1. Tino Rossi, La Belle Meuniere, France, 1948. Playwright and film-maker Marcel Pagnol wanted “Fdrnande,” of course, for their fifth ensemble, but the top French clown was tied up on Emile l’Africain. Impossible, therefore, to play… Franz Schubert!
  2. David Wayne, Portrait of Jennie, 1948. Legendary Hollywood producer David Selznick – typically – made the first tentative US offer for the French comedy superstar. Fernandel, less tentative, stayed home and safe in a Marseilles comedy, Si ca peut vous faire plaisir.
  3. Rellys, Manon des sources, France, 1952. The friendship of Pagnol and Fernande collapsed when the writer rejected him for Ugolin because he’d started relying on lazy mugging his sad-sacks rather than exercising the fine acting talent he’d had in Pagnol’s Angele, Regain, Le Schpountz, Nais.
  4. Cantinflas. Around The World In Eighty Days, 1956. Or how Passepartout, literature’s most famous French valet, became… Mexican. Showman Mike Todd’s obvious choice accepted one of the numerous cameos only, insisting his Engleesh, she no tres good. He promised to improve for Todd’s planed Don Quixote, but the producer, Liz Taylor’s husband, was killed in a 1958 air crash.
  5. Pierre Fresnay, Les vieux de la vieille, France-Italy, 1960. The film’s star and box-office draw, the legendary Jean Gabin insisted on working again with Fresnay – 23 years after their Jean Renoir classic, Une grande illusion. “Bad choice,” said scenarist Michel Audiard. “Fresnay was a great actor. But not in comedy.” The reason why Gabin’s usual team of Audiard and realisateur Gilles Grangier wanted “Fernande.” Gabin and Fernandel later formed their own company, Gafer, for nine films, together and separately, 1964-1973.

    Pause for annecdote: Fernandel formed a company with Jean Gabin in 1964. For one film together and then as a co-prod arm for their solos.  But what to call it? Fernandel-Gabin Pictures, suggested Fernandel. No, Gabin-Fernandel, said Jean.  Hmm… How about using the opening of their real family names: Jean Moncorgé and Fernande Contandin … Whoops, that would be Min-Con Films – My Idiot in French! O,K our pseudonyms – hence Gafer

  6. Jean-Pierre Cassel, Candide ou l’optimisme au XXe siecle (US: Candide), France, 1961. Marcel Carné’s version with Gérard Philipe fell through after the war, so did realisateur Rene Clément’s hopes for Fernandel in 1948. Hence. Norbert Carbonnaux’s insipid attempt.
  7. Bourvil, Un drole de paroissien, France, 1963. “Bourvil? But he’s far from my kind of cinema,” said auteur Jean-Pierre Mocky. And so he remained – until Fernande (Mocky’s childhood idol) refused to play. Paroissien went to the Berlin festival where, Mocky said Bourvil sported a tuxedo for the first time in his life. He made two more Mockeries. Fernandel came rushing back. “I loved your Paroissien. I suppose you’re sticking with Bourvil now.” “Not at the moment. “Ah bon,” said the comic. “Alors?” And they shot La bourse et la vie, 1965.
  8. Gaston Moschin, Don Camillo et les contestataires, France-Italy, 1970. “It’s  about the same people,” said Fernandel. “Don Camillo, Peppone and Jesus…”   Christian-Jacque was directing the sixth of the series when his star fell ill and  died of cancer a few months later.  Gino Cervi, five times his co-star as Mayor Peppone across 19 years, immediately quit. “The film,” he said, “has lost its soul.” Mario Camerini finished it with the soul-less Moschin and ex-blacklisted Hollywoodian Lionel Stander as Peppone. Flop! Ditto for Terence Hill’s 1983 re-make.  The priest of priests  was not James Bond. There is one only Don Camillo.   As even proved in a 35 minute release compiled from his scenes.

 Birth year: 1903Death year: 1971Other name: Fernand ContandinCasting Calls:  8