Les Liaisons dangereuses (film)

Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) is a 1959 French-language film, loosely based on the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, set in present-day France.

Les liaisons dangereuses
French film poster
Directed byRoger Vadim
Written byRoger Vailland
Claude Brulé
Based onnovel by Choderlos de Laclos
StarringJeanne Moreau
Gérard Philipe
Annette Vadim
Madeleine Lambert
Music byThelonious Monk
Duke Jordan
CinematographyMarcel Grignon
Edited byVictoria Mercanton
Distributed byAriane Distribution
Astor Films (UC/Canada)
Release date
  • September 9, 1959 (1959-09-09)
1961 (US)
Running time
105 minutes
BudgetUS$4.3 million
Box office4,325,341 admissions (France)[1]

It was directed by Roger Vadim, and stars Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Phillipe, and Annette Vadim. It was a French/Italian co-production.


In present-day France, Valmont and Juliette de Merteuil are a married couple who help each other have extramarital affairs.

Juliette's latest lover, Court, breaks up with her in order to be free to pursue his plan to marry the 16-year-old Cecile. Seeking revenge, Juliette encourages Valmont to seduce the virginal Cecile while she holidays at the ski resort of Megève. Cecile is in love with a student, Danceny, but he refuses to marry her until he can support her.

While on holiday, Valmont meets the beautiful and virtuous Marianne, originally from Denmark, who has a small child and is happily married to a young civil servant. He decides to pursue her as well, at first by befriending her and being completely honest as to what sort of person he is.

Valmont succeeds in seducing the virginal Cecile by blackmailing her. Cecile confesses the act to Juliette who encourages her to keep seeing Valmont, and Cecile does so.

Valmont then follows Marianne to Paris and succeeds in seducing her as well. Eventually Valmont genuinely falls in love with Marianne, and she prepares to leave her husband for him. Juliette becomes jealous and sends Marianne a telegram supposedly from Valmont, but with Valmont's reluctant consent, breaking it off with her and saying the seduction was all a game.

Cecile tells Juliette that she is pregnant by Valmont and asks for her help in persuading Danceny to marry her. Instead, Juliette tells Danceny that he should not marry and plans to seduce Danceny herself.

Valmont and Cecile tell Danceny about Juliette's duplicity. However, Juliette then tells him that Cecile and Valmont slept together, and Danceny strikes Valmont, accidentally killing him. While Danceny faces murder charges, Marianne loses her reason with the shock of Valmont's rejection of her and subsequent death.

Valmont has written letters to Juliette throughout the film describing both their actions. Juliette burns the letters, but catches fire herself and is disfigured for life doing so.



Fourteen-year-old British school girl Gillian Hills was cast in a lead role,[2] but public outcry meant this was recast, and Hills played a smaller part.[3]

Gerard Philippe reportedly took the role in response to the critical failure of his film The Gambler.[4]


Vadim's film brought Moreau to an international audience, despite the film's less than stellar critical reviews. The later Jules et Jim would bring her true international stardom. Gérard Philipe died almost eight weeks after the film's release. It was the last of his films that was released before his death.[5]


There was concern the film would be allowed to screen in France at all. Eventually, permission was granted to show it to adults. In September 1959, the film was denied an export license because it was "unrepresentative of French film art", and thus could not be shown outside France.[4][6]

Two weeks into the film's run in Paris, the film was seized as the result of civil action taken against it by the Society of Men of Letters, who said they were acting to protect the reputation of the original work. They wanted its title changed to Les Liaisons Dangereuses '60.[7] This was done.

