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Le Soir Illustré
September 14, 1989
N° 2986, pp 4-20

All Simenon

Album of a prodigious life

Curious since childhood
Houses with a view
Is communication closer
Three brief encounters
Liège lived in Simenon
The Simenon atmosphere
Jean Richard will make his 92nd
I'm the last Parisian
The Legacy at Liège
The author of the naked man
His handwriting reveals
original French

Jean Richard will make his 92nd television Maigret in New York

TESTIMONY

"I've done more than live cinematically with Maigret – I've learned him, understood him, sometimes endured him, integrating his habits and shortcomings until I resemble him inside. There's a lot more between us than just the pipe and the hat."

This testimony is extracted from Jean Richard's autobiography, "My life without a safety net", which appeared in 1984. He alone epitomizes the long complicity of an actor and the commissioner he has embodied for 22 years, in 92 episodes adapted to the small screen. And at the end of September, he will fly to New York for the filming of a final investigation.

But if Jean Richard knows his character down to the smallest foible, he does not owe it to Maigret's creator, because he only met him once. In 1967, after the filming of the first episode, Cécile est morte, they met in Simenon's house in Epalinges.

"On greeting me, the father of Maigret exclaimed "Bravo! You hold your pipe like a true smoker. Only one comment – the one you have is not proportioned quite right..." At which he offered me two superb pipes for the next film. We had passionate conversations on the most varied topics. It was of Maigret that we spoke least... We understood very quickly that Simenon, a man of a single profession, didn't want to mingle with ours... Once though, in the course of the conversation, he asked me, 'How do you think Maigret says goodbye to his wife, when he leaves home in the morning?' 'He kisses her on both cheeks?' 'Not at all,' he answered mischievously, 'Very important – He gives her a small pat on the rear.'" Aside from this small recommendation, Simenon found Jean Richard's Maigret loathsome. He notably lost complete interest in his character's adaptations to the small screen.

Jean Richard presented on Antenne 2 an acceptable Maigret, while leading his investigations according to Simenon's precept, "Everything is true, nothing is exact." He gave Maigret's pipe the place it deserved – witness those moments of tension or relaxation, when the pipe is a small mute character, strangely eloquent.

In two chapters of his book Jean Richard evokes all his admiration for what he calls "the Simenon miracle".

"By his power of evocation, the power of words, a stupendous imagination, the novelist made to be born a real, true, existing man. His character literally escaped from the book to a full size life. With the complicity of everyone, from the reader to the spectator, from the film-maker to the actor, from the actual policeman to the man in the street. Commissioner Maigret is a kind of collective work."

Bernard Meeus

translation: Stephen Trussel
Honolulu - January 2006

Le Soir Illustré
September 14, 1989
N° 2986, pp 4-20

All Simenon

Album of a prodigious life

Curious since childhood
Houses with a view
Is communication closer
Three brief encounters
Liège lived in Simenon
The Simenon atmosphere
Jean Richard will make his 92nd
I'm the last Parisian
The Legacy at Liège
The author of the naked man
His handwriting reveals
original French


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