Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


LACS: French Language & Literature; Urban Studies

First Advisor

Karen Humphreys


Better known as the Trilogie Marseillaise, the films Marius (1931), Fanny (1932), and César (1936) by Marcel Pagnol have shaped our perception of the city of Marseille and its environs. Marius was written first as a play and performed in 1929 in Paris. Following its adaptation to film, Pagnol wrote the play, Fanny with the intention of adapting it to film. Unlike the previous films, Pagnol wrote the screenplay for César first and then converted it to a play. The trilogy is among the first talking films and follows the amorous relationship between Marius and Fanny. Marius is torn between his love for the sea and Fanny. Marius chooses the sea, leaving Fanny in Marseille. When Fanny discovers she is pregnant she feels compelled to marry an older, richer man - Panisse. When Marius realizes his error, he can no longer claim Fanny and his son. Only after Panisse dies is he able to reconnect with his family and marry Fanny.

The films’ nostalgic origins, clearly-delineated yet melodramatic plot, and “théâtre filmé” aspect, allowed Pagnol to inform our perspective of Marseille and its culture through the viewpoints and interactions of the protagonists. To do this Pagnol emphasizes language, tonalities, and mis-en-scène – all of which were adapted from preconceived notions of Marseillais culture. This portrayal of Marseillais culture came at time when there was a national push to create a French identity by highlighting regional identities. In addition it coincides with numerous socio-political forces from leftist support for working-class ideals that would lead to the formation of the Popular Front, the emergence of fascism and shifts in national identity.

By examining the political and socio-economic climate and the ways in which the characters and city are represented in the films, this thesis will determine whether Pagnol’s Marseille promoted an accurate portrayal of a specific regional identity or if it created a skewed vision that appealed to the rest of the country.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in French Language & Literature and Urban Studies.