Raymond Bernard

Raymond Bernard (10 October 1891 – 12 December 1977) was a French film director and screenwriter whose career spanned more than forty years. He is best remembered for several large-scale historical productions, including the silent films Le Miracle des loups (The Miracle of the Wolves) and Le Joueur d'échecs (The Chess Player) and in the 1930s Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) and a highly regarded adaptation of Les Misérables.

Raymond Bernard
Born10 October 1891
Died12 December 1977 (1977-12-13) (aged 86)
Paris, France
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter and actor


Raymond Bernard was born in Paris in 1891, the son of the author and humorist Tristan Bernard and younger brother of the playwright Jean-Jacques Bernard. He began his career as an actor appearing on stage in plays written by his father, including Jeanne Doré (1913) alongside Sarah Bernhardt (also filmed in 1916).[1] In 1917 Bernard began to work behind the camera as assistant to Jacques Feyder at Gaumont and then continued as a director, principally adapting plays by his father.[2] In these popular entertainments, he soon gained experience of working with leading performers such as Max Linder and Charles Dullin.[3]

In 1924 Bernard embarked upon a new style of film, the historical spectacle, with Le Miracle des loups set in 15th century France in the reign of Louis XI. This proved to be not only the most expensive film of its day but also one of the most profitable.[4] Bernard's ability to combine dramatic narrative with spacious settings and large numbers of performers was utilised in the two remaining productions of his silent film career, Le Joueur d'échecs (1927) and Tarakanova (1930).[3]

Bernard's film-making in the sound era continued for nearly three decades. Further large-scale productions included his film about the First World War, Les Croix de bois (1932), and a three-part adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (1934) which was nearly five hours in length. In his later films he returned to more modest projects and budgets including a number of sophisticated comedies. During the wartime Occupation of France, Bernard as a Jew was obliged to remain in hiding and his film-making ceased until the end of the war.

He retired from film-making in 1958, but in the 1970s, when he was in his 80s, he was able to supervise the reconstruction of Les Misérables which had been severely truncated in the 1940s for easier distribution. In 1977, shortly after the broadcast of a nearly complete version on French television, Bernard died aged 86.[4][5]

Raymond Bernard was an Officer of the Legion of Honour.[6]

Filmography (as director)


  1. Richard Abel. French Cinema: the First Wave 1915-1929. Princeton University Press, 1984. p.546
  2. Ciné-Ressources. Fiches personnalités: Raymond Bernard. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  3. Dictionnaire du cinéma français des années vingt (1895): Raymond Bernard profile, 1895.revues.org; retrieved 6 October 2014.
  4. Lenny Borger. Programme notes for a Thames Television live presentation of The Chess Player, London, 1990.
  5. Michael Koresky. Raymond Bernard, criterion.com; retrieved 6 October 2014.
  6. Yearbook 1969 of the Society of Mutual Assistance of the Legion of Honour.
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