Hôtel du Nord

Hôtel du Nord is a 1938 French drama film directed by Marcel Carné and starring Annabella.[1]

Hôtel du Nord
Film poster
Directed byMarcel Carné
Produced byJean Lévy-Strauss
Written byJean Aurenche
Eugène Dabit
Henri Jeanson
Louis Jouvet
CinematographyLouis Née
Armand Thirard
Edited byMarthe Gottie
René Le Hénaff
Release date
  • 19 December 1938 (1938-12-19)
Running time
95 minutes


The film follows the comings and goings at the Hôtel du Nord on the banks of the Canal St. Martin in Paris. The films begins with the gathering of many of the hotel's occupants around the dinner table for the first communion of Michèle, who lives in the hotel with her policeman father, Maltaverne. Madame Lecouvreur tells Michèle to bring a piece of cake upstairs to Raymonde (Arletty), who is talking with her boyfriend, Edmond (Louis Jouvet). A prostitute, Raymonde leaves Edmond, a photographer, who wants to develop his film. In the meantime, a young couple, Renée (Annabella) and Pierre (Jean-Pierre Aumont), enter the hotel and rent a room for the night.

Once alone, Renée and Pierre discuss their plan to kill themselves as they feel they have nothing left to live for. Pierre takes a small pistol, to shoot Renée first. Edmond hears a shot from his own nearby room. But Pierre has lost his resolve, and is unable to shoot himself. Edmond breaks into the room, and finding Pierre standing over Renée's body, motions him to flee through the open window.

Edmond lies to the police saying he had found the girl lying dead, alone in the room. Having stopped to share a drink with the communion celebrants downstairs, Raymonde is still in the hotel when the police arrive. An officer investigating the crime finding her papers not in order, hauls her away, to jail for four days.

Later in the week, Renée, who was only wounded, wakes up in the hospital and finds out that Pierre has surrendered to the police, confessing what he believes his guilt—the murder of his girlfriend. While Renée tries to tell the police they had a mutual pact to kill themselves, they do not believe her, and Pierre is brought to jail.

Once out of the hospital, Renée returns to the hotel where she is offered a job as maid and waitress until she gets herself back on her feet. Attractive, young, and famous because of her suicide attempt, Renée becomes popular with the men in the hotel and bar. Edmond, who was going to leave for the south of France with Raymonde, changes his plans when he sees that Renée has returned to the hotel. He falls in love with her; he declares this love, telling her how he used to be a crook, and even now is hiding from two men. Renée and Edmond make plans to leave Paris and begin anew, but Renée changes her mind at the last minute and returns to the hotel to wait for Pierre’s release from prison. Edmond follows Renée back to town to say goodbye. As the two meet, in the crowds in the street, she tips him off that the men pursuing him, await him, upstairs right now, in the hotel.

Edmond goes upstairs, opening the chamber door upon his foe; pulling the small pistol from his vest, he tosses it, lightly, onto the bed at the knees of his pursuer. So Edmond dies—but no one hears the shots from the little pistol this time, because, outside, the playful boys' firecrackers continue going off, amidst the commotion on the street, this Bastille Day.



After the controversy over the army deserter in Port of Shadows, Carné wanted to steer clear of anything with political implications for his next film. Carné reduces any politics to that of the romantic relationships. The film required elaborate set pieces, but the film's most elaborate sequence is the nighttime Bastille Day street celebration as it required over four hundred extras.[2]


L'Hôtel du Nord is an award-winning novel of the first Prix du Roman Populist and is a loose collection of sentimental tales about simple people residing in a hotel. The novel begins with Monsieur and Madame Lecouvreur buying and transforming a rundown hotel. The film begins with the hotel already up and running and gives no real mention of how the hotel came about. So too, the novel ends with the Lecouvreur's reluctantly selling the hotel to a large company that plans to construct an office building on the site and the tenants must unhappily leave and separate. The film's ending is entirely modified and not only is the hotel not being demolished, but the film ends with the sense that this place and the people there are left standing in time untouched by the outside world. So too, the film focuses on criminals, prostitutes, and vagabonds, and develops the novel's sentimental, rather than political, themes.[2]


  1. Gates, Anita. "New York Times: Hôtel du Nord". NY Times. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  2. Turk, Edward Baron (1989). Child of Paradise: Marcel Carne and the Golden Age of French Cinema. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 129–131.
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