L’Œil de L’INA: Les Charlots, popular laughter in the age of recklessness

The recent disappearance of Gérard Philippelli, the gangly Phil of the group of fantasies of the 70s, after that of their leader Gérard Rinaldi in 2012, has the scent of nostalgia for a happy period.

Half a century later The gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin, the public flocked to other Charlots, for whom money was not really the engine. In the 70s, Gérard Rinaldi, Jean Sarrus, Jean-Guy Fechner, Luis Rego and Gérard Filippelli, who died this week, had a lot of fun, and made the happiness of a large popular audience. The images of At close range, performed during their 1975 summer tour, offered by Madelen, evoke those years when, on a simple platform at the entrance to a beach facing the sea, waves of applause overwhelmed musicians who never imagined becoming stars.

Report on Les Charlots during the filming of Mad sluts , in 1971

Their story begins in the mid-sixties, at Golf Drouot. They meet, talk about music, become friends, and decide to form a group which they call Les Problèmes. They make a living by increasing the risky tours in discotheques which they themselves qualify as “lousy“. One morning in 1965, Christian Fechner, a young artistic director he met at Golf Drouot, offered to accompany a young Centralien beatnik who was going to record his first record. This is how they meet Antoine. They will live, at his side, the madness of Rantings and that of concerts which end with a fight in the hall between the “pro” and the “anti»Antoine.

One evening, backstage, to relax the atmosphere, Gérard Rinaldi improvises verses with the accent of Berry. Gérard Filipelli spontaneously accompanies him on the accordion. In a general burst of laughter, Fechner offers them to record a 45 rpm. They accept, as long as they don’t release it under the name of Problems, which is serious training! Jean Sarrus thinks of those musicians unable to play correctly, called Charlots. The idea is retained. To everyone’s surprise, Heat Marcel becomes a success. While recording Vesoul Jacques Brel will even use this expression to address Marcel Azzola who accompanies him.

Paulette, the queen of paupiettes, gold record

Thus begins an adventure that the five friends begin to live without imagining that it will continue for 28 years. The 45s are snapped up by the hundreds of thousands. Paulette, the queen of Paupiettes allows them to obtain their first gold record. Critics are outraged, but that does not prevent the Charlots from being sold out at the Olympia. Inspired by the Brutos, an Italian group of which Aldo Maccione was the headliner, they add, to their songs, gags based on pair of slaps. In the street, we throw at them, “ah, what jerks you can be!“. They consider it the best compliment.

In 1970, a film producer, Michel Ardan, offered them to shoot a film: “You made my children laugh, who are 8 and 12 years old. I am convinced that the whole of France will follow “. He is not mistaken. The big java, a comedy written by Claude Zidi and directed by Philippe Clair, is a success. It will continue for ten years with a peak, in 1972: 12 million admissions with Crazy sluts. “ We never had a career plan, we didn’t even think about it », Says Jean Sarrus today, referring to a time that may have disappeared for good.


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