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. Cheyney wrote 10 Lemmy Caution novels between 1936 and 1945. The Lemmy Caution radio series was broadcast in the 1940s in Australia and New Zealand.
Although Caution is an American character created by a British writer, he has yet to appear in an English-language film. However, he has appeared in around 15 European films, most of them French, from 1953 to 1991. In these films he was always played by the same actor, Eddie Constantine, who was indelibly associated with the role during his lifetime. The first seven of these, from 1953 to 1963, were straight detective films in the film noir style; later films tended to be experimental or comedic. Today the best-known of these films is the 1965 Jean-Luc Godard film Alphaville, which placed Caution in a dystopian science fiction setting.
Lemmy Caution novels
- 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)
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.
Bernard Borderie had the chance to produce the first French adaption. He was searching for somebody who had the looks of a gangster, and picked Eddie Constantine, who was already known as a singer. So far he had merely played one supporting role in a film of the very same year, and his lack of experience as an actor was rather obvious, even without comparing La môme vert-de-gris to his later films. However, he came through as an actor. Audiences liked his personality, and that led to a whole series of films with "Lemmy Caution".
Lemmy Caution was portrayed as a witty, crafty womanizer who never hesitated to do what he considered right. When playing Lemmy Caution, Eddie Constantine often approached attractive women with a glass of whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Lemmy Caution and Eddie Constantine were confused in the popular consciousness, and Constantine could never remedy this mix-up. Conversely, no actor other than Constantine has played Lemmy Caution.
The film adaptions of Peter Cheyney's book showed Lemmy Caution as a strong and optimistic character who would win even when totally outnumbered, 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.
Films featuring Lemmy Caution
- La môme vert de gris (1953) English Title: Poison Ivy
- Cet homme est dangereux (1953) English Title: This Man is Dangerous
- Les femmes s'en balancent (1954) English Title: Dames Get Along
- Vous pigez? (1955) English Title: Diamond Machine
- Comment qu'elle est! (1960) English Title: Women Are Like That
- Lemmy pour les dames (1962) English Title: Ladies' Man
- À toi de faire... mignonne (1963) English Title: Your Turn, Darling
- Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)
- Le retour de Lemmy Caution (TV movie) (1989)
- Allemagne année 90 neuf zéro (1991)
- "Lemmy Caution" (in French). Rayon Polar. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Cet homme est dangereux (1953)". Films de France. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Eddie CONSTANTINE (1917 / 1993)" (in French). L’Encinémathèque. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Eddie Constantine". cineartistes.com. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Just Like Eddie!". Peter Cheyney homepage. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "La Môme Vert-de-Gris". Nanarland. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "sa gouaille et son accent américain étant fort appréciés du public dans plusieurs pays d'Europe". Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Eddie Constantine: 1917 - 1993". Cyranos.ch. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Eddie Constantine" (in French). La pause lecture. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Le retour de Lemmy Caution de Josée Dayan avec Eddie CONSTANTINE". Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Le retour de Lemmy Caution". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-09-14.