Innocent Strength - the Radiant Comic Presence of Bourvil

50 years ago this week, the great French comic Bourvil (André Raimbourg) left us, but not before appearing in some of the best-known French comedies and winning the hearts of millions with his good-natured, simple, happy-go-lucky persona. Bourvil is especially wonderful when he’s paired with/against Louis de Funès in films like “La Traversée de Paris,” “Le Corniaud,” and most famously in “La Grande Vadrouille” (1966), one of my favourite rainy day re-watches. Bourvil is Augustin Bouvet, a humble house-painter in WWII, occupied Paris who inadvertently upsets a bucket of whitewash over a Nazi officer before helping a parachuting British pilot go into hiding. Together with de Funès’ character Stanislas Lefort (a tetchy, mercurial conductor at the Opéra Garnier), Bouvet becomes a rather ordinary, accidental hero, aiding the RAF men to cross into the neutral zone in southern France. Bouvet is quite similar to Bourvil’s “Corniaud” character in that he’s charmingly easygoing, seemingly simp…

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