AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Man About Town
Alternate Title: Golden Silence
Director: René Clair () (Réalisée [Dir])
Release Date:   1947
Premiere Information:   Paris opening: May 1947; New York opening: 21 Oct 1947; Los Angeles opening: 27 Dec 1947
Production Date:   completed Jan 1947 at Joinville Studios, Paris; prologue began 31 Mar 1947 at RKO-Pathé Studios, New York City--Harlem
Duration (in mins):   88-90
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Maurice Chevalier (Emile Clément)  
    François Périer (Jacques)  
    Marcelle Derrien (Madeleine Célestin)  
    Mme. Dany Robin (Lucette)  
    Mme. Christiane Sertilange    
    Mm. Armontel (Célestin)  
    R. Cordy (Curly)  
    P. Demange    
    M. Dalban    
    J. Dauran    
    B. LaJarrige    
    A. Michel    
    G. Modot    
    P. Olivier (The cashier)  
    R. Pizani (Duperrier)  

Summary: In turn-of-the-century Paris, middle-aged film director Emile Clément divides his time between making movies and romancing young women. When his best friend Jacques, a handsome, young actor, becomes despondent because his girl friend has left him for a wealthy man, Emile coaches him in the art of flirtation and lovemaking. Later, Emile learns that music hall entertainer Célestin, an old friend whose now-deceased wife was once Emile's lover, has recently lost his sister and is going on tour, leaving his daughter to fend for herself. The next day, a saddened Emile says goodbye to Jacques, who has to leave Paris to complete his Army service. Upon returning home that night, Emile is approached by a young woman, who introduces herself as Célestin's daughter Madeleine. Although Madeleine reveals to Emile that her mother often spoke of him in loving terms, Emile sends her away, instructing her to return in the morning. Instead of leaving, Madeleine plants herself outside Emile's house, and when she starts to walk off with a strange man, Emile rushes out to retrieve her. Emile invites her to spend the night, and later, realizing that she is a naïve country girl, insists that she move in with him and his housekeeper. Emile then sets out to protect Madeleine from all men and orders his film crew to guard her like their daughter. During a music hall performance one evening, Emile puts his arm around Madeleine to discourage the advances of an admirer and finds himself enjoying the unplanned intimacy. Later, an unsuspecting Madeleine breaks into tears, telling Emile that she is depressed because men are not attracted to her. Emile reassures her, but does not express his romantic feelings for her. The next day, at a sidewalk café, Emile questions Madeleine about her future husband, and she insists that a man's age is not important to her. Now completely in love, Emile throws himself into his filmmaking and is thrilled when Jacques shows up at the studio one afternoon. Upon leaving that evening, Jacques, still dressed in his military clothes, spies Madeleine boarding a streetcar and, unaware of her relationship with Emile, pursues her. Using Emile's seduction techniques, Jacques romances Madeleine all night and finally confesses his love. Madeleine has also fallen in love with Jacques and makes plans to see him again the next night. At the studio the following day, both Madeleine and Jacques are surprised to discover that they are playing opposite each other in Emile's latest "desert" romance. Jacques, who has told Emile about the "wonderful girl" he met the night before, then learns from the crew that Emile is in love with Madeleine. Not wanting to hurt his friend, Jacques tries to stand Madeleine up, but the unsuspecting Emile insists that he meet her as planned. After Madeleine confesses that she had indeed been planning to marry Emile, Jacques demands that they stop seeing each other. A heartbroken Madeleine then learns from Emile that her father is soon returning to Paris. At the studio the next day, Madeleine and Jacques attempt to reunite but are stopped by the ever-vigilant crew. When the crew insists that Jacques inform Emile about his relationship with Madeleine, Jacques confesses all to his friend. Emile is furious at Jacques and stunned when Madeleine moves out of his house to return to her father. Later, Emile runs into a drunken Jacques at a café and, no longer angry, commiserates with him. Upon returning home, Emile discovers Madeleine waiting for him, having been snubbed by her father. Madeleine tearfully asks Emile to marry her, but he refuses her. On the set the next day, as a visiting sultan watches, Madeleine and Jacques play a scene together in which they both commit suicide because the vizir character whom Madeleine's character is being forced to marry refuses to give her up. When the sultan objects to the unhappy ending, Emile realizes that youth belongs with youth and, not only changes the film's ending, but gives his blessing to Jacques and Madeleine as well. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
  Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma  
Production Text: A René Clair Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: René Clair (Réalisée [Dir])
  P. Blondy (Assistant réalisateur [Asst dir])
  Robert Pirosh (Dir of addl scenes)
Producer: Robert Pirosh (Assoc in prod [Assoc prod])
Writer: René Clair (Écrite par [Wrt])
  Robert Pirosh (English adpt)
Photography: A. Thirard (Directeur de la photographie [Dir of photog])
  A. Douarinou (Prises de vues [Cam])
Art Direction: L. Barsacq (Decors [Art dir])
  A. Bakst (Assistant decorateurs [Asst art dir])
  R. Clavel (Assistant decorateurs [Asst art dir])
Film Editor: L. Hautecoeur (Montage)
Set Decoration: M. Barnathan (Ensemblier [Film ed])
Costumes: Ch. Dior (Robes [Gowns])
  R. Decrais (Costumes)
Music: G. Van Parys (Musique [Mus])
Sound: A. Archimbaud (Prise de son [Sd rec])
Production Misc: G. Charlot (Regisseur général [Prod mgr])
  A. Deroual (Administrateur)
  E. Lepage (Directeur de production [Head of prod])
Country: France and United States
Language: English

