Continental Films

The Continental Films , said Continental is a French film production company, active during the Occupation , and funded by German capital. Created in 1940 by Joseph Goebbels for propaganda purposes, however, it is led by Francophile Alfred Greven who will take little account of the political orders received from Berlin. The company produced between 1941 and 1944 about thirty quality feature films, including some like The Hand of the Devil , Au Bonheur des Dames or The Ravenhave become French classics. The Continental will disappear at the Liberation .

Initial Intentions

Continental-Films is, like the AEG-Tobis-Klangfilm , a film production company ”  under French law with German capital  “, created in September 1940 by Joseph Goebbels , Grand Authorizing Officer and Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich. For Goebbels, the object of this society is primarily political, in order to keep the stranglehold on the film production of the occupied countries:

“Our film policy must be identical to that of the United States towards North and South America. We must become the cinematographic power on the European continent. As films will be produced in other countries, they will have to keep a purely local character. We aim to prevent, where possible, the establishment of any national film industry 1 . “

The Continental has credits that are not commensurate with those of the other studios of the Collaboration era that facilitates the use of a film of excellent quality (new and not coming from recovery), materials needed for sets and costumes which were virtually impossible to find elsewhere. This relative ease does not, however, prevent an economy of growing average, according to rationing, power cuts, bombings and the rapprochement of the Allied landings .

The ambiguous Alfred Greven

Goebbels called the head of the Continental Alfred Greven , former military, Francophile who had followed studies in France and unconditional admirer of the culture and the French film 2 . Greven’s primary ambition is to compete with American cinema by producing, first and foremost, good French films 3 with the best technical teams and great actors in the service of ambitious subjects, even if it means to abandon Goebbels’ directives. Thus, Continental-Films will produce in 1943 In the Happiness of the Ladies by André Cayatte after the novel by Émile Zola , author of the indexby the Nazis. According to Bertrand Tavernier , some films produced by the Continental could never have been produced if they had been subjected to the censorship of Vichy 4 .

Goebbels did not appreciate the freedoms that Greven agreed with his instructions. Following the screening of Christian-Jaque’s Symphonie fantastique , he wrote in his diary:

“I am furious that our offices in Paris show the French how to represent nationalism in their films. I gave very clear guidelines for the French to produce only light, empty and, if possible, stupid films. I think they will be satisfied. There is no need to develop nationalism 1  “

Many resistance fighters join the Continental, like the assistant director Jean – Devaivre 5 , thinking to be more protected within the organization they were fighting against.

Jews at the Continental

To achieve his ends, Greven tries to bring together the best French elements. Meeting Jacques Prévert in Cannes , he tries to persuade him to join the Continental, and guarantees him full artistic freedom. Prévert refuses, and comments on his intentions: “Hey no. By the way, you’ve already lost! […] Because you do not have a Jew with you. See Hollywood: we do not do cinema without them 6 ! ”

Greven then searches for Jewish writers, and asks Jean Aurenche to present him. He ended up hiring Henri Calef and Jean-Paul Le Chanois , Jewish 7 , communist and resistant 8 . Greven was not fooled by this situation and even tolerated it in order to be able to use rare talents that cost almost nothing and, as a result, necessarily appreciated (on the express condition not to see their surnames appear in generics or to find them nominees). According to reports reported by the whimsical producer Roger RichebéGreven is said to have repeated Prévert’s idea: “For the cinema, the Jews are the strongest […] I have a Jew at home, but he does not know that I know it 9 …”

The movies

Its catalog hardly reaches the figure of thirty achievements at the end of the Second World War , but it is a pool of young authors. Among them, besides Henri-Georges Clouzot , are Claude Autant-Lara , Jacques Becker , Robert Bresson , André Cayatte , Jean-Devaivre (then assistant), Christian-Jaque , Georges Lacombe who join other directors already celebrated before the war as Maurice Tourneur .

On the actors’ side, there are almost newcomers such as Gérard Philippe or François Périer , but also confirmed artists such as Raimu , Michel Simon , Fernandel , Pierre Larquey , Suzy Delair , and Danielle Darrieux , before emigrating temporarily to South America , Louis Jouvet .

The latest film produced by the production company is Les Caves du Majestic , an adaptation of a novel by Georges Simenon with Albert Préjean (in the role of Commissioner Maigret), Gabriello , Suzy Prim , Denise Gray for the most famous. This shoot is also mentioned in the feature film by Bertrand Tavernier , Laissez-passer ( 2002 ).

