The Louis Jourdan Website - Untel Père et Fils
Released first in the USA as "The Heart of the Nation" (81-minute version)
Director: Julien Duvivier
WritersJulien Duvivier, Marcel Achard, Charles Spaak
filmed at Studios de la Victorine, Nice - December 1939 - June 1940
Other cast members: Michèle Morgan, Raimu, Louis Jouvet, Suzy Prim. Narrated by Charles Boyer
This pageant delineating the struggles of Parisians coping with all that was thrown at them from the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 through World War I to the Nazi threat (as it was when the movie was shot, the invasion of France not yet having taken place until filming was almost concluded) is the theme of UNTEL PERE ET FILS, widely known as “Heart of a Nation” or alternatively “Immortal France.” (It's working title was “La Grande Relève,” having the implication of “getting stuck in.”
The narrow interest on this website centers on the small part of Christian Frommet, played by Louis Jourdan which, to this day remains largely uncredited, even by the assiduous Internet Movie Data Base, who usually have every silent (if they ever are) cab driver identified in the films they cover.
Others straggling along to get credits complete erroneously name Louis Jourdan's brother Pierre as playing the part. Acknowledgement to the British Film Institute Film & TV Data Base for their singular accuracy!
But he's certainly one of the company, and stands out as well in the middle of the grand cast - as can be seen from the clip you can reach by clicking the image at right.
The part followed his first and ill-fated appearance before the cameras in the never-to-be LE CORSAIRE whose production had shut down three months earlier.
Therefore, UNTEL PERE ET FILS should have been the first audiences saw of Louis Jourdan, had France not been invaded, but as it was, the film was almost lost completely, and only a bit of thriller fare, which would have made a great movie in itself, saved it.
Just after filming was more-or-less completed, the Nazi authorities got wind of this “subversive” production - ordering the negative to be destroyed - but Julien Duvivier almost simultaneously became aware of the warrant, managing to escape to Portugal and have his precious reels sent to California where star Michèle Morgan had already taken up residence.
They added a few more scenes with her, and Charles Boyer was enlisted to provide a narration linking together the diverse sections of the film covering Family Frommet in different historical eras.
This may have been more of a stroke of necessity than art, and the often confusing aspects of the film may well be due to the circumstances surrounding its late birth in April 1943.