Wednesday 5 June 2024


The beautiful wife of a rich man thinks her husband is a jealous murderer.

Meurtre en sourdine is a colour 90-minute mystery TV movie produced by ORTF (Office de radiodiffusion-télévision française) and aired by its Deuxième chaîne on November 18, 1967. Shot entirely in studio on video, this "dramatique policière" is set in a small US town. Ralph Barry, a literary agent, is shot dead by a mysterious stranger who accuses him of having an affair with a young woman named Kathleen. Daughter of a senator, she's married to the wealthy industrialist Paul Fisher. Paul's friends are convinced he killed Ralph by jealousy. Kathleen suspects him too, that's why she secretely hired private investigator Spencer Morton.

Meurtre en sourdine was broadcast by the Deuxième chaîne soon after the channel switched to colour (October 1, 1967) and the desire to promote the SECAM (1) colour process  is obviously perceptible. Director Gilbert Pineau, an experienced ORTF technician who even worked on news reports and cooking shows, helmed this studio-bound production recorded with a magnetoscope. Between 1963 and 1968, he directed several dramas starring his then-wife, Hungarian-born actress Anna Gaël, including Une femme sans importance. Recorded in 1966 and shown only two years later, this adaptation of Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance was the second ORTF colour drama done on video and a colour selection test (2). For Meurtre en sourdine, Gilbert Pineau wrote the adaptation of a scenario penned by Jacques Gallois (3). Of course, Pineau cast Anna Gaël as Kathleen Fisher.

Kathleen is torn between her love for Paul and her doubts fuelled by the cynicism of her husband. Paul Fisher is played by the excellent François Guérin (Les yeux sans visage). Both were in Gilbert Pineau's Le jeu des vacances, aired on the Première chaîne in August 1967. Despite its undeniable technical performance, Meurtre en sourdine is heavied by the studio shooting. No effort was made to give an American touch to the very "16ème arrondissement" settings (apart from the lieutenant's office). The script unceremoniously gets rid of the P.I. played by Bernard Woringer (Angélique, marquise des anges) after 35 minutes. He's replaced by F.B.I. agent Wendell Glass (Daniel Ceccaldi), who's basically the same character. 

In Meurtre en sourdine, two well-known comic actors play serious roles: Paul Mercey (La Grande Vadrouille, Les Tontons flingueurs) as Lieutenant Walker and Pierre Doris (Walter Manson). Klémir, the maid, is performed by Moune de Rivel.  This singer, musician and actress was nicknamed "La Grande Dame de la Chanson Créole". Also with Eva Damien (Laura Wingate) Germaine Ledoyen (Vera Hardwich), Jacques Zabor (Ralph Barry), Catherine Rethi (Eve Polloch), Raymond Jourdan (Jim Polloch), Jacques Lalande (Stan Morley), etc. Anna Gaël divorced Gilbert Pineau and married an English lord in 1969. The rest of her acting resume includes Thérèse and Isabelle (1968), The Bridge at Remagen (1969), Zeta One (1969), episodes of The Persuaders! and Jason King, Karatekas and Co (ORTF, 1973) and Sweeney 2 (1978).

During the 1970s, Anna Gaël became journalist and war correspondent. She wrote two novels, La guerre est plutôt malsaine pour les enfants (1983) and Il fait beau à n'y pas croire (1986). Gilbert Pineau is the author of a crime novel called Le déclic (1970). Later, he worked in Brazil for TV Globo before returning to France (4). Produced by Marc Gauthey. Cinematography by André Villard. Production designed by Raymond Nègre with Jean Tridon. Video editing by Marie-José Quinet. Sound illustration by Léon Nerville. Meurtre en sourdine is available on Madelen, the streaming service of INA.

(1) Séquentiel couleur à mémoire.
(2) Le Monde, April 26, 1968.
(3) This is the only writing credit of Jacques Gallois.
(4) Bulletin SJPP N°40, September 2012.

No comments: