Fabien (1956)

First performance at the Bouffes-Parisiens theater (September 28, 1956).

Comedy in four acts by Marcel Pagnol.
Comedy in four acts by Marcel Pagnol.

Comedy in four acts.


“The heroine of this story, I knew her at the home of my friend Jacques Théry, whose cook she was. She was a very large woman, with a beautiful face, illuminated by a pretty smile of a young girl.
Let’s call her Milly, because it is the name I gave her in my play. One day she told me her story.

At the age of twenty, she had married Fabien, who was a photographer of fairs and markets. According to her, he was a young man of incomparable beauty, dazzling intelligence, who knew everything and anything. He was also a great artist, who made extraordinary photographs. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a kind of disease called “allergic”, that is to say that he could not stand the smell of hydroquinone, or hyposulfite. That’s why he had taught Milly the technique of developing and printing photographs, and it was she who did all the laboratory work.
She got up at five in the morning and ran from the darkroom to the kitchen, while he slept until noon, because of this “allergic”. Their business was going very well, when Milly’s little sister, raised by an uncle who had become libidinous, came to take refuge with them. She was seventeen years old, and very pretty.
The generous Milly did not reject her, and Fabien, who was a man of heart, declared that it was a gift from God to their childless household, and that he was going to look after her as if she were his own daughter, so that three months later the little sister confessed to the astonished Milly that she was pregnant with the work of her new father.

Then, after a violent despair, Milly packed her bags, and declared:

– Since she is the one who has the child, your wife is her.

She left to work as a cook. On her advice, Fabien obtained a divorce for “abandonment of the marital home. She was the child’s godmother, and she went to her sister’s house every Sunday, cooking for them and developing some delicate negatives.

The three characters of this adventure seemed interesting to me, and during the vacations I tried to make a comedy out of it. Naturally, I had to change some of the details. So instead of a photographer wandering from fair to fair, I decided to set the household in Luna-Park, in an environment I knew quite well, because the vast amusement park of Porte Maillot belonged to Leon Volterra, who used to spend the morning there, that is to say at closing time: I often accompanied him there.

On the other hand, when I had written the first three acts, I realized that the characters I had established refused to participate in the denouement of reality; they imposed another one, which I accepted without question.”

Main performers at the creation

  • Milly Mathis : Milly
  • Philippe Nicaud : Fabien
  • Odile Rodin : Marinette
  • Jean Lefèvre: The doctor
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