Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links    

Maigret – novels and stories –
adaptations for the large and small screen

by Murielle Wenger

Original French

Three hundred adaptations... that's the number we arrive at for the novels and stories relating the cases of Chief Inspector Maigret. Of these 300, a mere 20 are films for the cinema, the remainder being adaptations for television, whether for a unique tele-film, or, for the great majority, episodes forming a series.

Three hundred adaptations for 75 novels and 28 stories... that implies clearly that certain texts have been more often adapted than others. Which, and for what reasons, is what we will try to discover in this study. (For supplementary details on the films mentioned, see this page at this site).

Once more, the analysis will be made considering the periods of writing of the texts, in other words, to see if the frequency of adaptation differs according to the period considered. Let's briefly examine the numbers...

  • The 19 novels of the Fayard period have had a total of 70 adaptations, averaging nearly four adaptations per novel.

  • The 21 stories written between the two wars (the 17 appearing in 1944 from Gallimard in the collection Les nouvelles enquêtes de Maigret, plus owe and ceu, + the two stories (hom et ven) published in 1950 by Presses de la Cité in the collection Maigret et les petits cochons sans queue) have had a total of 19 adaptations, which indicates, as we will see in more detail below, that certain stories have never been adapted, while others have been adapted a number of times.

  • The six novels from Gallimard have had 29 adaptations, an average of five per novel.

  • The six stories written after WWII have had 16 adaptations, for an average of nearly three per story.

  • The 50 novels of the Presses de la Cité period have had 160 adaptations, for an average of slightly more than three per novel.

The first element to consider is the success of the novels of the Gallimard period. Indeed, proportionally, these novels are favored by the adapters and directors of cinema and television. These are followed by the novels of the Fayard period, and those of the Presses de la Cité period are proportionally less often adapted.

However, these results should be qualified, for taken one by one, we can find fairly large differences among the novels. We'll examine this in more detail below.

  • Nine stories have never been adapted (these being pen, bea, pei, lar, pig, err, ber, ceu and Menaces de mort (men)), as well as one novel, Les mémoires de Maigret (MEM). However there are some interesting points to consider among these texts. I'm thinking in particular of the story, Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant, which would certainly make a fine tele-film. And it certainly would have been, if circumstances had permitted, a good subject for the Bruno Crémer series... And as for Les mémoires de Maigret, in spite of the staging difficulties inherent to this type of text, I think it has something which could be developed into a tele-film... for example, the beginning of the novel, telling of the meeting between the young Sim and the Chief Inspector...

  • We find next a series of texts with but a single adaptation:

    • Nine stories written between the two wars, of which five were adapted for the series with Bruno Crémer (fen, lun, eto, owe, ven) and four for the series with Jean Richard (noy, man, not, hom)

    • Three stories, which were not originally written as Maigret cases, appearing in the collection Maigret et les petits cochons sans queue, were adapted for the Bruno Crémer series: Les petits cochons sans queue, Le deuil de Fonsine, Madame Quatre et ses enfants.

    • Two stories, written in 1945 and 1946, were adapted for the series with Jean Richard: La pipe de Maigret (pip) and Le client le plus obstiné du monde (obs)

    • Five novels from Presses de la Cité, adapted for the series with Jean Richard: NEW, CHE; NAH, VIC and IND

  • And then a series of texts which have each been adapted twice:

    • Five novels from the Fayard period, one adapted for both the series with Jean Richard and that with Bruno Crémer (HOL), two each for the series with Jean Richard and Rupert Davies (PHO, GUI), one each for the series with Jean Richard and that with Gino Cervi (MAI), and one for the series with Jean Richard and for the cinema (Heinz Rühmann, film Maigret und sein grösster Fall): GAI.

    • Two stories between the two wars, one each for the Jean Richard series and the Bruno Crémer series (arr), one other for the Jean Richard series with and the Gino Cervi series (amo).

    • One novel of the Gallimard period (CAD) adapted for the Jean Richard series and the Bruno Crémer series.

    • One "non- Maigret" story (Sept petites croix dans un carnet, which appeared in 1951 in the collection Un Noël de Maigret), adapted for Bruno Crémer series and the Rupert Davies series.

    • Thirteen Presses de la Cité novels, three adapted for the Jean Richard and Rupert Davies series (FAC, VOY, ASS), six adapted for the Jean Richard and Kinya Aikawa series (BRA, CLI, COL, TUE, SEU, CHA), two for the Jean Richard and Bruno Crémer series (CLO, VIN), one for the Jean Richard and Michael Gambon series (FOL),and one for the Rupert Davies and Kees Brusse series (PRE).

  • And now here are the texts which have been adapted three times:

    • Five novels of the Fayard period: LET and REN were adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Jan Teulings; FLA and POR were adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Rupert Davies; and GAL was adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and for a tele-film with Henri Norbert.

