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Night at the Crossroads: location

Luc Secret

original French

I can add some infomation to supplement Murielle's text, Maigret and the mysteries of the crossroads...

In Pierre Assouline's biography of Simenon, we find this about Jean Renoir's film, La nuit du carrefour:

"The interiors were shot in a studio in Billancourt, outside Paris, the exteriors at the intersection of Routes 1 and 309, in La Croix-Verte, [by Bouffémont]. Simenon was careful to show personal interest in the proceedings, visiting the set many times between January and March 1932. Marcel Lucien, the director of photography, submerged the images in a thick fog. The atomosphere was truly sinister, and the overall effect had a rare poetry.

A month before the commercial release, Simenon was invited to a small private screening. When the lights came on, he could not contain his emotion. Eyes wet, he put his arm around Pierre Renoir, not sure whether he was embracing the actor or the inspector." (tr. Jon Rothschild, Simenon: A biography, pp 106-108)*

And, at the site of the online archives of the Bibliothèque nationale française, we can find an article about it written by Simenon for the newspaper Paris-Soir, April 16, 1932, p.6:

Paris-Soir, April 16, 1932, p.6:

Before "Night at the Crossroads"

The birth of Chief Inspector Maigret

On Monday, we'll present La Nuit du Carrefour, a film by Jean Renoir based on Georges Simenon's novel. Paris-Soir asked the author to give us his impressions.

+++

      He was born for the first time on...

      Wait. That was three years ago. I was tormented by the desire to create a French policeman, that is, one simple and human, honest and hard-working, not priding himself on solving crossword puzzles, nor leaping over buildings, nor knocking out his adversaries with a snap of his fingers.

      I had gone in search of tranquility to Norway, aboard my boat, just as the beautiful women might go to their châteaus in Loir-et-Cher to give birth...

      And there, while breaking the ice, I put Maigret into the world, with joy, with love.

      It took longer to be born the second time. Almost two years. The publishers were frightened by this terrible terrible Chief Inspector who was not even a leading man, nor a seer, nor a giant, and who wanted to solve a case every month.

      Finally, last year, during the Anthropometric Ball, Maigret was officially born.

      The books appear...

      But Maigret was still only on paper. No one had seen him. He had no face, no flesh...

      Antibes, December 1931. Jean Renoir is there. For hours, in pajamas, hair disheveled, we search to give flesh to Maigret.

      For the scénario is ready. The cutting is ready. The sets are ready.

      In short, the layette and the cradle.

      Maigret must finally be born to real life, with a face, shoulderss, a voice.

      A hundred names scroll by. Finally the blue penceil underlines one: ierre Renoir.

      And it's March. I arrive in Paris. A little projection room. Three or four of us wait... the bell... darkness...

      Maigret? It's Maigret! He's born...

      Don't laugh. Do we laugh at the emotions of a father?

      Maigret who, after three years, is finally a man of flesh. I watched him live for two hours without saying a word.

      the bell... lights...

      Pierre Renoir was next to me. Pierre Renoir? Maigret? I don't know which of the two I embraced, my eyes moist, sniffing awkwardly.

      Only there, we were only three or four.

      And Maigret must be born a fourth time, officially, solemnly, before the public.

      Will his papa be scared?

      Not on your life! Like all dads, he's very proud. His kid is the most beautiful in the world.

      Didn't he have in Jean Renoir the best of midwives?

      Who brought to life, all at once, all the characters of Nuit du Carrefour?

      Winna Winfried, the most moving of Danes, Dignimont, Koudria, Gehret...

      Not to mention the magician Lucien, assistant at the birth, director of photography, who made the light, and the life with that film.

      Nor to mention...

      But there are so many around the cradle, and they all played such a part in Maigret's birth that the father sulks, wondering, jealous...

      "Am I really the father?"

      What matter! "Our" child is the most beautiful in the world!

Georges Simenon

So, Simenon was indeed deeply involved in the film. As to whether it is "his" Crossroads... here are the results of my research on the famous crossroads:

Although the National 309 has been transformed into D909 and the surroundings completely rearranged, swith a little work I located the famous intersection. I think it's certainly the same building, which also house a restaurant, "Royal Croix Verte". We are there, north of Paris, and nothing corresponds to Etampes nor Arpajon, but the crossroads are close to Attainville (Avrainville?) and Croix-Verte could be Three Widows...


an image from the film


a Google street-view

As the novel was written in 1931 and the film made in 1932, I tend to think that it was this crossroads that inspired Simenon, even if he moved it in his novel to blur the tracks...

Luc Secret


translation: S. Trussel, Honolulu, 1/25/2018

* the text of the Nuit du carrefour pages in Assouline's biography