Release date16 April 1952 (1952-04-16) WriterJacques Becker (scenario), Jacques Companeez (scenario), Jacques Becker (adaptation) ScreenplayJacques Becker, Jacques Companeez, Annette Wademant CastSimone Signoret (Marie), Serge Reggiani (Manda), Claude Dauphin (Felix Leca), Raymond Bussières (Raymond), Odette Barencey (La mère d'Eugène), Loleh Bellon (Léonie Danard) Similar moviesDescent Into Hell, Le Boucher, Le Deuxième Souffle, Breathless, Elevator to the Gallows, Pierrot le Fou
Casque d'Or ("Golden Helmet") is a 1952 French film directed by Jacques Becker. It is a Belle Époque tragedy, the story of an ill-fated love affair between characters played by Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani. The story was loosely based on an infamous love triangle between the prostitute Amélie Élie and the Apache gang leaders Manda and Leca, which was the subject of much sensational newspaper reporting during 1902.
Marie (Simone Signoret), a woman of considerable beauty, is distressed at her treatment by Roland, a criminal who is a part of a local syndicate. When Marie is introduced to the handsome stranger Georges, a humble carpenter, she instantly falls in love with him, much to the chagrin of Roland. When Roland's jealousy builds after a number of meetings between Marie and Georges, Roland decides to confront Georges behind a club where several members of his syndicate watch. After Georges gains control of a knife that had been thrown between them to initiate the fight, Georges manages to stab Roland in the back after a brief scuffle, killing him almost instantly. When the police arrive at the scene, everyone flees, including Marie, who seeks refuge away from the syndicate at a nearby village.
Georges decides it is best to flee town. He is lured to a rendezvous with Marie by a note she sends. The two live an idyllic life in the nearby village until Georges is brought word that a friend, Raymond, had been arrested for the murder of Roland. Félix, the leader of the syndicate, has placed blame on Raymond in an attempt to bring Georges out of hiding and win control of Marie. Not realising this plan, Georges confesses to the police that he is the real killer. While being transported between jails, he breaks free with the help of a diversion by Marie. Georges immediately seeks Félix to get revenge. When he finds him in the presence of the police, he kills him anyway, condemning himself in the process. With the two murders on his hands, Georges is sentenced to die by the guillotine while a broken Marie watches in horror as he is executed.
Simone Signoret as Marie 'Casque d'Or'
Serge Reggiani as Georges Manda
Claude Dauphin as Félix Leca
Raymond Bussières as Raymond
Odette Barencey as La mère d'Eugène
Loleh Bellon as Léonie Danard
William Sabatier as Roland
The film's final sequence is famous. After Manda's surrender to the police, the film shows Marie arriving at night, with one of Leca's ex-henchman, at a cheap inn in the city, where she rents a room. The filmmakers provide no immediate clues for the audience as to why this is happening. Only later is it revealed that the room in which she is staying overlooks the courtyard in which her lover, Manda, is to be executed. British film critic Roy Armes wrote: "Becker shows all the hurried ugliness and squalor that surrounds the guillotine, so that we feel this execution to be an affront to humanity."
French New Wave director François Truffaut, who was a fervent admirer of the film's director, Jacques Becker, particularly praised this scene. He wrote: "If you're at all interested in how stories are constructed, you cannot fail to admire the ingenuity of the plot, particularly the strong, oblique, unexpected way it gets abruptly to Manda's execution in a scene that is as beautiful as it is mysterious, as the Casque d'Or [Marie] arrives in the middle of the night at a disreputable hotel. When I or any of my fellow scenarists are in trouble, we often say to each other, 'How about a Casque d'Or solution?'"
In 1965, MGM announced it would make a musical remake of the film produced by Jacques Bar, directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Ann-Margaret. The movie was not made.