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A Feature film by Sacha Guitry

Produced by Filmsonor Marceau, Gemme Production, Courts et Longs Métrages (CLM)

Release in France : 25/03/1955

  • Contents

Actors (134)

Production and distribution (4)

Executive Producers :

Filmsonor Marceau, Gemme Production, Courts et Longs Métrages (CLM)

Foreign production company :

Rizzoli Film

Associate producers :

Filmsonor Marceau, Francinex

French distribution :


TV Broadcasts: Cumulative total

TV broadcasts: details by country


The film follows the life of Napoleon from his early life in Corsica to his death at Saint Helena. The film is notable for its use of location shooting for numerous scenes, especially at the French estates of Malmaison and Fontainebleau, the Palace of Versailles, and sites of Napoleonic battles including Austerlitz and Waterloo.


Some facts

Napoleon is played by two actors, Daniel Gélin as a young man and Raymond Pellegrin in later life; the switch takes place during a scene at a barber. Director/actor Guitry played the role of Talleyrand, controversial diplomat and first Prime Minister of France, narrating the story from a drawing room as if having just heard of Napoleon's death on the island of Saint Helena in 1821. Yves Montand appears as Marshal Lefebvre and Maria Schell as Marie-Louise of Austria. The film also has cameo appearances by a number of notable actors, particularly Erich von Stroheim as Ludwig van Beethoven, and Orson Welles as Napoleon's British jailor, Sir Hudson Lowe.

The English version is a contemporary dub made as part of the original production, but does not run as long as the French version.

Source : Wikipedia


Showing no signs of slowing down in his 70th year, Sacha Guitry served as director and writer of the lavish historical epic Napoleon, and also costarred as Talleyrand. It is now hard to assess the quality of the film, since most American prints are severely edited, and the color photography appallingly washed out. Reviewers in 1955 admired the effort that went into this $1,800,000 production, but complained that the viewer left the film with no deeper understanding of Napoleon Bonaparte than the viewer had had when coming in. Daniel Gelin poses impressively as the young Bonaparte, registering emotion only when things go wrong in his conquest of Europe, while Raymond Pellegrin is somewhat better as the older, more jaded Napoleon (the transition between the two actors is handled in a near-comic fashion). The Revolution is reduced to a few fleeting scenes, while the rest of the film is devoted to political infighting and betrayal. The huge supporting cast includes Michele Morgan as Josephine and Lana Marconi and Dany Robin, respectively, as Napoleon's mistresses Waleska and Desiree.

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Full credits (15)

Assistant directors :

Patrice Dally, Jean-Claude Desvernet

Dialogue Writer :

Sacha Guitry

Directors of Photography :

Pierre Montazel, Roger Dormoy

Assistant Operators :

Henri Tiquet, Raymond Letouzey, André Dumaitre, Marcel Franchi, Jean Lallier, Claude Robin

Production managers :

Clément Duhour, Gilbert Bokanowski

Production Designer :

René Renoux

Music Composer :

Jean Françaix

Costume designers :

Monique Dunand, Paulette Coquatrix, Jacques Cottin

Adapter/dialogue writer :

Sacha Guitry

Screenwriter :

Sacha Guitry

Sound Recordist :

Joseph De Bretagne

Camera operators :

Ghislain Cloquet, Louis Née

Editor :

Raymond Lamy

Art Director :

Pierre Tyberghein

Singer :

Luis Mariano

Technical details

Feature film

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Coproducer countries :

Italy, France

Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

Majority French (Italy, France)

Production year :


French release :


Runtime :

3 h 20 min

Current status :


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