Une comedie française de style americain.
Brigitte Bardot first appeared on the French film scene in the early 1950s after she was noticed on the cover of “Elle” magazine by director Marc Allégret. For four years beginning in 1952, she had a number of mainly small supporting roles. Then in 1956, she had her first real role of substance playing the focal point of a love triangle in La lumière d’en face (“The Light Across the Street”). A succession of hits followed and by year-end, she had become France’s national sex symbol and was rated among the top French stars. One of the films that contributed to the rise was En effeuillant la marguerite, known internationally as Plucking the Daisy. It was an amiable romantic farce that showed Bardot to fine advantage and offered good opportunities to several familiar French supporting players of the time.
Home Vision Entertainment has now released Plucking the Daisy on DVD as part of its Brigitte Bardot Collection.
Agnes Dumont, the daughter of a stuffy French official, quickly leaves her provincial hometown for Paris when her father objects to a scandalous book she has just had published. While on the train, she meets up with two newspapermen, one of whom provides her with his associate’s train ticket when she realizes that she has come away without her purse. Once in Paris, her plan is to stay with her brother Hubert who is supposed to be a rich artist with a house of his own. It soon transpires, however, that her brother is only a guide at the Balzac Museum and this misunderstanding lands the two in hot water with Agnes needing to come up with money in a hurry. In order to do so, she decides to enter a striptease contest, and wins a preliminary event posing with a mask on her face and using the pseudonym Sophia. She is then horrified to hear that the final (which she must also win in order to get the money she needs) will be held in her hometown. Not only that, her new boyfriend, one of the newspapermen from the train, seems to be enamored of the mysterious Sophia and is slated to cover the final event.
Plucking the Daisy is a film that’s easy to take and not just because we get to look at Brigitte Bardot a lot. Cinematically, there’s nothing particularly innovative about it and there are no stand-out acting performances in it. It’s just a competent, enjoyable piece of entertainment that will appeal to anyone who appreciates the craft of the Hollywood studio system and is interested to see a mid-’50s French take on that system’s screwball genre. The one obvious difference is the appearance of some full frontal female nudity, which is handled casually as an integral part of the plot.
Brigitte Bardot’s part as Agnes gives her an opportunity to engage in a comedic role and she demonstrates a reasonable flair for such work. She looks comfortable and spontaneous, and there appears to be good rapport with the rest of the cast. The famous Bardot pout is thankfully at a minimum in this film (although maybe it’s just that she hadn’t fully developed it yet or at least realized that it wasn’t appropriate here). She’s the star of the film and carries it well. Surrounding Bardot is a fine cast of well-seasoned French character actors. Daniel Gélin and Robert Hirsch play Daniel and Roger, the two newspapermen, in somewhat the style of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis when they were a twosome. Gélin at times actually seemed to have Martin’s mannerisms, but Hirsch is never quite as crazy as Jerry Lewis. One of the great pleasures of the film is Darry Cowl as Agnes’s brother Hubert. He assumes a very funny, rushed manner of speaking that steals every scene he’s in. His role in Plucking the Daisy is one of his earliest in a still-active career that numbers over 100 films. Also of note is an amusing cameo by that veteran of the American screwball genre, Mischa Auer. He plays a long-suffering cab driver who drives Agnes around as she tries to raise money, finally being rewarded for his patience in the end.
Direction is by Marc Allégret, a well-known French director active since the late 1920s. Most of Allegret’s best work appears to have been in the 1930s. He does a good, workmanlike job with Plucking the Daisy, keeping the plot moving along briskly. The film was but one of several collaborations between Allégret, Bardot and her husband Roger Vadim (who co-wrote the screenplay).
Home Vision Entertainment (which is a major distributor of foreign feature films in North America and also distributes the Criterion Collection) has released a very nice looking DVD of Plucking the Daisy as part of its Brigitte Bardot Collection. The image transfer is in the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, presented full frame in the original black and white. This is a very good transfer. Although there is the odd speckle and scratch, for the most part, it looks very clean and clear. There is a very finely rendered gray scale that provides excellent picture detail. Edge enhancement is not an issue.
The DVD contains a French monaural sound track that is clear and distortion-free, with English subtitles available. The latter are well done, conveying the gist of the French dialogue accurately and with just the right level of detail to make the film fully understandable to a non-French-speaking viewer without being obtrusive.
The supplements include trailers for three Bardot features: Plucking the Daisy and The Night Heaven Fell (both from Home Vision), and And God Created Woman (from Criterion). There is also a comprehensive Bardot filmography, and four postcards for Bardot films included in the keep case.
Plucking the Daisy is one of Brigitte Bardot’s earlier films that aspires to be nothing more than a light, romantic farce in the style of the American screwball comedy. In this it succeeds very well. There’s nothing new here, but if you’re looking for an hour and a half of solid entertainment and always wondered about those sexy comedies that Brigitte Bardot was reputed to star in, here’s your chance. Home Vision Entertainment makes it easy with a fine transfer.