Film / The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe

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The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (French: Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire) is a 1972 French comedy film directed by Yves Robert, starring Pierre Richard, Jean Rochefort and Bernard Blier. The film's sequel, Le Retour du Grand Blond, was released in 1974.

A hapless orchestra player becomes an unwitting pawn of rival factions within the French secret service after he is chosen as a decoy by being identified as a super secret agent.

The film was remade in English as The Man with One Red Shoe.


The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe provides examples of:

  • Binocular Shot: François is being observed through binoculars while rowing a boat.
  • Bloodless Carnage: To be expected in a lighthearted spy comedy.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Intelligence officer Toulouse sets the story in motion by telling his lieutenant that a 'super agent' is arriving to blow the lid off his in-house rival's operations, knowing his rival is listening in and will expose his operatives by going after the decoy Toulouse sets up.
  • Camera Sniper: At the airport several pies secretly take François' picture. He'd popped a large piece of chewy candy in his mouth, and every shutter click/freeze frame catches him in a goofy facial contortion as it gets stuck in his teeth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Explosive Cigar Francois is given by Maurice plays a pivotal part in the climax when it goes off and causes the rivaling agents to kill each other.
  • Cultural Translation: The film was remade in the US as The Man with One Red Shoe, with the humorous violence made more sadistic, the sexual content turned quite prudish, and the characters more finely defined as heroes and villains.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Toulouse emerges from the shadows at the opera. Repeated in the same place by Those Two Bad Guys in the climax of the sequel.
  • Explosive Cigar: Francois' pal Maurice, a practical joker, hands out a couple of exploding cigars — one of which, late in the picture, goes off in an ashtray during a tense Mexican Standoff between four men, all of whom promptly shoot each other.
  • Feng Schwing: Christine has one of these places, where she invites Francois. As her superiors watch on closed-circuit tv, she goes to change, and he kicks back on the couch with a cigarette, which he promptly drops underneath him - as he flails around manically to retrieve it he hits a switch which opens the couch into a big comfy bed. His watchers admire his smooth technique.
  • The Fool: Francois is an innocuous concert violinist who, unknown to him, is identified as a spy as part of an intelligence agency rivalry. He walks through the film oblivious to the machinations of the agents keeping tabs on him, and remains unscathed as they do each other in.
  • Gambit Pileup: Different parties of Governement agents messing with each others agenda.
  • Gaslighting: Maurice is subjected to this. All the time he gets to glimpse behind the masquerade but a moment later the evidence is gone, which makes him question his sanity.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Government intelligence high-up Bernard Milan gets shot along with a bunch of operatives - when he finds out the title character everyone was shooting each other over was just a decoy set up by his long-time agency rival, he manages to laugh about it as he's dying.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The film featured several government spies with silenced guns that, when fired, emitted only a puff of smoke with no sound at all.
  • Honey Trap: Christine is engaged to seduce François.
  • Incessant Music Madness: François presenting his own composition to Christine and the agents listening in. Christine has to shout for him to stop.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Bernard claims to have never seen the smuggler from the opening scene but is immediately proven wrong when a photo is presented of them partying together.
  • Iris Out: The movie ends with an Iris Out on François as he walks off into the distance at the airport.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Maurice finds the dead bodies of the agents in his flat and runs out. When he wants to show the evidence to François, all the bodies are gone.
  • Lie Detector: The opening scene shows a heroin smuggler plugged to a lie detector.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Maurice is only seen wearing his blue jump suit.
  • Mexican Standoff: When factions from both sides converge on his apartment, they all draw guns — as they face off, they agree that as professionals, they won't shoot each other... then a trick cigar (given to the pawn by his friend) smoldering in an ashtray blows up, and all four men gun each other down.
  • Mistaken for Spies: Francois is marked as a spy by infighting government high-ups - he's blithely unaware of being a pawn in their scheming through the film.
  • Person with the Clothing: The movie title is an example.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Maurice goes out after getting pistol-whipped by Bernard.
  • Ransacked Room: A team of government agents sneak through François' apartment while he's out, photographing all his personal effects and planting bugs.
  • Sex–Face Turn: Happens to Christine after bedding François.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Femme Fatale spy Christine meets her intended conquest at her door in a black dress that conceals everything from her neck to her wrists to her feet. Then she turns around, and her back is completely bare, down to butt-cleavage.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Christine switches into a very transparent nighty when François comes to visit.
  • Spies in a Van: A team of agents bug François' apartment and listen in from a van made up to look like a florist's. They record a sexual tryst he's rather unwillingly having with his best friend's wife. Later, they're playing it back as the friend is just outside on a bicycle - he concludes his wife is having an affair with a florist.
  • Spotting the Thread: Inverted and Played with. François is a pawn chosen because a detail (his shoes) singles him out of a crowd and looks like a thread waiting to be pulled. Then, Toulouse counts on Milan to put that random guy's life under scrutiny to find any semblance of evidence that it's a cover for some super-agent.
  • Spy Cam: Several of these are in use to capture the hero when he arrives at the airport, hidden in places like fire lighters and cigarette packs.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Maurice finds one of the dead agents stuffed into his fridge.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Applies to Maurice and Paulette.
  • Your Cheating Heart: François cheats on his best friend Maurice with his wife. Maurice only finds out in the sequel.


The sequel provides examples of:

  • Assassin Outclassin': François manages to foil all the attacks on his life by the assassins in Brazil, if only by sheer luck.
  • Binocular Shot: Maurice and Paulette are observed via binoculars at the opera in the opening scene.
  • Blood from the Mouth: The fat Chinese gangster dying in the shootout has blood running from his mouth. It's all fake though to make François look like a badass spy.
  • Bring It: François make this hand motion when showing off his martial art moves in the street with the police officer.
  • Camera Sniper: A view finder follows François as he dances around in his apartment in Rio. The sniper shoots but misses him continuously.
  • Coincidental Dodge: A sniper tries to shoot François in his apartment in Rio but the attempt fails because the latter bows down to spit out his drink.
  • Counting to Three: François demands Those Two Bad Guys to let him out of Maurice apartment by the count of three. When they don't move on three, François continues counting to four but then loses his temper and lashes out at them.
  • External Combustion: A hitman sets up François' car to explode shortly after ignition but once again the latter escapes doom by sheer luck.
  • Groin Attack: François applies this technique in his combat with the unwitting police man.
  • Gun Twirling: François shows off with this trick as part of his deep spy cover.
  • Handbag of Hurt: The wife of the police man that François beats up in the street goes after him with her purse.
  • Iris Out: The final scene.
  • Queer People Are Funny: The gay priest.
  • "Risky Business" Dance: François performs one in his apartment at Rio, making it impossible for the sniper to hit him.
  • Shoe Phone: François gets equipped with fire lighters that act as a walkie-talkies and switchblades.
  • Sound-Only Death: Toulouse's alleged suicide in the finale happens behind a closed door.
  • These Hands Have Killed: The ploy to humble Cambrai. Toulouse sets him up to shoot a man in affect which makes Cambrai feel deeply guilty. Too bad he later finds out that the bullets in his gun were blanks.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Two similarly dressed agents are on François' heel for the entire movie.
  • Woman Scorned: Christine assassinates François at the opera for cheating on her with Paulette. It's all staged though to fool Toulouse.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Toulouse plans to kill François after he has served his purpose. However, things turn out differently when François confuses left with right.
  • Your Other Left: François is ultimately saved by his poor sense of direction when he strays from his intended route and avoids an encounter with Toulouse's killers.

Alternative Title(s): The Return Of The Tall Blond Man

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