Die Wahl

The election (II)

In his Simenon biography, Fenton Bresler wrote in relation to »Maigret contra Picpus« that the occupation by the Germans was never an issue. There is no doubt about this, but it applies to every one of the Maigrets - nowhere was there a change of boss due to the occupation or a situation in which the Gestapo interfered in Maigret's business.

But that would certainly have been plausible. The true story of Marcel Petiot, which has already been discussed here, showed that these interventions were not unusual. Looking at all the stories, it is clear that the Second World War, the occupation, the persecution of the Jews and the liberation did not take place in Maigret's world.

Why was everything in the Picpus case as it was before the war? One explanation would be that Simenon didn't want to admit it. But that would be a very favourable interpretation. It was more likely that there were scissors in his head - because he wanted to publish the novel, and at the time this was already happening under German control or according to criteria set by the German occupiers. And of course a newspaper like the »Paris-Soir« would not have printed a novel that took a critical look at the circumstances.

So the question remains, why did Simenon agree to this deal? The story was published in a newspaper that was under German control. He sold the film rights to Continental-Film, a company founded by the Germans to produce films for the French market. In 1942, the case was released in cinemas with Albert Préjean as Maigret. 

Let's take a look at the first candidates who were put forward and thus also the actors. Let's march down the line, as is our custom - from left to right.

Aimos (Isidore)

Imagine you are a French actor and want to really stand out in the glittering world of theatre or film. What would your options be if your name was Jean Dupont or Marie Martin, for example? A snappy stage name would probably be an option! A short, concise name simply sticks in the mind much better. »Jean Dupont« may sound good, but »Aimos« - that's an instant hit! Your audience is guaranteed not to forget you in a hurry and will cheerfully call out your name during your performances. And who knows, you might even think that a single, mysterious name could shroud you in a dazzling enigma. Who is »Aimos« really? A former secret agent? A brilliant inventor? Your fans' imaginations would certainly run riot. This new name will become your personal brand! »Aimos« is not just an actor, but a true legend. Just imagine: T-shirts, fan merchandise - you become a real icon. Doesn't that sound tempting?

Well, admittedly, there is one small problem. This phenomenon of one-word stage names has survived in the acting world. If you do it just for the name, you might have to switch to singing. Besides, the name is already taken and you'd look like an unimaginative cretin. Not the best start.

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Why Raymond Arthur Caudrilliers decided to adopt this name cannot be revealed here. The actor, who was chosen by »Paris-Soir« to play the character of Isidore, was born on 28 March 1891 and is said to have played his first role in a film at the age of twelve. Aimos had a reputation for being modest. He was a wealthy man, after all, he was a great businessman, but he never showed his wealth. It is said that film lovers went to see his films - even if he only played a supporting role.

The name could (theoretically) also be familiar to German Simenon film lovers. After all, he played the tramp Cupidon alongside Raimu in »Monsieur La Souris« ... theoretically, that is, as the film has not been shown in Germany in recent years.

During the Second World War, he was involved in charity campaigns in which food was distributed to the poor and prisoners of war. On 20 August, he was shot by the Germans during the liberation of Paris. His funeral took place three weeks later with great sympathy from the population.

The role attributed to him in the Picpus case also appeared as a minor role in history.

Mary Malbos (Mademoiselle Jeanne)

Sometimes the actress was also spelt »Malbot«. It is known that she played at the theatre - operetta roles are attributed to her. For example, she is mentioned in the original cast of the play »Là-haut«. She sang together with Maurice Chevalier, and those interested can listen to a piece on YouTube, which was probably performed in the above-mentioned operetta.

The editors had ascribed her the role of the victim. So it would only have been a short but dramatic performance and she would not have sung a song.

Sinoël (Le vieux Jef)

If it had been a suggested film cast - Sinoël wouldn't have made it. In the end, the role of Jef did not exist in the book. So the only question that remains is who was hiding behind the actor.

The one-name pantomime grew up as Jean Léonis Biès. Born in Sainte-Terre in south-west France on 13 August 1868, he began as a singer in cafés and became known as such around 1890. He later worked for Parisian revues and made a name for himself as a comedian. It was not until 1931 that he moved from the stage to the screen. His role in the productions of the 1930s and 1940s was described by Raymond Chirat and Olivier Barrot in »Les Excentriques du cinéma français« as follows:

He emerged, dismayed and confused at attracting attention, and captivated them so much that suddenly they could only see him.

Viewers were to see his last film in 1950. Sinoël himself did not live to see the premiere. He died on 30 August 1949.

Paulette Dubost (Emma)

The editors may have suggested her as the face for the Maigret film, but there was no role for her in the Pipus adaptation. I forgot to mention that this also applied to the other three colleagues who have already been described. But Paulette Dubost was to become a Maigret institution.

She appeared in a total of five different roles in Maigret productions, including

  • "Maigret sets a trap",

  • "Maigret sees red",

  • "Monsieur Charles",

  • "Maigret at Pigalle« and

  • "Maigret and the old lady«.

She played the first two roles alongside Jean Gabin and later appeared in the Jean Richard series. They were not leading roles, but neither would have been Emma in the Picpus case.

The actress was born in Paris on 8 October 1910 and died - and hold on to your hats, especially as I've just been talking about French life expectancy - on 21 September 2011, narrowly missing her 101st birthday! Her father was »only« an engineer, but her mother was an operetta singer - so the art came from that side. She had her first role at the age of seven - as a little rat (a term as wonderful as it is dubious for schoolgirls at dance schools who perform at the Paris Opera). Anyone familiar with Simenon's oeuvre knows that he was also involved with the swindler Alexandre Stavisky - in this respect, the information that the latter fell in love with Paulette Dubost is remarkable - as the actress told us in an interview in 1992. She was 14 years old at the time, so it can be safely assumed that nothing came of this liaison. At seventeen, she went into operetta, and a year earlier she had already had an extra role in a Jean Renoir film. At the age of twenty, she took off and made her first notable appearances in films.

Jean Dumontier (Bulard le Chauve)

Dumontier was supposed to play a bald man in the Picpus story. Well, there was no such role and no such name. 

The sources on his life and career are also very sparse. What is known is that he was born in Paris on 4 April 1899 and died there on 21 March 1966. He was present in French cinema in the second half of the 1930s. His wife Made Siamé, who also made an appearance in a Simenon film - »Monsieur La Souris« is mentioned here a second time - was more successful.

Constant Rémy (Maigret)

I only saw one picture of the actor and immediately asked myself: Why don't they take the stature from the original seriously? Constant Rémy may have been a very nice and friendly gentleman, but his facial features indicate that he was of a slender nature.

The actor was born in Paris on 20 May 1882 and died in Cannes on 16 August 1957. From 1909 onwards, it can be said, he was fat in business. He made one film after another, but by the end of the 1930s, that was the end of it. Rémy was only occasionally booked.

There is no mention of him in a Simenon film on his CV. So this face remains as a suggestion of a Maigret, which was not to be - the role was to be given to someone else.