    • Two stories from between the two wars: bay was adapted for the series Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Gino Cervi; sta was adapted for the series with Jean Richard and for two tele-films, one with Herbert Berghof, and the other with Romney Brent.

    • One novel from the Gallimard period (JUG) was adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Rupert Davies.

    • Two stories written in 1946: mal was adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Gino Cervi; pau was adapted for the series with Bruno Crémer and Gino Cervi, and served as the basis for a part of the plot in the film Maigret dirige l'enquête with Maurice Manson

    • Twelve Presses de la Cité novels, with four adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Rupert Davies (AMI, PEU, ECH, VIE); 2 adaptés pour les seriess Jean Richard, Rupert Davies et Kinya Aikawa (REV, CON); one for the series with Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Jan Teulings (AMU); one for the series with Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Kees Brusse (PAR); one for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Kinya Aikawa (FAN); one for the series with Jean Richard, Gino Cervi and Kinya Aikawa (VOL); one for the series with Jean Richard and Bruno Crémer and a tele-film with Boris Tenin (HES); one adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Michael Gambon (ENF).

  • We have next a set of texts with four adaptations:

    • Four novels of the Fayard period: PRO, adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Kinya Aikawa; FOU, adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Gino Cervi; LIB, adapted for the series with Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Rupert Davies, and for a tele-film with Louis Arbessier (this was the first Maigret for French television); JAU, adapted twice for the series with Jean Richard, and for two films for the cinema: a Russian film of 1993, and the 1932 film with Abel Tarride.

    • Two stories from the Presses de la Cité period: cho, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer and Gino Cervi, and as the basis for the sketch forming part of the film Brelan d'As with Michel Simon; noe, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi and Jan Teulings

    • Eight novels from Presses de la Cité: one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Rupert Davies, Jan Teulings and Kinya Aikawa (MOR); three adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Kinya Aikawa (DAM, COR, TEM); one adapted the series of Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Jan Teulings, and the cinema film with Jean Gabin Maigret voit rouge (LOG); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, and a téle-film with Boris Tenin (BAN); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon (ECO); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Rupert Davies and Jan Teulings, and the tele-film with Basil Sydney (JEU)

  • Coming next to texts adapted five time:

    • Three novels of the Fayard period: OMB, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Gino Cervi, and for a tele-film with Sergio Castellitto; FIA, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon, and for the cinema with Jean Gabin; ECL, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi and Jan Teulings

    • One novel of the Gallimard period: MAJ, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies and Michael Gambon, and for the cinema of 1944 with Albert Préjean

    • Seven novels from Presses de la Cité, of which one was adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Jan Teulings and a tele-film with Henri Norbert (VAC); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Rupert Davies, Kees Brusse, Kinya Aikawa, and a tele-film with Boris Tenin (MME); two adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Kees Brusse, and Kinya Aikawa (MEU, TRO); one adapted for the series of Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Michael Gambon, a tele-film with Sergio Castellitto and a film for the cinema with Jean Gabin (TEN); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Kinya Aikawa and a Czech tele-film with Rudolf Hrušínský (SCR); one adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Gino Cervi, Michael Gambon and Jan Teulings (PAT)

  • We also find texts adapted six times:

    • one novel of the Fayard period: NUI, adapted for the series of Jean Richard (two adaptations), Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, a tele-film with Henri Norbert, and a film for the cinema of 1932, with Pierre Renoir, which was also the first Maigret adapted for the screen.

    • Two novels of the Gallimard period: SIG, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi, Kinya Aikawa, and a film for the cinema with Albert Préjean; FEL; adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Michael Gambon, Jan Teulings, and Kinya Aikawa.

    • Two novels from Presses de la Cité: MIN, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Michael Gambon, Kinya Aikawa, and a Russian film with Armen Djigarkhanyan; DEF, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi, Michael Gambon, and Jan Teulings.

  • Next we have texts adapted 7 times:

    • One novel from the Gallimard preiod: CEC; adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi, a tele-film with Boris Tenin, and two films for the cinema, one with Maurice Manson (Maigret dirige l'enquête), and the other with Albert Préjean

    • Two novels from Presses de la Cité: PIC, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi, Michael Gambon, Kees Brusse, and Kinya Aikawa; GRA, adapted for the series of Jean Richard, Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Michael Gambon, Kinya Aikawa, a telefilm with Henri Norbert, and a film for the cinema with Maurice Manson (Maigret dirige l'enquête)

  • Lastly, the text which has had the greatest number of adaptations (8) is La tête d'un homme, adapted for the series of Jean Richard (two adaptations), Bruno Crémer, Rupert Davies, Gino Cervi, a tele-film with Vladimir Samoilov, and two films for the cinema: that with Harry Baur in 1933 and that with Charles Laughton in 1949.

