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Film / Le Bossu (1959)

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"If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!"

Le Bossu (The Hunchback) is a French swashbuckler film directed by André Hunebelle, released in 1959. It is based on Paul Féval's eponymous novel and stars Jean Marais, François Chaumette, Bourvil and Sabine Sesselmann (credited as "Sabina Selman").

In the year 1701, Duke Philippe de Nevers (Hubert Noël) is an influential French nobleman at the court of King Louis XIV, and one of the richest in the kingdom. He has secretely married the beautiful Isabelle de Caylus (Sabine Sesselmann) and has a baby daughter with her, named Aurore. His cousin Philippe de Gonzague (François Chaumette), while feigning to like him, actually plots to assassinate him and his daughter in order to inherit his wealth and possessions and take Isabelle for himself.

The first murder attempt by Gonzague's men is thwarted by the Duke with some help from the chevaliernote  Henri de Lagardère (Jean Marais), who has been warned by a defector from Gonzague's men, Passepoil (Bourvil). To thank Lagardère, Nevers teaches him "la Botte de Nevers", his secret fencing trick to impale someone on the forehead, and they leave Paris for the castle of Caylus. Despite fending off a new wave of henchmen sent to kill him with Lagardère's help, Nevers ends up impaled in the back with a masked Gonzague's sword. Lagardère slashes Gonzague's hand to recognize him when the time of vengeance will come. He also vows to protect and raise Aurore, avenge Nevers and make sure Aurore gets her family's inheritance, not matter how much time it will take.

Two other notable theatrical film versions of the novel were made, one in 1944 starring Pierre Blanchar and one in 1997, On Guard, starring Daniel Auteuil. Television saw a two-part miniseries in 2003, titled Lagardère and starring Bruno Wolkowitch.


