French Without Tears

French Without Tears is a comic play written by a 25-year-old Terence Rattigan in 1936.


It takes place in a cram school for adults needing to acquire French for business reasons. Scattered throughout are Franglais phrases and schoolboy misunderstandings of the French language.

The play was inspired by a 1933 visit to a village called Marxzell in the Black Forest, where young English gentlemen went to cram German.


The play was a success on its London debut, establishing Rattigan as a dramatist. Critics thought it "gay, witty, thoroughly contemporary... with a touch of lovable truth behind all its satire."[1]

It ran for over 1,000 performances in London, and over 100 in New York.[2] It also established Rex Harrison as a major star.

Original production

The play, directed by Harold French, opened on 6 November 1936 at the Criterion Theatre, London, with the following cast:[3]


A film version, directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Ray Milland, was released in 1940.[4] In 1960 Rattigan himself refashioned the work as the musical Joie de Vivre but it was not a success.[5]

A television production was featured in the Saturday Playhouse TV series on 7 June 1958, with Denholm Elliott, Elvi Hale, Colin Broadley, Nicholas Parsons, and Andrew Irvine[6] and another in the BBC's Play of the Month series on 16 May 1976, starring Nigel Havers, Anthony Andrews, and David Robb.[7]


  1. "French Without Tears by Terence Rattigan, Kay Hammond & Roland Culver".
  2. "Terence Rattigan".
  3. "Production of French Without Tears - Theatricalia".
  4. "French without Tears". BFI.
  5. Wright, Adrian (2012). West End Broadway : the Golden Age of American musical in London. Woodbridge, England: Boydell & Brewer. p. 163. ISBN 9781843837916.
  6. Saturday Playhouse; Episode 12: French Without Tears (7 June 1958), Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  7. Play of the Month; French Without Tears (16 May 1976), Retrieved 6 December 2014.

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