One interesting thing to note is that if, on the one hand, among the texts most adapted, we find two novels from the Fayard period (TET and NUI), which are also among the most translated novels, on the other hand, we also find novels from the Gallimard period (CEC and FEL), which are actually among the least translated. So the success of the translations, and thus the wide diffusion of a text, is not sufficient to explain the choice of that text for an adaptation to the cinema or the small screen. We have to assume that the explanation must be found elsewhere...

If we examine in more detail the texts with the greatest number of adaptations, it seems to me that we can note that these texts tell of cases where Maigret meets with characters particularly "taking", where the Chief Inspector is strongly involved in the relationship with these characters. This is in any case verifiable for a large part of these texts. I think of La tête d'un homme (TET), naturally, but also of Félicie est là (FEL), Maigret au Picratt's (PIC) and Maigret et la Grande Perche (GRA). It is true, however that other texts which fit these criteria haven't been adapted as often (bringing to mind, for example, Maigret et l'homme du banc (BAN) or Maigret et la jeune morte) (JEU), but no doubt to a certain degree choices must be attributed to chance, opportunity, when circumstances are found associating the appearance of a novel and events of the same epoch... So, the adaptation for the cinema of three novels of the Gallimard period, nearly contemporaneous with their appearance (the three films with Albert Préjean, produced by Continental in wartime). And there remains no less, that these novels were taken strongly by their adapters, no doubt because they found there suitable material to create an interesting scenario. When you think, for example, of the fact that the first novel to be adapted for the series with Jean Richard, who came, in the spirit of Claude Barma, to inaugurate a new televisual form (more than a simple, unique tele-film, a veritable "series" of episodes, where the television viewer would encounter at more or less regular intervals the same character), that novel was Cécile est morte (CEC). Equally significant is the fact that the first novel adapted to inaugurate the series with Bruno Crémer was Maigret au Picratt's (PIC) (the first episode to be filmed for the series), and that the first to be aired was Maigret et la Grande Perche (GRA). Similarly, for the series with Rupert Davies, it was Maigret au Picratt's which was the first episode adapted. And if we consider the series with Gino Cervi, we find again, as the first episode, an adaptation of Cécile est morte.

On the other hand, among the novels the least adapted for television, we find, rather astonishingly, Le chien jaune (JAU). Certainly there were two adaptations of this novel for the series with Jean Richard, but it seems less tempting to scenarists of foreign television, although this novel is on of the most translated novels in the corpus. And, at the other extremity, a novel like L'écluse no 1 (ECL), one of those with the smallest number of translations, is well represented [5 times] in television adaptations.

We note again that if we examine the choice of episodes adapted for television series, we see that, in general, all these series have proportionally more episodes adapted from novels of the Gallimard period that those of the other periods, and generally, more or the episodes adapted for those of the Fayard period than for those from the Presses de la Cité period (the Japanese series and the series with Michael Gambon being exception to this second case).

Jean Richard
We note again that each series has its own way of constructing its choices of adaptation over the course of time. Thus, for the series with Jean Richard, we find, in the order of production, first a novel from the Gallimard period (CEC), then two Fayard novels (TET and JAU, two characteristic titles, as if the adapters wanted to immediately handle the "classics", reminiscent of the first adaptations for the cinema), then three Gallimard novels, a Fayard, a Gallimard, then two Fayard novels; it's not until the 11th episode that we encounter an adaptation of a Presses de la Cité novel (MOR, this one also chosen characteristically... it is, in fact, the first of the Presses de la Cité period in which Simenon has reintegrated his character into his office at the Quai des Orfèvres). We find next a Fayard novel, then four from Presses de la Cité, a Fayard, and another from Presses de la Cité, which finishes the series of episodes in black and white. The first episode in color was, also characteristically, LET. The episodes following were shared between adaptations of Fayard novels and those from Presses de la Cité. Surprisingly, while scattered among these first episodes were adaptations of five novels out of the six of the Gallimard period, there was a wait of many years, until almost the end of the series, for an adaptation of the sixth (MAJ, 73rd episode). The first adapted story didn't appear until two-thirds of the way into the series (60th episode, noe). From the 74th episode, we saw the appearance of adaptations of other stories, as well as two other Presses de la Cité novels which hadn't yet been adapted, and when the 88th episode (NEW) ended the series, there were only three novels which hadn't been adapted, PRE, MEM and TEN, the two former because of the evident difficulties of adaptation,the latter perhaps by a sort of "restraint" (the memory of the cinema film with Jean Gabin still fresh). Out of the 88 episodes, 13 were adaptations of stories.

