Simanaitis Says

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AUTO RENDEZVOUS ADVENTURE

PERHAPS THIS title “Auto Rendezvous Adventure” reminds you of the 1976 cinéma-vérité cult flick by Claude Lelouch, C’était un Rendez-Vous, English: It Was a Date.

But actually the movie I have in mind is much earlier, 1904, and ironically it has a more definitive history.

There’s a good deal of flim-flam about Lelouch’s eight-minute high-speed drive through Paris streets: Maybe a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL was used for the filming, with the Ferrari 275GTB sound track added later. Though Lelouch claimed speeds exceeded 140 mph, others calculate the film car never exceeded 140 km/h (87 mph). Maybe the real driver was a Formula 1 ace. Maybe a taxi driver. Maybe Mario Andretti. Or maybe Lelouch himself was arrested after the film’s first screening.

Maybe.

By contrast, it is well documented that the movie Le Raid Paris–Monte Carlo en Deux Heures was produced by pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès in late 1904. The 10-minute 12-second film displays his innovative use of models, stage machinery, pyrotechnics, and stop-modify-resume scenes. These state-of-the-art production techniques had been popularized in Méliès’ earlier A Trip to the Moon, 1902; The Kingdom of the Fairies, 1903; and The Impossible Voyage, 1904.

By the way, Méliès, his films, and collection of automata appear in Brian Selznick’s charming 2007 book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, 1861–1938, French filmmaker and illusionist. His films are considered among the most important of early sci-fi/fantasy.

Le Raid Paris–Monte Carlo en Deux Heures, An Adventurous Automobile Trip its English title, began as a cabaret revue for Paris’s Folies Bergès theater. It satirizes Belgian King Leopold II’s automotive exploits, many notoriously less than adept.

The flick’s plot is straightforward: On holiday in Paris, the king decides to visit Monte Carlo. In lieu of the 17-hour express train ride, he choses an automobile supposedly capable of making the trip in two hours.

The opening scene is outside the Paris Opera House, as seen in this hand-painted print of the film.

High points include a brief slapstick bit in the first scene between diminutive actor Little Pich and the Giant Swede Félix Galipaux. There’s also a chaotic refueling stop culminating in a flattened policeman. A tire pump reanimates the guy, but agg!, he gets overinflated—and bursts!

Like Alfred Hitchcock a half-century later, Méliès makes a cameo appearance in his own movie; indeed, twice. Early on, Méliès is the white-haired mailman knocked over by the king’s driving; later he portrays the police chief at the gateway to Dijon.

As the king is in sight of the sea, his driving causes mayhem at an open-air stand that quickly degenerates into a food fight. It predates by three decades scenes familiar to Marx Brothers’ fans.

The film had a U.S. run, limited by its $100 price (figure $2700 today) considered too expensive for many exhibitors.

There’s a scene when you just know that stack of wood isn’t going to stay stacked for long. Another pokes fun at a wagon delivery of coal tar, crucial at the time for reducing the dust of unpaved roads.

Monte Carlo arrival.

Everything ends happily, albeit chaotically, at the Monte Carlo Controle. There’s even a brief dance by a pair of the era’s grid girls.

And if that isn’t encouragement enough to view Le Raid Paris–Monte Carlo en Deux Heures, I don’t know what is. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

5 comments on “AUTO RENDEZVOUS ADVENTURE

  1. Gordon Craig
    June 5, 2018

    Regarding Claude Lelouch and the mad ride through Paris, I’m one of those mesmerized by the 275 GTB soundtrack to BELIEVE it was the Ferrari that did it. But some of those corners and streets I know from having stayed in Paris in ’71 at which time there was a massive prolonged Metro strike and those streets were choked with honking cars and Army troops in roving trucks that would bull their way to intersections, and the soldiers would jump out, push stalled cars onto sidewalks packed with walking commuters, and with their rifle buts banging on bonnets and trunks persuading traffic to move on, all horns and yelling. This on the Avenue Victor Hugo, what a spectacle! Hence the later film was a liberation to me, cheers, gordon

  2. Fred Vainas
    June 13, 2018

    I cannot think of a food fight in a Marx brothers movie. Perhaps the Three Stooges, or the Ritz brothers?

    • simanaitissays
      June 13, 2018

      There’s a lengthy thread on this. No pies ever, apparently. But food (apples?) thrown in “Duck Soup” and a great food scene (albeit, no throwing…) in “Room Service.” In any event, the general mayhem at the food stall reminds me of the wonderful Marx bros.

      • Fred Vainas
        June 13, 2018

        Fair enough. I forgot the apple throwing at the end of Duck Soup. Love the Marx Brothers. Hate to quibble. I enjoy your blog very much.

  3. simanaitissays
    June 13, 2018

    Thanks for your kind words, Fred. We all like quibbling (aka research).

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