Johnny Frenchman – 1945 | 112 mins | Drama | B&W
Johnny Frenchman was a return to a more orthodox Ealing story. It concerned the rivalry before and during the war of the Breton and Cornish fishermen, who are eventually united by the threat of disaster. It is a simple hands-across-the-Channel story, directed by Charles Frend and scripted by Tibby Clarke in an admirably competent manner. The war was in its final year when the film was made, and part of France already liberated. Nevertheless it was impossible to take a film crew there, and so once again Mevagissey in Cornwall had to become gallicized. The film starred Francoise Rosay adapting herself to the part of a French matriarch. Very much the grande dame of the French cinema, she had already appeared in The Halfway House during her enforced English exile, playing opposite Tom Walls, cast in Johnny Frenchman as the Cornish harbour-master.
Rosay was unable to talk to the crew of the boat she skippered in the film, as they spoke Breton, rather than French. Michael Balcon was delighted to find that the real Breton skipper was called Balcon, although pronounced with a short ‘a’. Tom Walls plays Nat Pomeroy, who is continually outsmarted by clever French fish poacher Lannec Florrie (Francoise Rosay). Pomeroy is further aggravated by the fact that Florrie’s son Yan (played by French-Canadian radio favourite Paul Dupuis) is busily romancing Pomeroy’s daughter Sue (Patricia Roc). But when the Nazis rear their ugly heads, the Cornish fisherman and the French miscreants band together to thwart the German menace. Many of the cast members of Johnny Frenchman are actual Cornish villagers and members of the Free French resistance movement.
By the time the film was ready for screening, world events had moved startlingly forward. Not only had the war in Europe been concluded but a few days before the London opening the atomic bombs had terminated the war with Japan. There was just time to update the ending to refer to the victory.
ExtractŠ George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Charles Frend: Director
Duncan Sutherland: Art Direction
Barbara Bennet: Assistant Editor
SC Balcon: Associate Producer
Jack Parker: Camera Operator
Roy Kellino: Cinematography
Ernest Irving: Composer
Michael Truman: Editing
Tom Shenton: Make-Up Artist
Clifton Parker: Music
Michael Balcon: Producer
Hal Mason: Production Supervisor
TEB Clarke: Script
Eric Williams: Sound/Sound Designer
Marion Horn: Wardrobe