Lemmy Caution

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Lemmy Caution is a fictitious Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent — or in later stories a private detective — created by British writer Peter Cheyney (1896-1951), who published the first book about him in 1936. When This Man is Dangerous was released, Cheyney was a policeman, but the novel's success enabled him to become a professional author.[1]

After the Second World War, many French people had a strong attachment to American culture and American heroes. Against that background, Cheyney's books were promoted successfully all over France, and consequently the French film industry found them suitable material for a series of popular films.[2]

Lemmy Caution novels[edit]

  • This Man is Dangerous (1936)
  • Dames don't care (1937)
  • Poison Ivy (1937)
  • Can ladies kill? (1938)
  • Don't get me wrong (1939)
  • You'd be surprised (1940)
  • Your deal, my lovely (1941)
  • Never a dull moment (1942)
  • You can always duck (1943)
  • I'll say she does! (1945)

Film adaptations[edit]

Bernard Borderie had the chance to produce the first French adaption. He was searching for somebody who had the looks of a gangster,[3] and picked Eddie Constantine,[4] who was already known as a singer.[5] So far he had merely played one supporting role in a film of the very same year[6] and his lack of experience as an actor is rather obvious, even without comparing La môme vert-de-gris to his later films.[7] However, he really started through as an actor.[8] Audiences liked his personality,[9] and that led to a whole series of films with "Lemmy Caution".[10]

Lemmy Caution was portrayed as a witty, crafty womanizer who never hesitated to do what he considered right.[11] When playing Lemmy Caution, Eddie Constantine often approached attractive women with a glass of whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other.[12]

Lemmy Caution and Eddie Constantine were confused in the popular consciousness,[13] and Constantine could never remedy this mix-up.[14] Neither has it ever been reported that anybody had tried to succeed Constantine as Lemmy Caution.

The film adaptions of Peter Cheyney's book showed Lemmy Caution as a strong and optimistic character who would even win when totally outnumbered,[15] so it came as a shock to many fans when they saw Eddie Constantine's portrayal of Lemmy Caution in Alphaville (1965). In this film he was a tired, elderly, and gloomy-looking man wearing the kind of trench-coat associated with Humphrey Bogart, spaced out and lost in a future world.[16]

Lemmy Caution returned later on several times as a cameo in German feature films like Udo Lindenberg's Panische Zeiten (Panic Times).

In 1988 a French film called Le retour de Lemmy Caution appeared,[17][18] with Lemmy Caution once again as the leading character, but this Lemmy was far away from that of Peter Cheyney.

Lemmy Caution films


  1. ^ "En 1936, alors qu’il a le grade de lieutenant, il publie " This man is dangerous " où il met en scène un inspecteur du FBI, dénommé Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  2. ^ "The films were adaptations of best selling thriller crime novels by Peter Cheyney and came at a time when American culture was well-received, if not adulated, by the French populace.". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  3. ^ "Bernard Borderie, réalisateur, recherche un type qui a "une gueule de gangster" pour incarner l’agent du F.B.I. Lemmy Caution à l'écran.". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  4. ^ "En 1953, Bernard Borderie lui confie le rôle de l’agent secret Lemmy Caution dans "La môme vert-de-gris", personnage crée par l’écrivain britannique Peter Cheyney.". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  5. ^ "Discovered by Edith Piaf, he became her protégé and close friend, and she helped him launch a career as a popular recording artist.". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  6. ^ "Il débute à l'écran en 1953 et s'impose dès son second film en personnifiant le désinvolte agent du FBI, Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  7. ^ "Constantine n’avait guère d’expérience d’acteur (un seul film à son actif) et on peut le dire : ça saute aux yeux !". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  8. ^ "His film career began in 1953, when he first took the role of tough American private eye Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  9. ^ "sa gouaille et son accent américain étant fort appréciés du public dans plusieurs pays d'Europe". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  10. ^ "Le succès est tel qu’il reprend le rôle de cet agent secret dans plusieurs films de série B". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  11. ^ "The part of the ladykiller endowed with wit, charme and above-average self-confidence appealed to the mass". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  12. ^ "Lemmy Caution, le dur à cuire, amateur de whisky, et cigarette et de jolies femmes.". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  13. ^ "Le public adopte définitivement le personnage de Cheney dans l'incarnation qu'en propose Eddie Constantine". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  14. ^ "Eddie Constantine reste marqué par Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  15. ^ "the nearly caricature-like brawls filled the young audience with enthusiasm". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  16. ^ "En 1965 le film Alphaville, dirigé par Jean-Luc Godard, détruit le mythe Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  17. ^ "Le retour de Lemmy Caution de Josée Dayan avec Eddie CONSTANTINE". Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  18. ^ "Le retour de Lemmy Caution". Retrieved 2011-09-14.