  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • There's only one Assassination Attempt on Nevers in the novel (and it succeeds), there are two in this film.
    • In the novel, Cocardasse and Passepoil are recruited by Gonzague for the Assassination Attempt on Nevers. Passepoil is indeed recruited for that, but he's an Adaptational Wimp here instead of a master at arms (he trained Lagardère in the novel's backstory even), and Cocardasse has been Adapted Out.
    • Lagardère only meets Nevers once in the novel, during the fateful night that sees Nevers being assassinated, and they don't have a friendly duel. He meets him twice in this film, and they have a friendly duel after getting rid of the mooks who attempted to kill Nevers.
    • Flor is the daughter of a Spanish nobleman from Toledo here, while in the novel she's a Gypsy girl.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Aurore's mother is also named Aurore in the novel. Her name is changed to Isabelle here, likely to avoid confusion.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the novel, Passepoil is one of Lagardère's fencing masters. Here, he is his sidekick, and barely knows how to hold a sword.
  • Adapted Out:
  • Badass Boast: Lagardère to Gonzague: "Si tu ne viens pas à Lagardère, Lagardère ira à toi!" ("If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!").
  • Balcony Wooing Scene: Lagardère is first seen on a balcony kissing the woman who lives there before jumping on his horse.
  • Best Served Cold: Following the murder of Nevers and with Gonzague's men and French royal authorities on their trail, Lagardère and Passepoil travel to Spain and first settle in on a farm near Segovia to raise and protect Aurore. Then they move to a Spanish nobleman friend of Lagardère in Toledo after being spotted and attacked by Gonzague's men. 15 years after Philippe de Nevers' assassination and upon King Louis XIV's death, Lagardère decides they will move to Paris to accomplish his revenge and make sure Aurore can finally inherit her father's fortune and possessions.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Lagardère kills one of Gonzague's mooks with a throwing dagger when his hideout near Segovia is spotted.
  • The Cavalier Years: The film is set at the very beginning of the 18th century, which saw the end of King Louis' life and reign and the beginning of Philippe d'Orléans' Regency.
  • Clear My Name: After murdering Nevers, Gonzague accuses Lagardère of the murder and part of Lagardère's actions once back in Paris will be to clear his name.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: After warning Lagardère about the ambush on Nevers, Passepoil just... watches the fight and plays with his sword against a barred window as if he was a kid (and manages to have his sword stuck in it) and contributes nothing to the fight (and once the fight is over he even claims a kill that was actually performed by Nevers). Though it's probably for the better since he doesn't seem to have any figthing skill.
  • Dances and Balls: Gonzague regularly hosts balls at his hôtel particulier.
  • The Dragon: Monsieur de Peyrolles is Gonzague's Number Two and captain of his guards.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Gonzague is driven by envy regarding his cousin, coveting both his wife and possessions.
  • The Grotesque: Lagardère's disguise after his return to Paris is that of a hideous but affable old hunchback.
  • Historical Domain Character: The regent Philippe II, Duke of Orléans.
  • Identical Grandson: Sabine Sesselmann plays both Isabelle and Aurore (with barely any makeup to distinguish the mother and the daugther.)
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gonzague kills Nevers like a Dirty Coward, by impaling him In the Back with his sword.
  • Karmic Death: In the final Duel to the Death, Lagardère kills Gonzague, Nevers' murderer, with Nevers' own fencing Signature Move, the "Botte de Nevers".
  • Lady-In-Waiting: The female servant of Blanche de Caylus.
  • Land in the Saddle: Lagardère is first introduced kissing a (probably married) lady, then jumps on his horse from her balcony just as Passepoil was about to steal it.
  • Master Swordsman: Duke Philippe de Nevers and Lagardère are expert fencers, and equals in combat, as demonstrated by their friendly duel after mowing down the henchmen of Gonzague's first assassination attempt.
  • May–December Romance: The romance between Lagardère and Aurore at the end. Jean Marais was 23 years older than Sabine Sesselmann.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Passepoil starts off as a sword hired to assassinate the Duke de Nevers. Upon recognizing the Botte de Nevers when one of his comrades gets killed in a mere second, he runs away and bumps into Lagardère, warning him about the Assassination Attempt. After Lagardère has helped Nevers to get rid of the mooks, he has a conversation with Passepoil in a tavern and convinces him to become his trusted sidekick. Later, Passepoil tells Lagardère to be careful since he has a "good master" for once and doesn't want to lose him.
  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • Passepoil passes for a mute in Segovia. Gonzague's men throw an egg at him, which makes him talk, and thus blow his cover.
    • Upon returning to Paris with Aurore and Passepoil, Lagardère disguises himself as a hideous hunchback to gain Gonzague's trust and infiltrate his household, hence the title — according to a superstitious belief in France at the time, touching a hunchback's back is supposed to make you lucky. The disguise proves effective as Gonzague increasingly trusts him without the slightest hint of suspicion.
  • Old Friend: Once they're found by Gonzague's men in Segovia, Lagardère, Passepoil and Aurore move to Toledo, where they are given refuge by a Spanish nobleman who's an old friend of Lagardère.
  • Only One Name: Passepoil is only known by this name.
  • Parental Substitute: Lagardère and Passepoil become this for Aurore as she grows up.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Passepoil, Lagardère's sidekick, is the humor-heavy character in the film. It helps that he's played by Bourvil, one of the biggest French comedy stars at the time.
  • Regional Speciality: Not so much about food here, rather another product — once he's in Toledo, Lagardère is offered a sword by his friend, who happens to own a blacksmith workshop. Toledo steel is historically renowned for being an unusually hard alloy.
  • Revenge: Lagardère has vowed to avenge Philippe de Nevers and will make sure Aurore gets her father's possessions and titles back.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Lagardère has an attack dog when hiding near Segovia. It attacks one of Gonzague's goons that was going after Aurore, and gets killed by him.
  • Scars Are Forever: The scar he made on Gonzague's hand when he slashed it allows Lagardère to identify him 15 years after the murder of Nevers.
  • Sidekick: Passepoil becomes Lagardère's friend and main helper after defecting from Gonzague's hired goons.
  • Signature Move: The "Botte de Nevers", the Duke de Nevers' secret fencing trick to impale someone on the forehead. Lagardère makes it his own after the death of Nevers.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Philippe de Nevers and Isabelle de Caylus loved each other but were kept apart because of an old family feud.
  • Take Care of the Kids: As Philippe de Nevers dies, he trusts Lagardère with raising and protecting his newborn daughter.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Aurore was played by a baby actress, then a child actress, then Sabine Sesselmann.
  • Undying Loyalty: Lagardère has only met Nevers twice, yet he dedicates more than 15 years of his life to raise and protect Nevers' daughter and plot revenge for the murder of Nevers.
  • Unsafe Haven: The farm near Segovia, Spain, where Lagardère and Passepoil settled to raise Aurore is spotted and attacked by Gonzague's henchmen a few years after Nevers' assassination, when Aurore is still a little girl. Lagardère then decides they will move to a noble friend's household in Toledo, which is a considerably safer place.
  • We Will Meet Again: Lagardère's Badass Boast to Gonzague, "If you don't come to Lagardère, Lagardère will come to you!", is a heroic version.