The French Comedies That Inspired Hollywood

The American remake of the hit French comedy Intouchables, out in U.S. theaters on January 11, is not a first. American filmmakers have long drawn inspiration from French comedies. And while the results are not always a success, sometimes the remakes work wonders. Here are four that won over audiences.

Trois hommes un couffin (1985) / Three Men and a Baby (1987)

One of the most renowned remakes has to be that of Coline Serreau’s Trois hommes et un couffin. Three long-term bachelors — played by Roland Giraud, Michel Boujenah, and André Dussolier — find themselves as acting fathers when a young woman leaves a newborn at their front door. In the U.S. remake, the trio of singletons is played by Ted Danson, Tom Selleck, and Steve Guttenberg, directed by Leonard Nimoy. The movie was the biggest box-office success of 1987, even beating Fatal Attraction.

La Totale (1991) / True Lies (1994)

Another successful remake is that of Claude Zidi’s La Totale, adapted as True Lies with James Cameron directing. The movie is about a secret agent looking to win back his wife, who knows nothing of her husband’s job. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Paxton, and Jamie Lee Curtis replaced French actors Thierry Lhermitte, Michel Boujenah, and Miou-Miou. The U.S. version is more focused on the action scenes than the original, but is just as amusing.


Un éléphant ça trompe énormément (1976) / The Woman in Red (1984)

This is the story of four friends who never really grew up – despite almost being 40. Jean Rochefort, Guy Bedos, Claude Brasseur (who won a César for his performance) and Victor Lanoux are the leads in this cult comedy by Yves Robert. The remake by Gene Wilder (who also plays the main character) is well made, and owes part of its success to the soundtrack by Stevie Wonder including the hit “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (Oscar for Best Original Song).

Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932) / Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

The leading French classic Boudu sauvé des eaux was directed by Jean Renoir in 1932 and stars Michel Simon. Adapted from a play, Renoir’s comedy recounts the adventures of Boudu, a homeless man in Paris who, after being saved from drowning in the Seine by a kindly bookseller, wreaks havoc in the poor man’s family! Some 50 years later, the U.S. remake directed by Paul Mazursky sees Nick Nolte in the main role, this time rescued from a swimming pool in Los Angeles!

  • Ces comédies françaises qui inspirent Hollywood…. ! Maigre consolation à tout ce vient des USA et qui inspire notre intelligentsia française (et notre petite ou grande bourgeoisie), à commencer par l’usage tous azimuts de l’anglais, y compris entre Français eux-mêmes. En plus, la honte que manifestent certains Français à l’égard de leur propre langue quand ils sont en face d’anglophones (Américains ou non, d’ailleurs) rend cette fierté française d’inspirer parfois les Américains (en cinéma ou en quoi que ce soit d’autre) un peu pathétique sinon pitoyable. Exemple récent de cette mascarade affligeante : les tonnes de cocorico que déversent les média français sur la présence de quelques start-ups présentées comme françaises, à Las Vegas, actuellement. Comme si ces start-ups dites “françaises” en nouvelles technologies avaient quelque chose de typiquement français, même quand elles travaillent, produisent, pensent et s’expriment en anglais (en américain, devrais-je dire) !

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