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Drama of Fallen France, The

Reading la Comedie sans Tickets

Kenneth Krauss

Publication Year: 2004

The Drama of Fallen France examines various dramatic works written and/or produced in Paris during the four years of Nazi occupation and explains what they may have meant to their original audiences. Because of widespread financial support from the new French government at Vichy, the former French capital underwent a renaissance of theatre during this period, and both the public playhouses and the private theatres provided an amazing array of new productions and revivals. Some of the plays considered here are well known: Anouilh’s Antigone, Sartre’s The Flies, Claudel’s The Satin Slipper. Others have remained obscure, such as Cocteau’s The Typewriter, Giraudoux’s The Apollo of Marsac, and Montherlant’s Nobody’s Son; and two—André Obey’s Eight Hundred Meters and Simone Jollivet’s The Princess of Ursins—have remained virtually unread since the early 1940s. In examining French culture under the Vichy regime and the Nazis, Kenneth Krauss links the politics of gender and sexuality with the more traditional political concepts of collaboration and resistance. A final chapter on Truffaut’s 1980 film, The Last Métro, demonstrates how the present manages to rewrite and revision the complex and seemingly contradictory reality of the past.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

There are many thanks I must make for the help that I received for this project. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Sociétédes Professeurs Français et Francophones d’Amérique both provided monetary assistance for research in France. The NEH also gave me the opportunity to participate in a seminar at Harvard University (under the direction of ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Between June 1940 and August 1944, France existed under two separate though associated administrations, the first, the German military authority headquartered in Paris and the second, a French regime established under Maréchal Philippe Pétain at Vichy. How one describes this four-year period inevitably reveals one’s view of it: To call it “The Occupation” implies a ...

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1. A Queer Premiere: Jean Cocteau’s The Typewriter

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pp. 1-34

Late in April 1941, toward the close of the first Parisian theatre season following the Defeat, Jean Cocteau’s La Machine à écrire (The Typewriter) opened, then closed, then reopened at the Théâtre Hébertot. Written in the style of a detective drama, the play starred the actor generally known—at least in the entertainment world at the time—as Cocteau’s sometime lover ...

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2. Collabo Beefcake and Resistant Reception: Ambiguity in André Obey’s Eight Hundred Meters and The Suppliant Women

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pp. 35-60

About two months after the premiere of The Typewriter at the Hébertot, Roland-Garros Stadium served as a theatre for an unusual double bill: André Obey’s version of Les Suppliantes (The Suppliant Women) of Aeschylus and Obey’s original “drame sportif” Huit cents mètres (Eight Hundred Meters), a poetic drama, written partly in verse, which simulated an 800-meter race....

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3. French Identity: The Intended Audience for Jean Giraudoux’s The Apollo of Marsac

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pp. 61-80

As Marsh tells us, extracts from the writings of Jean Giraudoux, diplomat, government minister, and France’s most celebrated playwright, framed the publicity for Eight Hundred Meters and The Suppliant Women in the collaborationist arts weekly, Comœdia (“The Theatre . . .” 157–158). These quotes were reprinted to enhance the legitimacy of the double-bill spectacle and ...

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4. The Limits of Opportunism: Simone Jollivet’s The Princess of Ursins

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pp. 81-104

Rather than duplicate the Occupation’s initial “season of reprises,” theatre producers during the following seasons sought fresh material. Well known writers, including Sacha Guitry and Jean Anouilh, would turn out a series of new scripts. The often tradition-bound Comédie-Française would commission during the war years a comedy from Jean Cocteau, whose Renaud et Armide ...

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5. The Politics of Intention: Jean Anouilh’s Antigone via Oreste

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pp. 105-128

When critics and historians try to classify the politics of plays written and produced during the Occupation, they inevitably operate between those polar opposites, “resistance” and “collaboration” and attempt to identify how a playwright intended his or her work to be construed. Collaboration, as I have used it in the previous chapter, implies more than just a sympathy for the ...

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6. The Politics of Reception: Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Flies

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pp. 129-144

Claude Roy’s critical comments about Antigone, to which I refer in the previous chapter, illustrate just how deeply cultural (rather than conventionally political) Anouilh’s gender constructs are: Antigone’s refusal to go along with Creon, asserts Roy, “rings lugubriously at a time when, on the whole continent, in the whole world, men and women are dying who could, in response to ...

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7. A Politics of Sexuality: Henry de Montherlant’s Nobody’s Son

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pp. 145-174

If, as suggested in chapter 4, Simone Jollivet’s representation of a repressively misogynistic culture in The Princess of Ursins was largely, if not entirely, unintended, the same may be said for Jean Cocteau’s gay revisioning of heterosexual society in his pseudo-Boulevard potboiler, examined in chapter 1: In both cases, the playwrights simply painted the world as they saw it. ...

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8. The Politics of Impersonation: Casting and Recasting Paul Claudel’s The Satin Slipper

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pp. 175-190

Changes in the cultural constructs of gender and sexuality during the Occupation years are reflected in the decline of the “trouser role.” Although a few prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century actresses had found acclaim through playing male protagonists, this stage convention waned after the Defeat; after the Liberation, it all but disappeared. ...

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Epilogue. Catching The Last Métro: François Truffaut’s Portrayal of Occupation Drama and Sexuality

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pp. 191-206

Perhaps the best known representation of the Occupation stage, François Truffaut’s 1980 Le Dernier Métro (The Last Métro) is, like most movies, composed of a series of erasures, reinscriptions, and constructs. Rather than recreate the past, the director and screenwriters (knowingly or unknowingly, but in either case, inevitably) deploy dramatic and cinematic conventions to ...

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pp. 207-210

In the end, the traditionally political questions about the role of the theatre in wartime Paris tend to be reductive: Was the French stage under the German Occupation collaborationist or was it resistant? The complicated evidence suggests that it was sometimes both, sometimes even simultaneously so. How and why this was possible make for answers that are far more interesting than...


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pp. 211-234


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pp. 235-248

Name Index and Literary Works

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pp. 249-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485798
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459539
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459535

Page Count: 257
Illustrations: 13 b/w photographs, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Government, Resistance to, in literature.
  • France -- History -- German occupation, 1940-1945.
  • Theater -- France -- History -- 20th century.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- France -- Theater and the war.
  • French drama -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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