The One Magnificent

1973 _ François Merlin is a humble writer trying to finish his 43rd spy novel. He identifies so closely with the hero, the fabulous Bob Saint-Clare, that their two worlds begin to collide: exotic Mexican adventures vs. humdrum life in Paris...

Secret agent Bob Saint-Clare is sent on a mission to Mexico, to protect ‘the future of the free world’. He quickly seduces his contact, the voluptuous Tatiana. But they are interrupted on a romantic stroll by hordes of assassins, whom they slay in their dozens. This is when Madame Berger appears amongst the dead bodies, seemingly indifferent to the carnage, and begins to vacuum the room where François Merlin is trying in vain to write his forty-third spy novel.

Merlin is the spitting image of Saint-Clare, but that’s where the similarities end between the elegant, suave, charming and sporty secret agent and his creator, who is unkempt, spineless and shy. From this point on, Merlin is continually plagued by untimely interruptions which have an instant impact on the story he’s struggling to write.

Christine, the shy student neighbor who served as inspiration for Tatiana, discovers the novels and tells Merlin she’s planning to write a sociology thesis on his work. Since she seems to have a keen interest in Saint-Clare, Merlin tries to act like his hero would around her, but is soon put back in his place…

Jealous of his own creation, he mocks him continually. Madame Berger, who has read the manuscript, alarms Christine, who admits to Merlin that her ideal man is not Saint-Clare, but the writer himself. Merlin calms down and returns to work with gusto.

But that very evening he finds the greedy, bossy Charron, his editor, at Christine’s place. Charron has also become a character: Saint-Clare’s arch enemy. Earlier, Christine had contacted Charron regarding her thesis, and he took it upon himself to visit her at home with some of his hangers-on, in an attempt to seduce her. Merlin punches Charron, argues with Christine, whom he mistakenly blames, and decides to take it out on Tatiana.

However, finding Christine asleep on his doormat at the crack of dawn, he hurls his manuscript at Charron, whose eye is already bandaged, and who runs out of the building.

 

Crew

Production: Les Films Ariane – Mondex Films – Cerito Films (Paris) – Oceania Films – Rizzoli film (Rome).
Producers: Alexandre Mnouchkine, Georges Dancigers.
Producteur associé : Robert Amon.
Line producer: Alexandre Mnouchkine.
Scénario-dialogues : Francis Veber and Philippe de Broca (uncredited).
Director of photography: René Mathelin.
Underwater photography : Genaro Hurtado.
Cameraman: Jean-Paul Schwartz assisted by Jean-Paul Cornu and Philippe Bordas.
Editing: Henri Lanoë assisted by Monique André and Catherine Dubeau.
Music: Claude Bolling and Tomas Mondez Sosa for « Cucurrucucu Paloma ».
Ingénieurs du son : Jean Labussière, Jean Nény.
Décors : François de Lamothe assisted by Jacques Brizio and Pierre Duquesne.
Set decorator: Robert Christidès.
Costumes : Donfeld for Jacqueline Bisset / Cerruti for Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Habilleuses : Paulette Breil, Monique Dury.
Maquillage : Charly Koubesserian.
Coiffeur : Marc Blanchard.
Production manager: Alain Belmondo.
Stage manager: Alain Pancrazi.
Assistant directors: Tony Aboyantz, Claude Gorsky, Jésus Marin.
Script supervisor: Suzanne Durrenberger.
Photographer: Maurice Chapiron.
Press agents: René Château, Jacques Itah.
Special effects props: André Pierdel, Georges Iaconelli, Léon Ortega.

 

Cast

Jean-Paul Belmondo : François Merlin and Bob Saint-Clare.
Jacqueline Bisset : Christine and Tatiana.
Vittorio Caprioli : Georges Charron and Colonel Kharkov.
Monique Tarbes : Madame Berger.
Mario David : le contractuel qui verbalise.
Bruno Garcin : Pilu, étudiant.
Raymond Gerome : le général Pontaubert.
Jean Lefebvre : Monsieur Boudard l’électricien.
Hans Mayer : le colonel Collins.
André Weber : le premier plombier.
Hubert Deschamps : le vendeur de machines à écrire.
Bernhardt Musson : l’interprète tchèque.
Thalie Fruges : l’hôtesse de la maison d’édition.
René Barrera : le Chinois, le jeune marié.
Rodrigo Puebla : Benson
Jean-Pierre Rambal : le conférencier.
Gaëtan Noël : le docteur.
Robert Berry : le commandant.
Plus Micha Bayard, Roger Muni, Victor Jarson, Caline Bautte, Claude Salino, Jean-Paul Sarre, Jacques Wajsmark, Max Desrau, Lucienne Legrand, Guy Simonnet, Sébastien Floche, Laure Moutoussamy, Michel Thomass…

Running time: 93 minutes.
Initial title: Comment détruire la réputation du plus célèbre agent secret du monde.
Filmed: 26 March – end of June 1973.
Location: Mexico and Paris.
Distribution : C.C.F.C.
Release in Paris: 29 November 1973.
Boxe office : 725 564 tickets sold in 14 weeks in 10 Paris cinemas.