The movie was a massive hit at the French box office – the most successful domestic film since 1954.[8]

Eventually, the film was allowed to be exported to Japan, Greece, and the Scandinavian countries. Then, in 1961, a full export licence was granted; US and Canadian distribution rights were bought by Astor Films for a reported record sum.[8]

US release

New York censors only allowed the film to be shown after it had been edited to a "darkened" print of two "objectionable" nude scenes (involving Annette Vadim and Jeanne Valerie).[9]

In February 1962, the film was pulled from a theater in Montclair, New Jersey, at the request of the police commissioner, as authorized by the Town Council. This occurred after a letter writing campaign following the film's condemnation from the pulpit of a local Roman Catholic church.[10] The film had been running for nearly three weeks at that point. The theater continued its run beginning ten days later, the theater's management citing contractual obligations to its American distributor.[11]

Musical score and soundtrack

The film's score was performed by Thelonious Monk, drawing on his existing compositions, as time constraints and a health crisis meant he was unable to compose new material.[12][13] The original recordings by Thelonious Monk, including music not used in the film, were released for the first time in 2017 as a double album in both vinyl and CD editions.[12]

Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
Soundtrack album by
RecordedJuly 28 & 29, 1959
Nola's Penthouse Sound Studios, New York City
GenreFilm score
680 203 TL
ProducerMarcel Romano
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers chronology
At the Jazz Corner of the World
Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960

Additional music for the extended party scene by Jack Marray (a pseudonym for Duke Jordan) was recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Barney Wilen. The soundtrack, featuring only those tracks recorded by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers with Barney Wilen, was originally released on the French Fontana label.[14][15]


Professional ratings
Review scores

Scott Yanow of Allmusic states of the Blakey album that "In general, the music manages to stand on its own with the ensemble getting to stretch out a bit on the rare material".[16]

Track listing

All compositions by Duke Jordan

  1. "No Problem (1st Version)" – 7:23
  2. "No Hay Problema" – 4:35
  3. "Prelude In Blue (À "L' Esquinade")" – 6:59
  4. "Valmontana (1st Version)"- 4:46
  5. "Miguel's Party" – 4:23
  6. "Prelude In Blue (Chez Miguel)" – 5:54
  7. "No Problem (2nd Version)" – 6:00
  8. "Weehawken Mad Pad" – 1:50
  9. "Valmontana (2nd Version)" – 4:33
  10. "No Hay Problema (2nd Version)" – 3:53 Bonus track on CD reissue

Most tracks on Duke Jordan's record with the same title in 1962 have the same melodies, but with different track titles. "Prelude In Blue" with "Weehawken Mad Pad" was retitled "The Feeling of Love"; "Valmontana" was changed to "Jazz Vendor"; and "Miguel's Party" to "Subway Inn". The title "No Problem" was left intact.



  1. Box office information for Roger Vadim films at Box Office Story
  2. "German Reds Defy 'Bayonets'" by Joseph B. Fleming. The Washington Post and Times Herald 22 Dec 1958: A5.
  3. "Brando's errors will help Wayne". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 22 July 1959. p. 68. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  5. "Box Office Success of Gerard Philippe films". Box Office Story.
  6. "Daring French Film Banned for Export" The Washington Post, Times Herald 10 Sep 1959: B5.
  7. "FRENCH FILM SEIZED: But Paris Literary Society Then Allows It to Run Special to The New York Times." New York Times 18 Sep 1959: 25.
  8. "FRANCE WILL LIFT FILM'S EXPORT BAN: Controversial 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' Due in Fall" by EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times 2 Aug 1961: 19.
  9. "STATE CENSORS LET FRENCH FILM OPEN" New York Times 19 Dec 1961: 39.
  10. New York Times February 17, 1962 accessed July 15, 2013
  11. New York Times February 27, 1962 accessed July 15, 2013
  12. Schonefeld, Zach (May 18, 2017). "A Long Lost Thelonious Monk Album is Finally Released Nearly 60 Years Later". Newsweek. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  13. Chinen, Nate (March 21, 2017). "A New Thelonious Monk Album Emerges From the Soundtrack to a Classic French Film". Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  14. Art Blakey discography accessed July 21, 2013
  15. Art Blakey chronology accessed July 214, 2013
  16. Yanow, S. Allmusic Review, accessed June 21, 2013
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