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Merovingian Movies Mania, Part 2: The Good King Dagobert

The Good King DagobertBy TS Morangles

In 1963, The Good King Dagobert (Le bon roi Dagobert) is released for the French and Italian public. Aside the date which clearly suffered from a famous and tragic Dallas Texas event, this movie was a difficult sale.

Set before 639 AD, its main character is the eponym hero of one of the favourite children rhyme songs Le Bon Roi Dagobert who accordingly to the verses had mistakenly put his breeches front to back.

The good king Dagobert had put his trousers back to front
The blessed St Eligius told him O my King
Your breeches are not properly put in
It is fine, replied the king I shall put them back now right on.

Sort of suggesting that the king would remove in front of all the court including Eligius his bishop/minister and top goldsmith/jeweller, his trousers and would carry on proceeding to put said pair of breeches back on this time front in the front… The song may have been written during the French Revolution to mock the kings; fact remains that a king who had reigned only 10 years between 629 and 639 AD was still famous enough to become the subject of a song.

Time jump: 1963. Fernandel and Gino Cervi, France and Italy’s favourite comics are cast as the king and the saint.

Have a look at his throne. While we may not be 100% certain the king sat on it, certainly a member of his dynasty did.

Throne

For Eligius known as Eloi, this is his signature.

signature

It is not everyday TSMorangles can offer you not only a saintly flourish and a royal seat!

So you have it. 1963. America will soon weep while the movie is filmed as a Franco-Italian consortium decides to show the life of an obscure Merovingian king because his name rejoices children.

A hard sale. Or not.

The synopsis is quite simple: a boy has some homework to complete about the life of the king. He daydreams, transforms his parents as the king and one of his queens (any producer who is ready to sport the blunt about a heroine called Gomartrude should entered the Hall of Fame of historical movies since Gomartrude is indeed the name of Dagobert first wife.) Along the story which must have somehow inspired Mel Brooks and his anachronistic version of the World story, we are reminded Eligius was an inventor – true, though not of the lift – assassinations could happen – true, his grandfather Chilperic would be murdered leaving an orphan of 4 months old to reign – and that Dagobert was a womanizer – true, but he was French in which case it is a given.

Filmed in black and white, it shows some props dated of a later medieval period when not altogether set in 1963 as the queens sunbathe in bikinis! Yet the costumes of the soldiers are fit for the 7th century and the spirit of the fashion trend setter of the era Byzantium!  The vaulted rooms give a post-Roman feel, the presence of a clerk called Pippin way before a certain movie  and the honest admission that news took weeks, even months to travel  are a nice change from current TV series where medieval heroes receive letters without delay suggesting Royal Mail was quicker in the good old days…. All this shows that this esteemed  slapstick comedy is on par with the Carry On series if said Carry On had followed a synopsis written by Bede. Mark me impressed.

Sadly not translated, not dubbed, without any Anglo-Saxon friendly subtitle this movie’s destiny is to remain a Gallic Holy Grail of decent historical research unlike the appalling King Arthur of recent memory.

You can follow TS Morangles on Twitter @morangles

Click here to read the first part of Merovingian Movies Mania

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