Pierre Decourcelle

Pierre Adrien Decourcelle (25 January 1856 - 10 October 1926) was a French writer and playwright.

Pierre Decourcelle
Pierre Adrien Decourcelle

(1856-01-25)25 January 1856
Died10 October 1926(1926-10-10) (aged 70)
OccupationWriter and playwright


Pierre Adrien Decourcelle was born in Paris on 25 January 1856. His father, Adrien Decourcelle, and his uncle, Adolphe d'Ennery, were both authors. He attended the Lycée Henri-IV, then worked as a merchant and stockbroker before starting to write plays.

Decourcelle's first effort, Le Grain de beauté (The Beauty Mark) premiered at the Théâtre du Gymnase Marie Bell on 27 March 1880. In 1882 he wrote the drama L'As de trèfle (The Ace of Clubs) for Sarah Bernhardt, who performed it at the Théâtre de l'Ambigu. From the 1880s onward he created many comedies, opera libretti and adaptations of novels for the stage. Decourcelle and Léopold Lacour made a play from Paul Bourget's Mensonges, which was first performed on 18 April 1889. Bourget also collaborated with Decourcelle in their adaptation of Idylle tragique for the stage.[1] In October 1897 Decourcelle's French version of William Gillette's play Secret Service was put on by the Theatre Renaissance in Paris.[2]

Decourcelle also worked as a journalist for Le Gaulois under the pseudonyms "Choufleuri" and "Valentin". He was a prolific author, turning out cheap novels for the juvenile market.[3] Decourcelle's romans revanchard became popular. These were nationalistic and conservative novels that called for revenge for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.[4] His novel Les Deux Gosses (1880) was his most successful.[5] It was adapted for the cinema by several directors.

In 1908 Decourcelle founded a company to adapt literary works to the screen, with Eugène Guggenheim.[6] The Société des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres (SCAGL) became respected for the quality of its productions.[7] Three American serials starring Pearl White were recut and re-arranged into a series called Les Mystères de New-York for French cinemas, screened in Paris between December 1915 and May 1916.[8] While episodes of the silent ciné-roman series were being played in the theaters each week, Decourcelle's versions of the stories were published by Le Matin and the provincial papers.[6] In 1921 SCAGL produced an adaptation by André Antoine of Émile Zola's La Terre. The depiction of brutist morals in a farming environment were toned down considerably for the screen version.[9]

Pierre Decourcelle died on 10 October 1926, aged seventy.



Novels and stories

  • Le Chapeau gris (Grey Hat) (1886-1887), novel
  • Les Deux Gosses (The two kids) (1880), novel illustrated by H. Meyer, Jonnard, and others, in 3 volumes, published in Paris by Éditions Rouff. Later adapted to the theatre and the cinema.
  • Fanfan, second volume of Les Deux Gosses (1891)
  • La Chambre d'amour (1892)
  • Mam'zelle Misère (Miss Misery) (1892)
  • Brune et blonde (Brunette and Blonde) (1893)
  • Crime de femme (Crime of Woman) (1895)
  • Gigolette, novel derived from his play, La librairie illustrée, Paris, 1895
  • La Baillonnée (The gagged one), novel in four parts, c. 1904
  • Les Mystères de New-York (The Mysteries of New York) - Les Romans-Cinémas, éditions Renaissance du Livre
  • Les Fêtards de Paris (Revelers of the Paris)
  • Le Curé du Moulin-Rouge (The priest of the Moulin Rouge)

Film adaptations

Decourcelle's Les Deux Gosses (The Two Kids) was adapted as a film by several directors.

  • Les Deux Gosses - Épisode 1: La faute d'une mère (Episode 1: The lack of a mother) (1912) directed by Adrien Caillard
  • Les Deux Gosses - Épisode 2: Fanfan et Claudinet (Episode 2: Fanfan and Claudinet) (1912) directed by Adrien Caillard
  • Les Deux Gosses (1916) directed by Adrien Caillard
  • Les Deux Gosses (1916) directed by Albert Capellani
  • Les Deux gosses (1923) directed by Maurice Tourneur
  • Les Deux Gosses (1924) directed by Louis Mercanton
  • Les Deux Gosses (1936) directed by Fernand Rivers
  • I due derelitti (1951: Italian) directed by Flavio Calzavara



  1. Robertson 1974, p. 97.
  2. Van Doren 1921, p. 49.
  3. White 2010, p. 165.
  4. Unwin 1997, p. 86.
  5. Canjels 2011.
  6. Canjels 2011, p. 49.
  7. Gural & Singer 2005, p. 15.
  8. Canjels 2011, p. 47.
  9. Gural & Singer 2005, p. 15-16.


  • Canjels, Rudmer (2011-01-26). Distributing Silent Film Serials: Local Practices, Changing Forms, Cultural Transformation. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-203-83258-5. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  • Gural, Anna; Singer, Robert (2005-01-01). Zola and Film: Essays in the Art of Adaptation. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-2115-2. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  • Robertson, Dougal (1974). Survive the Savage Sea. Ardent Media. ISBN 978-0-8161-6235-2. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  • Unwin, Timothy (28 October 1997). The Cambridge Companion to the French Novel: From 1800 to the Present. Cambridge University Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-521-49914-9. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  • Van Doren, Carl (1921). a history of american literature. CUP Archive. p. 767. GGKEY:09PKBUQHHU9. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  • White, Edmund (2010-09-29). Genet: A Biography. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-307-76449-2. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
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