Clair’s second sound film is certainly the most entertaining and “commercial” of his early efforts. It is structured mainly in the form of an operetta with numerous bits of funny business that overall make it a delightful experience to sit through. The story revolves around a winning lottery ticket that has been left in the pocket of an old jacket. The jacket belongs to a struggling artist named Michel who has given it to his girlfriend for mending. She, however, has lent it to a thief on the lam from the police. Eventually the chase for the jacket ends up in an opera house where “Il Trovatore” is being performed. As in Sous les Toits de Paris, the story is conveyed by song, but even more successfully in this case, although that may be partly due to the fact that the film just has less of a contrived musical feel to it overall.

One can certainly see in Le Million the inspiration for the types of musicals that directors such as Rouben Mamoulian and Ernst Lubitsch would soon thereafter be making in Hollywood. Even the antics in the opera house are clearly an influence on the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera. Some of the business that Clair gives us is actually quite surprising. For example, one scuffle over the jacket in the opera house turns into what for all the world looks like a football scrum-something that Clair reinforces by introducing the sounds of a crowd at a football game. The Marx Brothers would have been proud, one suspects, to have thought of that themselves.



May 12, 1931


Rene Clair


Georges Berr (play) Ren


American Tobis Company


Musical, Comedy




83 minutes