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Who was Marcel Pagnol?



Who was Marcel Pagnol?
A Hero of French Arts

Thinking about modern French literature would be entirely different if it wasn’t because of Marcel Pagnol, an acclaimed novelist, playwright, and cinema entrepreneur who ventured from teaching to worldwide stardom.

Born in Aubagne, France, Marcel Pagnol was the eldest son of a school teacher and seamstress. Influenced by his father, Marcel learnt to read at an early age. Interestingly, an urban myth says he stopped because his mother thought reading would cause brain inflammation to children. True or false, young Marcel proved to have a flair for words when he began writing love letters for his classmates in high school.

Pagnol took his baccalaureate in Philosophy, in 1913, and graduated in literature at the University in Aix-en-Provence. While studying he founded Fantasio, a literary magazine that would become one of the foremost magazines of the era. After graduation, Marcel followed his father’s career as a school teacher in a career that took him to Paris in 1922 to teach English in prestigious colleges.

While in Paris, Marcel Pagnol met other people interested in writing, and his passion for creating stories sparked again. Pagnol co-authored the play Merchants of Glory with Paul Nivoixm and in 1928 wrote Topaze, a satirical play about ambition. The latter secured Pagnol’s reputation as a serious playwright - it also ran for two years in Paris and was later adapted for the Broadway stage, and made into a film in 1933.

From his days as a playwright, titles like Marius (1929), Fanny (1931), and César (1936), known as the Marseille trilogy were also crucial in his career. The titles were later adapted for the Broadway musical Fanny.

Seeing the potential of movies after an enlightening screening experience in London watching one of the first spoken movies, Pagnol decided to focus his efforts on the cinema industry. He contacted Paramount Picture studios and suggested adapting his play Marius for a film. Over the next decade Pagnol produced his own films, taking many different roles in the production: financier, director, script writer, studio head, and foreign-language script translator – all employing the greatest French actors of the period.

After WWII, Pagnol turned back to writing, this time he ventured into novels – most of them autobiographical. In this period, Marcel focused on his childhood experience to write his famous Childhood Memories book series, published between 1957 and 1977. In the novels, the writer reveals the most life-changing events during his youngest years through invaluable lessons from his family and friends.

Marcel Pagnol died in Paris on 18 April 1974. He is buried in Marseille at the cemetery La Treille, along with his mother, father, brothers and wife.

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