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Literature / Maigret

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Bruno Cremer, who portrayed Maigret on French television from 1991 to 2005. Often considered as the definitive portrayal.

If you are searching for a French answer to Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, look no further.

Parisian police commissioner Jules Maigret is Georges Simenon's most famous literary character, and a prime contender for the title of most famous fictional French detective (the author was Belgian, however).

The unflappable bourgeois sleuth starred in 81 novels, 28 novellas and a number of short stories from 1931 to 1972, calmly smoking his pipe and using his knowledge of psychology and patient routine investigation to understand the motives of the people he investigated to solve his cases. As being part of the police implies, he's not a Private Detective, but his methods and results easily rival the genre's biggest names.

Maigret has been adapted for radio, film and television numerous times since The '30s in France and abroad including Italy, Britain and even Japan.




  • Night at the Crossroads (1932, France, directed by Jean Renoir), starring Pierre Renoir (Jean's brother).
  • The Yellow Dog (1932, France), starring Abel Tarride.
  • The French film trilogy starring Albert Préjean:
    • Signed, Picpus (1942)
    • Cecile is Dead (1943)
    • The Cellars of the Majestic (1944)
  • The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949, USA), starring Charles Laughton.
  • The French film trilogy starring Jean Gabin:
    • Maigret Sets a Trap (1958)
    • Maigret and the Saint-Fiacre Case (1959)
    • Maigret Sees Red (1963)
  • Maigret und sein größter Fall (1966, West Germany), starring Heinz Rühmann.
  • Maigret in Pigalle (1966, Italy), starring Gino Cervi.
  • Maigret (1988 TV film, UK), starring Richard Harris.
  • Maigret and the Dead Girl (2022, France), starring Gérard Depardieu.

Live-Action Television:

  • Maigret (1959-1963 series, UK), starring Rupert Davies.
  • The inquiries of the superintendent Maigret (1964-1972 series, Italy), starring Gino Cervi.
  • The Investigations of Commissioner Maigret (1967-1990 series, France), starring Jean Richard. The actor who has played the role the most.
  • Maigret (1991-2005 series, France), starring Bruno Cremer. Second actor to have played the role the most, often considered as the definitive portrayal.
  • Maigret (1992-1993 series, UK), starring Michael Gambon.
  • Maigret (2016-2018 series, UK), starring Rowan Atkinson.

Maigret novels and short stories provide examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Maigret is quite the hard drinker.
  • Artistic License: The first books are filled with this regarding Parisian police, such as Maigret working at the Sûreté yet investigating cases outside of Paris or tailing suspects alone. Director of the Police Judiciaire Xavier Guichard invited Simenon at the 36, Quai des Orfèvres in Paris for a visit in the early 1930s to help him make his subsequent novels more accurate. This led Simenon to ditch the Sûreté and use the Préfecture de Paris instead.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Maigret smokes a pipe in direct contrast to most of the other characters' cigarette habits. If he's not smoking, he's almost invariably fiddling with his pipe in one way or another.
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  • Lead Police Detective: Maigret's job, though he goes investigating alone most of the time anyway.
  • Nice Hat: Maigret often wears a hat. In the first stories he wore a bowler, but then fashion changed, and he traded it for fedoras, and most adaptations followed suit.
  • Police Procedural: Maigret being a police commissaire turns his investigations into this.
  • Psychological Thriller: Simenon had a keen interest in human psychology, and it shows. Maigret looking behind his suspects' motivations often makes a large part of the plot.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In 1922, a man hung himself at the door handle of a church. Simenon had met the man the night before and brought the drunk person back to his home. It would inspire him to write the Maigret novel Le pendu de Saint-Pholien.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: In "Maigret Sets A Trap" a serial killer is menacing Paris. Maigret announces that he already caught the culprit and lets several female officers pose as bait to lure the killer out. The whole operation is considered highly risky and born out of desperation. After an officer survives an encounter with the killer, the killer leaves behind key evidence that leads Maigret to him. It's fair to say that this story is the most famous one in the Maigret canon, as it has been adapted to screen multiple times, including as the first episode of Maigret.
  • Smoking Is Cool: You can't separate Maigret from his pipe. This was due to Simenon famously having one himself.

Adaptations provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Continuity Reboot: In 1990, actor Jean Richard learned that his Maigret series was discontinued when opening a newspaper. The Bruno Cremer one started the next year.
  • Setting Update: The book series stretched from 1930s to the early 1970s, and Simenon made sure fashion and technology evolved accordingly. The preferred setting in most adaptations meanwhile is clearly the 1950s. Particularly prominent in the Bruno Cremer and Rowan Atkinson series, which change the setting of early Maigret stories from the 1930s to the 1950s.
  • Shown Their Work: The Bruno Cremer series boasted a near perfect recreation of the 1950s in ambience, fashion, technology and the like.
  • Truer to the Text: The Bruno Cremer series was praised for sticking the closest to the character, whereas the Jean Richard version often deviated significantly.


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