“Young Marius dreams of leaving his dull provincial life and seeing the world. When the beautiful Fanny declares her adoration for him, Marius must choose between an adventurous life at sea and the grandest adventure of all: love.”

Director: Joshua Logan
Writers: S.N. Behrman, Joshua Logan, Marcel Pagnol
Staring: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer, Horst Buchholz, Georgette Anys
Release Date: June 28, 1961

I’ll answer the question. Why did I watch Fanny (1961). It is an exercise in expanding my horizons. The streaming service Peacock actually does a good job at highlighting Oscar nominated movies. I went through a manicured list they had on their home page and added it to my own list. Sometimes I have to try and class it up, and this was an effort to do so. Also this is a movie my grandfather definitely saw while he was live, and he definitely would have loved to talk about it.

The story of Fanny is the second part of a trilogy of Marcel Pagnol novels, all of which deal with love gained and loss in the French port area. Did Richard Linklater take a bit from Pagnol when creating the Before trilogy? I shall explore this further on my own.

Fanny is a current sitcom blended with soap opera elements. The story is dated back to its time, but it has enough charm to muster through moments that would be cringe-worthy as of now. Components of older man asking for younger women in marriage. Immense displeasure in sex before marriage. The idea of dowries. These are things that are just not in society now a days. In that way Fanny is a trip back to a different time and place, but in some ways the movie still manages to bring evergreen topics to light.

Marius (Horst Buchholz) is a young man with dreams of going out to sea. He has been cooped up in his hometown with his father Cesar (Charles Boyer), and together they have been running a waterside cafe. This is not the live he dreams for, and it is tearing him up inside because he loves his papa but he knows he must leave for his own good.

Fanny (Leslie Caron) is a young confident women, and she knows exactly what she wants. She wants to marry Marius. She wants to begin a new life with her crush and escape the umbrella she has been shadowed by, her mother Honorine (Georgette Anys). Fanny is being pursued by Panisse (Maurice Chevalier), an older man who is newly widowed and is looking for a new loving spark in his live.

Marius knows that he has feelings for Fanny. Fanny knows that Marius loves her, but she must contend with his desire to go be free on the water. Honorine and Cesar know that the two love birds have a thing for each other and watch them do a delicate dance that all crushing teenagers know. Cesar calls our Marius acting jealous when Panisse is complimenting Fanny (I should clarify in a non-creepy way), and this is a wakeup call for the young man. The night before he escapes off onto a ship, Marius and Fanny confess their feelings and share a night together. It is a night many saw coming, and it will have profound effect.


Drama, drama, drama. Fanny does not write to Marius and tell him of the child. Instead she goes to Panisse and talks to him. They are open and honest, and he glees at the idea of adopting a son as his own. Fanny and Panisse marry in a strange yet loving way. Together they raise the child as their own, with the help of Cesar and Honorine who agree to help with the necessary white lie.

But that can’t be the end of the movie. Eventually Marius returns home, and he is not dumb-dumb. He senses something is off with Fanny during a late night visit, and before you know it, he has put it all together. The relationship between Marius and Fanny is of long lost untimely love. The relationship between Marius and Panisse is one of mistrust, anger, but also appreciation. How can Marius trust his father again after he has lied, and how can Honorine work with Fanny to ensure she is happy when he married somewhat out of necessity?

Fanny addresses all of these components in a family drama the splashes in good comedic bits and quality banter. It never dwells too much on the serious drama, and that is for its benefit.

The best performances of the movie come from the more seasoned actors. Chevalier, Boyer and Anys all give fantastic efforts, but no character is better than Cesar. The way that he yells “MARIUS” still stings in my head. Looking at this IMDB page and that was the first reaction that I had. Without Cesar in the first third of the movie, I would have been tempted to really press pause and finish at a later time and date.

There is a comedic bit where Cesar and his friends place a hat in the street over a rock and they just watch various individuals walk around attempt to hit the hat with their feet. There are howls, yelps and giggles. It is a joyful little comedic respite that lets us know the town’s day-to-day approach to life. Everyone is happy and go-lucky. Everyone knows everyone’s routines, and anything outside of the ordinary makes headlines.

Fanny is stapled in the era it was made, but there are timeless aspects intertwined within this story. The youth do not like to have life planned out for them, and such is the case for Fanny and Marius. They are both rebelling against their parents, and the parents are trying to understand their impetuous youths. Ask parents now and they are having the same issues.

Same thought process can be brought to the idea of untimely love. You may have a passion for someone, but time and the unpredictable nature of life doesn’t allow you to fully explore it. It is a demoralizing thing because this moment of excitement becomes only a memory, and while it does fade with time, it still leaves some emotional scars. The character of Fanny lived through this sudden heartbreak, but then found out she was pregnant. She has a permanent reminder of what could have been, and that is not easy to deal with.

Fanny was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 1962 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Film Editing, and Best Music (Drama/Comedy).

I am not expert in 1960s movies, but looking at the Best Picture category at these particular awards, I could have told you that Fanny had no shot. This is the same year that West Side Story (1962) won 11 Academy Awards. I have also seen The Guns Of Navarone (1962), and that won an Oscar for Best Special Effects. I will shame myself and say that I have no seen Judgement At Nuremberg (1962) or The Hustler (1962), but both of those movies synonymous for their key qualities; the content in Nuremberg and Paul Newman in The Hustler.

It would appear like I need to watch those two films because it would grant me a pretty damn good blog. Expanding the horizons.

I know I have heaped a lot of praise on Fanny, but it is not all sunshine and rainbows in Marseille. I would love to visit where this movie takes place because it seems like a fairy tale. Fanny starts you on the tracks and never takes you off of it. You never deviate from it. It is like a classic romantic comedy. For a movie that was nominated for Best Picture, I was expecting some sort of twist. But no, you get what is served. No need to look at the menu for other options because they are not applicable.

Is it fair to ding a movie that follows its threads so closely? Probably not. But Fanny turns into a movie where you don’t even need to watch the screen. There are five main characters and you learn all their voices and then you know exactly what is happening. There is little visual appeal to the movie besides its setting. It is a great bit of visual propaganda for the south of France. I want to visit Marseille.

And one lost nit-pick. This is a story about young adult love, and oh my does it lean into the drama. The teenage angst between what are supposedly 19 year olds is at soap opera levels high. Their hugs are so earnest. Everything is dialed up too eleven. Perhaps it is a side effect of the time, but it maybe it is because Horst Buchholz and Leslie Caron was 28 and 30 respectively, playing 19 and 18 year old lovers? It just felt off and over eager.

I have danced between the good and the bad of Fanny, so now I tell you that the movie is perfectly fine. I am glad that I watched it because it is really a different vibe than anything that is made now. The style, comedy, talking and themes all play somewhat, but with muted effect.


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