips, "Do you want France to be in love with you?"
One year later... Filming and editing have been completed. Now it's a matter of finding one or more channels that can broadcast the movies. At that time, it was not customary to solicit them in advance. The producers have therefore taken a big financial risk. Nevertheless, they are convinced that their investment will pay off very quickly. So they knock on the doors of the ORTF's fiction leaders. To their surprise, their application was immediately rejected. One manager even calls them crazy, even oblivious. How can we imagine that after the events of May 1968, the French could take an interest in such a meagre subject?
The shock is as harsh as it is unpredictable. A crisis meeting is held in the presence of the entire team. An idea quickly emerged: forget these subordinates who didn't understand anything, and climb to the top of the hierarchy, with the hope of convincing less obtuse professionals. Michel Wyn's scriptwriter suggests talking to her best friend about it. She is the secretary of Pierre Sabbagh, who has just been appointed director of the second channel. A private screening of the first episode. The very next morning, the loyal assistant says to her boss, "If you don't watch this film, I'll resign!" A little surprised, Sabbagh asked to see this first episode. After only ten minutes, he got up, went to his desk and gave the formal order to schedule La demoiselle d'Avignon as soon as possible. He knows television and knows that it is a formidable success.
The sequel will prove him right. More than 20 million followers will follow the adventures of Princess Koba with passion. Dream evenings for viewers, but nightmare days for advisers who no doubt had a hard time justifying to their superiors the reasons why they had rejected this project.