The most remarkable contribution of the Continental to French cinema is, without a doubt, the production of the film The Crow of Clouzot . At the Liberation , the Committee of purification of the French cinema inscribes this dark and pessimistic work, and its authors and actors, on a black list. Some of them, like Pierre Fresnay (then president of the trade union “The Family of the professionals of the spectacle 10  “) and Ginette Leclerc make a stay in prison (six weeks in the deposit 11 for the first, one year for the second of which a passage to the camp of Drancy). Clouzot must wait three years to leave Purgatory and turn Quai des Orfèvres in 1947 .

Complete filmography

  • 1941  : The Assassination of Christian-Jaque’s Father Christmas
  • 1941  : The Last of six of Georges Lacombe
  • 1941  : First appointment of Henri Decoin
  • 1941  : The Club of suitors for Maurice Gleize
  • 1941  : Youth Sins of Maurice Tourneur
  • 1941  : Do not move anymore from Pierre Caron
  • 1941  : Caprices of Leo Joannon
  • 1941  : Mam’zelle Bonaparte by Maurice Tourneur
  • 1941  : Annette and the blond lady of Jean Dréville
  • 1941  : The Fantastic Symphony of Christian-Jaque
  • 1941  : The Unknown in the house of Henri Decoin
  • 1942  : Simplet de Fernandel
  • 1942  : Marriage of love of Henri Decoin
  • 1942  : The Fake Mistress of André Cayatte after Honoré de Balzac
  • 1942  : The Assassin lives in 21 of Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • 1942  : Defense of love by Richard Pottier
  • 1942  : The hand of the devil of Maurice Tourneur after Gérard de Nerval
  • 1942  : Findus of Richard Pottier
  • 1943  : Twenty-five years of René Jayet’s happiness
  • 1943  : To the Happiness of the Ladies by André Cayatte after Émile Zola
  • 1943  : Adrien de Fernandel
  • 1943  : The Crow of Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • 1943  : My love is near you by Richard Pottier
  • 1943  : The Val d’hell of Maurice Tourneur
  • 1943  : The Farm wolves of Richard Pottier
  • 1943  : Pierre and Jean of André Cayatte after Guy de Maupassant
  • 1943  : The life of pleasure of Albert Valentin
  • 1943  : The Last Sou of André Cayatte
  • 1943  : Cécile died of Maurice Tourneur
  • 1944  : The Caves of Majestic by Richard Pottier after Georges Simenon


  • Francis Courtade, The Continental , in Heike Hurst and Heiner Gassen (ed.), Tender Enemies. One hundred years of cinema between France and Germany , L’Harmattan, 1991, p.  217-236
  • Jean-Louis Ivani, Continental Films, the incredible Nazi Hollywood , Lemieux publisher, 2017
  • Christine Leteux, Continental Films – German-controlled French cinema , La Tour Verte, 2017

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a and b Joseph Goebbels , Diary of 19 May 1942, quoted by Georges Sadoul in his General History of Cinema .
  2. ↑ There are rumors of a love rivalry between Goebbels and Greven and explains the “exile” of the latter in France.
  3. ↑ Jean-Paul Le Chanois , The Time of Cherries: Interviews with Philippe Esnault , Institut Lumière / Actes Sud , 1996, p.  136
  4. ↑ “Carte blanche to Bertrand Tavernier”, broadcast in 2002 on Cineclassics, available on the DVD of Laissez-passer , ed. Canal Studio
  5. ↑ Despite having worked on four films of the Continental between 1943 and 1945, Jean-Devaivre however, never signed his contract.
  6. ↑ Philippe Esnault, Aurenche, the following screen , Actes Sud, 1993, cited in Philippe Renard, Jean-Paul Le Chanois: A filmmaker 50s , Dreamland, 2000 p.36
  7. ↑ Jean-Paul Le Chanois nevertheless obtained a “certificate of non-membership of the Jewish race” through a secret Catholic baptism by his grandmother as a child
  8. ↑ Jean-Paul Le Chanois headed the Liberation Committee of French cinema, resistance organization under the Occupation, under the pseudonym of Marceau
  9. ↑ Roger Richebé , Beyond the screen , Pastorelly 1977, p.  152
  10. ↑ Fresnay  [ archive ] on
  11. ↑ 3 quai de l’Horloge in Paris

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