French Without Tears

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Kay Hammond & Roland Culver in the original Criterion Theatre production,1936

French Without Tears is a comic play written by a 25-year-old Terence Rattigan in 1936. It takes place in a cram school for adults needing to acquire French for business reasons. The play was a success on its London debut, establishing Rattigan as a dramatist. Critics thought it 'gay, witty, thoroughly contemporary ... with a touch of lovable truth behind all its satire'.[1] It ran for over 1,000 performances in London, and over 100 in New York.[2] It also established Rex Harrison as a major star. Scattered throughout are Franglais phrases and schoolboy misunderstandings of the French language.

The play was inspired by a 1933 visit to a village called Marxzell in the Black Forest, where young English gentlemen went to cram German.

A film version, directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Ray Milland, was released in 1940.[3] In 1960 Rattigan himself refashioned the work as the musical Joie de Vivre but it was not a success.[4]

A television production was featured in the Saturday Playhouse TV series on 7 June 1958, with Denholm Elliott, Elvi Hale, Colin Broadley and Nicholas Parsons,[5] and another in the BBC's Play of the Month series on 16 May 1976, starring Nigel Havers, Anthony Andrews, and David Robb.[6]


  1. ^ "French Without Tears by Terence Rattigan, Kay Hammond & Roland Culver". 
  2. ^ "Terence Rattigan". 
  3. ^ "French without Tears". BFI. 
  4. ^ Wright, Adrian (2012). West End Broadway : the Golden Age of American musical in London. Woodbridge, England: Boydell & Brewer. p. 163. ISBN 9781843837916. 
  5. ^ Saturday Playhouse; Episode 12: French Without Tears (7 June 1958), Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  6. ^ Play of the Month; French Without Tears (16 May 1976), Retrieved 6 December 2014.