“The Gendarme in New York” is marked by the unfortunate deterioration of relations between two of the most popular actors of their time: Louis de Funès and Jean Lefebvre.
The gendarme : a cult comic saga
To say that it took a crazy meeting between a fairly good-natured policeman stationed in Saint-Tropez and the screenwriter Richard Balducci, to imagine a crazy saga that marked the 60s and 70s. This is how in 1964 came out The Gendarme of Saint-Tropez which follows the adventures of a zany brigade that the zealous Marshal Cruchot (played by the indescribable Louis de Funès) tries to bring to heel. The Gendarme of Saint-Tropez then met with considerable success to everyone’s surprise, arriving at the top of the French box office for the year 1964 with more than 7.8 million entries. Above all, it brings glory to Louis de Funès since it is his third biggest success in French cinemas.
For the second opus released in 1968, we then take the same and start again. We thus find Michel Galabru, Louis de Funès and Jean Lefebvre in The Gendarme in New York. This time, the brigade travels to the famous American city to represent France at the International Congress of Gendarmerie. Except that on the spot, everything does not go as planned. Once again, the film directed by Jean Girault is a huge success.
Octagon between Louis de Funès and Jean Lefebvre
If relations between Louis de Funès and Jean Lefebvre were in good shape in The Gendarme of Saint-Tropez, they are very far from being courteous in this second part. For several years, he reported the (known) megalomania of Louis de Funès to be the only big star of the film. Thereby, he would have tried to reduce the character played by Lefebvre. However, it would be the opposite according to Michel Galabru in his autobiography The roles of my life :
Jean Lefebvre no longer hid his jealousy towards Louis de Funès. He claimed that de Funès had had several of his scenes cut. Lefebvre had an inquisitive character, with a tendency to ask a little continually.
However, according to Galabru, not only de Funès would not have acted like this, but it was above all Lefebvre who had become jealous of the meteoric rise of his colleague after The Gendarme of Saint-Tropez. Moreover, the actor, seen in Tontons Flingueursdid not only make friends on this shoot since he managed to tangle with the director Jean Girault.
Indeed, according to the journalist Bertrand Dicale, author of the biography Louis de Funès, grimaces and glory, a violent argument would have broken out between the director and the actor, forcing the latter to leave the shooting. Consequently, his absence from the set forces the writers to rewrite the character’s adventures. This is why the role of Fougasse is considerably reduced in The Gendarme in New York.
The producer of the film also returned to this incident in Michel Galabru’s autobiography:
It’s not because of Louis de Funès. I made that decision. Jean Lefebvre had the filming stopped on the pretext that he was ill. And we caught him gambling in the casino in the middle of the night.
A reputation as a gambler which is unfortunately known to all. This crisis will be the point of no return for the presence of Jean Lefebvre in the rest of the saga. The gendarme.