Marcel Pagnol

"Pagnol" redirects here. For other uses, see Pagnol (disambiguation).
Marcel Pagnol
Born (1895-02-28)28 February 1895
Aubagne, France
Died 18 April 1974(1974-04-18) (aged 79)
Paris, France
Occupation Author
Film director
Nationality French
Notable works Marius
Jean de Florette
Manon des sources
La Gloire de mon père
Le Château de ma mère

Marcel Pagnol (French: [maʁsɛl paɲɔl]; 28 February 1895 – 18 April 1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. In 1946, he became the first filmmaker elected to the Académie française. Although his work is less fashionable than it once was, Pagnol is still generally regarded as one of France's greatest 20th-century writers and is notable for the fact that he excelled in almost every medium—memoir, novel, drama and film.

Early life

Marcel Pagnol was born on 28 February 1895 in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône département, in southern France near Marseille, the eldest son of schoolteacher Joseph PagnolA and seamstress Augustine Lansot.B[1] Marcel Pagnol grew up in Marseille with his younger brothers Paul and René, and younger sister Germaine.

School years

In July 1904, the family rented the Bastide Neuve,[1] – a house in the sleepy Provençal village of La Treille – for the summer holidays, the first of many spent in the hilly countryside between Aubagne and Marseille.[2] About the same time, Augustine's health, which had never been robust, began to noticeably decline and on 16 June 1910 she succumbed to a chest infection ("mal de poitrine") and died, aged 36.[3] Joseph remarried in 1912.[1]

In 1913, at the age of 18, Marcel passed his baccalaureate in philosophy[1] and started studying literature at the University in Aix-en-Provence. When World War I broke out, he was called up into the infantry at Nice but in January 1915 he was discharged because of his poor constitution ("faiblesse de constitution'').[1] On 2 March 1916, he married Simone Colin in Marseille and in November graduated in English.[1] He became an English teacher, teaching in various local colleges and at a lycée in Marseille.[1]


Time in Paris

In 1922, he moved to Paris, where he taught English until 1927,[1] when he decided instead to devote his life to playwriting. During this time, he belonged to a group of young writers, in collaboration with one of whom, Paul Nivoix, he wrote the play, Merchants of Glory, which was produced in 1924. This was followed, in 1928, by Topaze, a satire based on ambition.[1] Exiled in Paris, he returned nostalgically to his Provençal roots, taking this as his setting for his play, Marius, which later became the first of his works to be adapted into a film in 1931.

Separated from Simone Collin since 1926 (though not divorced until 1941), he formed a relationship with the young English dancer Kitty Murphy: their son, Jacques Pagnol, was born on 24 September 1930.[1] (Jacques later became his father's assistant and subsequently a cameraman for France 3 Marseille.)

Filmmaking career

In 1926, on a visit to London, Pagnol attended a screening of one of the first talking films and he was so impressed that he decided to devote his efforts to cinema. He contacted Paramount Picture studios and suggested adapting his play Marius for cinema. This was directed by Alexander Korda and released on 10 October 1931.[1] It became one of the first successful French-language talking films.

In 1932 Pagnol founded his own film production studios in the countryside near Marseille.[1] Over the next decade Pagnol produced his own films, taking many different roles in the production – financier, director, script writer, studio head, and foreign-language script translator – and employing the greatest French actors of the period. On 4 April 1946, Pagnol was elected to the Académie française, taking his seat in March 1947, the first filmmaker to receive this honour.[1]

Themes of Pagnol's films

In his films, Pagnol transfers his playwriting talents onto the big screen. His editing style is somberly reserved, placing emphasis on the content of an image. As a pictorial naturalist, Pagnol relies on film as art to convey a deeper meaning rather than solely as a tool to tell a story. Pagnol also took great care in the type of actors he employed, hiring local actors to appear in his films to highlight their unique accents and culture. Like his plays, Pagnol's films emphasize dialogue and musicality. The themes of many of Pagnol's films revolve around the acute observation of social rituals. Using interchangeable symbols and recurring character roles, such as proud fathers and rebellious children, Pagnol illuminates the provincial life of the lower class. Notably, Pagnol also frequently compares women and land, showing both can be barren or fertile. Above all, Pagnol uses all this to illustrate the importance of human bonds and their renewal.[4]

As a novelist

In 1945, Pagnol remarried, to actress Jacqueline Pagnol.[1] They had two children together, Frédéric (born 1946) and Estelle (born 1949).[1] Estelle died at the age of two. Pagnol was so devastated that he fled the south and returned to live in Paris. He went back to writing plays, but after his next piece was badly received he decided to change his job once more and began writing a series of autobiographical novels – Souvenirs d'enfance – based on his childhood experiences.

In 1957, the first two novels in the series, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère were published to instant acclaim.[1] The third Le Temps des secrets was published in 1959,[1] though the fourth Le Temps des Amours was to remain unfinished and was not published until 1977, after his death. In the meantime, Pagnol turned to a second series, L'Eau des CollinesJean de Florette and Manon des Sources – which focused on the machinations of Provençal peasant life at the beginning of the twentieth century and were published in 1962.[1]

Pagnol adapted his own film Manon des Sources, with his wife, Jacqueline, in the title role, into two novels, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, collectively titled L'Eau des Collines.


Marcel Pagnol died in Paris on 18 April 1974.[1] He is buried in Marseille at the cemetery La Treille, along with his mother, father, brothers, and wife. His boyhood friend, David Magnan (Lili des Bellons in the autographies), died at the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918, and is buried nearby.


Pagnol was also known for his translations of Shakespeare (from the English) and Virgil (from the Latin):

Pagnol's Hamlet is still performed in France, although some have criticized his portrayal of Hamlet as somewhat effeminate.[5]

Film adaptions

In 1986, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were refilmed by filmmaker Claude Berri, to international acclaim.

In 1990, Pagnol's affectionate reminiscences of childhood, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère, were refilmed by Yves Robert.

In 2011, La Fille du puisatier was refilmed by Daniel Auteuil.

In 2013, Marius and Fanny were refilmed by Daniel Auteuil.




See also


  • ^A Born 25 October 1869. Died 8 November 1951, age 82.
  • ^B Born 11 September 1873. Died 16 June 1910, age 36.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Castans (1987), pp. 363–368
  2. Castans (1987), p. 22.
  3. Castans (1987), pp. 27, 32.
  4. Williams, Alan (1992). Republic of Images. London, England: Harvard University Press. pp. 200–206. ISBN 0-674-76267-3.
  5. Maurois, André. Pagnol et Shakespeare, Opéra, 1948
  6. Marius and its sequels, Fanny and César, formed the basis for the libretto of Vladimir Cosma's 2007 opera Marius et Fanny.
  7. Manon des Sources (1952 film) at the Internet Movie Database


  • Castans, Raymond (1987). Marcel Pagnol. Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès. ISBN 978-2-7096-0622-6
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