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The Eye of the INA: the first musketeers on TV thanks to Claude Barma

In 1959, television, still in black and white, did not have many resources but did, however, have a reservoir of colorful talent: actors and actresses whose careers were on the rise, and who, will undoubtedly end up achieving star status.

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The Eye of the INA: the first musketeers on TV thanks to Claude Barma

In 1959, television, still in black and white, did not have many resources but did, however, have a reservoir of colorful talent: actors and actresses whose careers were on the rise, and who, will undoubtedly end up achieving star status. This is how Claude Barma suggests that a few of them take up a challenge. With the green light from the management of Radio Diffusion Télévision Française, he decided to offer a Christmas gift to the million and a half French people then in possession of a television broadcasting live from the Buttes-Chaumont studios of an adaptation of The Three Musketeers, which Madelen invites you to discover or rediscover.

Barma, who put together the dialogues with Pierre Nivollet, before directing, is one of the pioneers of the small screen, one of the masters in the world of drama. He signed, among others, in 1957, In your soul and conscience, a series in the form of trials scripted by Pierre Desgraupes and Pierre Dumayet, as well as two “firsts” in the history of the small screen: a TV film The Players, with a certain Louis de Funès, and above all, a live broadcast from the Comédie-Française, with the retransmission of a play by Marivaux, The Game of Love and Chance.

This shows that those to whom he offered to follow him in this adventure did not hesitate for a single moment. He chose to entrust the role of Chevalier D'Artagnan to a 27-year-old actor, Jean-Paul Belmondo. He spotted her cheekiness, her originality, her strength of seduction and, of course, her talent while attending a performance of Oscar at the theater. This young prodigy has just finished filming Breathless, and will demonstrate that he is not lacking, particularly in a scene from The Three Musketeers where he saves Constance Bonacieux. His fight with a sword, then with his bare fists, is a sketch of what, in the cinema, will become the trademark of “Bebel”. This is his first major role on the small screen. It will also be the last. He will not tolerate the downtime imposed by technical constraints, and will scream against hastily created sets and tricks visible at first glance. Additionally, while most of the scenes took place live, a few were filmed in the days preceding. And he didn't like that either! The day after the broadcast, he vowed to never set foot on a television set again. He will keep his word.

In these Three Musketeers, other young talents give him the answer. Claude Barma did not hesitate to draw from the pool of the Comédie-Française. Three residents appear in the credits: Bernard Dhéran, who slips into the clothes of the Duke of Buckingham, Georges Descrières, who plays Lord de Winter, and Robert Hirsch who plays Planchet, D'Artagnan's faithful valet. For his part, Daniel Sorano exceptionally leaves the TNP and Jean Vilar to become Porthos. Finally, in the role of the grocer, Monsieur Bonacieux, Michel Galabru speaks with a voice that is already recognizable among thousands. Two years earlier, he left the Maison de Molière with the hope of making a few films. His list of prizes will ultimately list more than 250, between laughter and emotion. Ten years later, in 1969, Claude Barma reconnected with Alexandre Dumas, by directing D'Artagnan, a mini-series in four 90-minute episodes. In the history of the small screen, it remains, to date, the only adaptation of the trilogy, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, but not only that. This is in fact the first time that a series filmed in France has been co-produced by Italian and German television. An agreement between several countries where the traditional “read and approved” above the signature could have been replaced by the motto of the musketeers, “One for all, all for one”.

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