Songs: "Place Pigalle," words and music by M. Alstone and Maurice Chevalier.
Composer: M. Alstone
  Maurice Chevalier

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 22/10/1947 dd/mm/yyyy LP1363

PCA NO: 12740
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Romantic comedy
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Friendship
  Motion picture actors and actresses
  Motion picture directors
  Paris (France)
  Romance--Age difference
  Romantic rivalry
 
Subjects (Minor): Cafés
  Confession
  Deception
  Drunkenness
  Entertainers
  Fathers and daughters
  Flirtation
  Housekeepers
  Motion pictures
  Music halls
  Self-sacrifice
  Suicide
  Sultans

Note: A co-production between RKO Radio Pictures and Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma in Paris, Man About Town was filmed in two versions. The French version, titled Le Silence est d'or , was released in France in May 1947 and ran 106 minutes. The working title of the English-language version was Golden Silence . The English-language version opens with a few English credits (as noted above) interrupted by a prologue featuring an English-speaking Maurice Chevalier. Set in a movie theater, the prologue begins with Chevalier singing "Place Pigalle." Chevalier then introduces the movie theater audience to the original French version, and translates the French-language credits, which are projected onto the movie theater's screen. René Clair's onscreen French-language credit reads: "Une Comédie Écrite et Réalisée par René Clair."
       Although he comments that the audience "won't have any trouble understanding" the picture "because love is the universal language," Chevalier provides loose, offscreen translations, or interpretations, of the dialogue throughout the film. (The NYT reviewer noted that this type of offscreen translator had been used frequently with American releases overseas.) According to a HR news item, Clair shot 100 "special takes" to allow for the offscreen commentary to be inserted. In addition to "Place Pigalle," snippets of the songs "Le Petit coeur de Ninon" and "Pour les amants c'est tous les jours dimanche" are performed in the picture.
       Man About Town was the first Franco-American production following the war, and according to Var , was made with "blocked francs," American funds frozen in France. It also was Clair's first complete French-language feature in twelve years, and marked Maurice Chevalier's return to the screen after a seven-year absence. Marcelle Derrien made her screen debut in the picture. Although the prologue was filmed at RKO's studios in Harlem, New York, Clair supervised the editing and dubbing of the English version in Hollywood, according to HR . HR announced that Man About Town was to be the first in a series of pictures co-produced by RKO and Pathé Cinéma. No other co-productions were made by the two companies, however. In addition, although the Var review commented that the translating narrator technique had "attracted considerable trade attention...as a possibility for broadening audience potential on other foreign films," the device never became popular. In 1947, Man About Town won best picture awards at both the Locarno, Switzerland and Brussels film festivals. Despite these accolades, the film did not perform well at U.S. box offices, according to modern sources. Although modern sources claim that the French version was never distributed in the U.S., a LAT review of the Los Angeles opening in late Dec 1947 noted that the French version was shown there with "English subtitles only."
       In his autobiography, Clair, who previously had directed a sequence in RKO's 1943 picture Forever and a Day (see above entry), noted that he was still under contract at RKO when the film was made, but following its disappointing showing, convinced the studio to relieve him of his contractual obligations. Clair then returned to France, where he remained for the rest of his career. Actor Paul Olivier died shortly after the film was shot. In Jul 1949, HR announced that British actress Virginia Keighley was filing a $100,000 damage suit against RKO, claiming that Clair asked her to fly to Paris from London to do a screen test, then after the test, told her that the part was already cast, but later used some of her test in the film without her permission or compensation. The disposition of the suit is not known, and Keighley's appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   25 Oct 1947.   
Daily Variety   21 Oct 1947.   
Film Daily   22 Oct 1947.   
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jun 46   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jul 46   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Oct 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 47   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Mar 47   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 47   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Apr 47   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 47   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jul 47   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 47   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Dec 47   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 49   p. 1, 9
Los Angeles Times   29 Dec 47   p. 11.
Life   10 Nov 47   pp. 67-71.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   25 Oct 1947.   
New York Times   22 Oct 47   p. 37.
New York Times   26 Oct 1947.   
Variety   22 Oct 47   p. 12.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.