Bruno Crémer
For the series with Bruno Crémer, the choices of adaptation were made in a different manner. From the beginning, the choice alternated among the three periods, and from around the middle of the series, we saw the appearance of adaptations of stories, including some from texts in which the Chief Inspector didn't appear. There was a sense from the outset, of a desire to distinguish the series from its predecessor with Jean Richard. In that case there'd been a desire, more or less avowed from the beginning, to attempt an exhaustive series of adaptations. Here, it was more a "favorite" choice, where one had the impression of feeling more of the hand of the director. They also allowed themselves, this time, to adapt Maigret tend un piège (TEN), while paying tribute in the final scene of the episode (Maigret-Crémer parting walking away under the storm which had just broken, as did Jean Gabin in the film of the same name). In total, of the 54 episodes of the series, 11 are adaptations of Fayard novels, 6 Gallimard novels, 24 from Presses de la Cité, and 13 the adaptations of stories.

Rupert Davies
For the series with Rupert Davies (which is, we recall, the first true "series" created expressly as such for television, preceding adaptations being rather single tele-films), we see first an alternation of episodes adapted from novels of the Presses de la Cité period and those from Fayard, and it wasn't until the 32nd episode that there was an adaptation of a Gallimard novel (FEL). In total, the 53 episodes with Rupert Davies cover 15 of the 19 Fayard novels, 5 of the 6 Gallimard novels, 30 of the 50 Presses de la Cité novels, as well as three adaptations of stories.

Michael Gambon
For the other English series, that with Michael Gambon, they began with four episodes adapted from Presses de la Cité novels, then an episode adapted from a Fayard novel, then two from Presses de la Cité novels, a Gallimard, then three Presses de la Cité, and one more from Gallimard. Note that if the first episode of this series was an original with regard to those of the series with Rupert Davies (in fact, the last episode of that series was an adaptation of Maigret se défend (DEF), and the first episode with Gambon was an adaptation of La patience de Maigret) (PAT), the following would not show, on the contrary, a desire to distinguish itself from the first English series. Indeed, the second episode picked up the unavoidable Maigret et la Grande Perche (GRA), although already done by Rupert Davies. And for the remainder of the series, only two other episodes were original with regard to the first series.

Gino Cervi
For the series with Gino Cervi, the choice of adaptations is very eclectic. First two episodes adapted from Gallimard novels, then an adaptation of a story, then a Fayard novel, a story, another Fayard, then two stories, a Presses de la Cité novel, two more stories, a Fayard, a Presses de la Cité, a Fayard, a Presses de la Cité, and another Fayard. And let's not forget that Gino Cervi also played the role of the Chief Inspector in a film for the cinema, Maigret a Pigalle, adapted from the novel Maigret au Picratt's (PIC).

Jan Teulings
For the series with Jan Teulings, the first four episodes are adaptations of Presses de la Cité novels, the fifth an adaptation of a story, then we find two adaptations Fayard novels, a Gallimard, a Presses de la Cité, a Fayard, and two Presses de la Cité. The other Dutch series, that with Kees Brusse, comprised six episodes adapted from Presses de la Cité novels.

Kinya Aikawa
For the Japanese series with Kinya Aikawa, the choice was made almost uniquely from adaptations of novels of the Presses de la Cité period. Of the 25 episodes, only one is an adaptation of a Fayard novel, and two are adaptations of Gallimard novels.

And to conclude, we can note this fairly curious fact, that the adaptations for the cinema have been, essentially, more or less contemporary with the appearances of the novels (see La tête d'un homme, Le chien jaune and La nuit du carrefour, all three produced in the early years of the 1930s, hardly a year after the publication of the novels. See also the three films with Albert Préjean made during WWII, two or three years after the publication of the novels by Gallimard. And lastly consider the first film with Jean Gabin, Maigret tend un piège, which came out in 1957, some two year after the novel of the same name (TEN)), as if the success of these led immediately to the passage to the large screen. Later adaptations for the cinema are rather rare, probably due to the fact that television had taken the baton in the adaptations of the investigations of the Chief Inspector, the cinema now favoring the adaptations of other Simenon novels. So it seems even more obvious that if television has taken over the character exclusively, it's because it permits the devotion of the public. The proof is in the much higher proportion of adaptations of episodes in series as opposed to individual tele-films. And we could go even further. If, in the eyes of the viewer, the performance of the actor doesn't "stick" to the image he should portray, it doesn't succeed. It takes the talent of a Bruno Crémer, a Jean Richard, or a Rupert Davies to slide into the skin of the Chief Inspector, creating a sort of osmosis between the image he portrays and that which the viewer imagines, for the effect the "series" can create and make last for much longer than single tele-films...
 

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, March 2012

 

Home  Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links