At a time when Gérard Depardieu embodies, after Jean Gabin and other great actors, commissioner Jules Maigret in the cinema, Madelen offers to rediscover the actor who embodied him the longest.
At a time when Gérard Depardieu adds his name to the list of actors who have played the role of Commissioner Maigret on screen, Madelen offers to rediscover, or discover, the one who played him the longest, Jean Richard. Between 1967 and 1990, he filmed no less than 90 investigations that have become classics.
The adventure began in 1967 with a phone call. Claude Barma offers Jean Richard to film the adaptation of a story published in 1939, Cecile is dead. The actor hesitates: he owes his notoriety to being alone on stage in cabarets and to radio programs where he recounts the misadventures of Binoche, a wacky peasant from Champignol. Can he be believable in such a different role? He agrees to take the risk of trying the adventure.
On October 15, the day after the broadcast of these 90 minutes in black and white, many hailed the performance of the actor: his imposing stature and his way of smoking a pipe correspond to the image of the character. Viewers nevertheless write their anger to the ORTF: after an exhausting day of work, they do not want to follow a psychological story. They prefer American soap operas where there is action, fights, gunshots.
There are also those who denounce Maigret, a bad example for young people. He lacks education because he never takes off his hat and says hello to anyone. The leaders of the first channel politely respond to them, but ignore their remarks. They have measured the potential of the series and are aware of the possibilities of its development in France, but also abroad.
Simenon meets Jean Richard
An article published a few weeks later in the press confirms their feelings: Jean Richard was received in Epalinges, Switzerland, by Georges Simenon who warmly congratulated him. He offered him two pipes from his personal collection, against the promise that he would make good use of them in future films. With a mischievous smile on his lips, he added: “ in the morning, when Maigret says goodbye to his wife, he doesn’t kiss her on both cheeks, he pats her on the buttocks “. The comedian followed this advice in the scenes where he found himself facing “ Madame Maigret », successively interpreted by Micheline Francey, Dominique Blanchar and Annick Tanguy, Madame Jean Richard à la ville…
The series will be sold in 26 countries. Jean Richard measures this success in Guadeloupe when the public screams “ Long live Maigret when he appears on the ring of the circus he directs between two screen appearances. The big top is his lifelong passion. In the mid-1950s, he invested his first money in buying a menagerie, before founding a zoo in Ermenonville. The influx of the public enabled him, two years later, to create the Cirque Jean Richard. He then opened, still in Ermenonville, a new kind of amusement park: The Sea of Sand. Finally, in 1971, he bought the Pinder circus, then finally launched the New Paris Hippodrome, where he displayed an adaptation of Ben Hur.
This adventure came to an abrupt end in 1973. Victim of a car accident, he spent six weeks in a coma. After months of rehabilitation, he manages to resume his activities. He then had to face financial difficulties, which forced him, in 1978, to part with all of his capitals. He’s never going to morally get over it. On December 12, 2001, he will definitely leave the track to join other stars…
Jean Richard talks about his meeting with Georges Simenon on the INA