The Eye of INA: From Goldoni to La Demoiselle d’Avignon, the irresistible charm of Marthe Keller

The soap opera created by Frédérique Hébrard and Louis Velle celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. This huge television success allowed the whole of France to discover the charisma of the Swiss actress. In partnership with Le Figaro, find her on Madelen.

Exactly 50 years ago, a Lady of Avignon become a princess, allowed its creators, Frédérique Hebrard and Louis Velle, to experience a fairy tale. They met on the benches of the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique de Paris, and married in 1949 before starting, each on their own, particularly promising acting careers.

Daughter of the novelist-historian André Chamson, Frédérique decides one day to follow in the family footsteps and begins to write books. In the mid-1960s, she had the idea of ​​adapting a successful novel by Spanish author Luisa-Maria Linares for television, Under Bluebeard’s thumb. Almost naturally, she asks her husband to help her build the script and the dialogues. This is how is born How not to marry a billionaire, a soap opera of almost 6 hours. Directed by Lazare Iglesis, it was broadcast in 1966. This story of a young American heiress, betrothed to a wealthy businessman, who falls in love with the captain of a yacht, touches the hearts of the public. Its success is such that the couple receives thousands of letters begging them to imagine another series, which would get them out of their daily problems and make them dream.

One evening, while shopping in a supermarket, Frédérique discovers a young woman at the checkout counter wearing a magnificent tiara around her neck. She tells the anecdote to her husband and, by association of ideas, they end up imagining an imaginary kingdom, Kurlande, of which Koba, the princess, will fall in love with a diplomat passionate about archeology. Her arrival in France incognito, as a modest au pair, becomes the first twist in a soap opera divided into six 52-minute episodes.

Marthe Keller becomes a star overnight

Proposed to the management of the ORTF, the project is immediately accepted. Thus began five years of intensive work. Locked up in their house near Paris, Frédérique Hebrard will devote two years to the construction of a joyful and resolutely romantic story. With Michel Wyn, to whom they entrusted the staging, they go in search of the ideal actress. This is how they meet a young Swiss actress, Marthe Keller. She started in Berlin before coming to France, where she shot two films, under the direction of Philippe de Broca.

She also participates in theatrical adaptations for television, such as that of The cunning widow by Carlo Goldoni, a nugget that can be rediscovered on Madelen, the INA platform. At the end of a test where she gives the reply to Louis Velle, she is immediately chosen.

Broadcast for six weeks from January 8, 1972, the series achieved immense popular and critical success. This mini-series that Madelen does not yet offer has not aged a bit and deserves to be seen by younger generations, and rediscovered by older ones.

Thanks to The Lady of Avignon, Marthe Keller becomes a star overnight. She then receives thousands of letters from fans every week, who do not only ask her for autographed photos. Convinced that she is a genuine wealthy princess, some beg her to send them money, others offer to marry her. No doubt because they are certain that in town she is also a young lady. That is to say her talent as an actress. A talent that everyone can admire today in La Femme de personne, by Christopher Franck, a “feminist” film before its time, also to be discovered on Madelen.

The Lady of Avignon by Frédérique Hébrard and Louis Velle, with Marthe Keller, Louis Velle, Candice Patou, Marco Perrin…


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