OSS 117 is the codename for Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a fictional secret agent initially from the pen of the prolific Jean Bruce. Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath is described as being an American Colonel from Louisiana of French descent. After service in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), de La Bath worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), then the National Security Council (NSC).
In Michel Hazanavicius's films of the 2000s, the character is a French citizen working for the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage, the French intelligence agency from 1944 to 1982 (now DGSE).
Novels and films
Bruce wrote 88 OSS 117 novels for the French publishing house Fleuve Noir Espionnage series beginning with Tu parles d'une ingénue (Ici OSS 117) in 1949, predating Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 by four years. After Jean Bruce died in a car accident in 1963, his wife Josette Bruce (signing as "J.Bruce") wrote 143 OSS 117 novels before retiring in 1985. Starting in 1987, Bruce's daughter Martine and her husband François wrote 23 more OSS 117 books. The last published novel was O.S.S. 117 prend le large in 1992.
In 1960 the rights to the Jean Bruce novel Documents à vendre, were purchased for filming by Michel Clément as Le Bal des espions (1960). However the rights to the character of OSS 117 had not been agreed upon so the character's name was changed to Brian Cannon, the name of another Jean Bruce's character from the novel Romance de la Mort.
In the 1960s, the character was featured in a successful Eurospy film series which was mostly directed by André Hunebelle. The role was played initially by Kerwin Mathews, and then by Frederick Stafford, with John Gavin playing the role when Stafford was filming Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz.
The 2006 and 2009 films OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio, conceived as spoofs of the Eurospy genre, both recreated and parodied OSS 117. The character, reinvented as a French spy working for the SDECE, was turned into a comedy character and portrayed by Jean Dujardin as a self-important, dim-witted and politically incorrect oaf.
These films, by director Michel Hazanavicius, are an homage to the action films and spy movies of the 1950s and 1960s (particularly Sean Connery's portrayal of James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock films, and to a lesser extent, the earlier serious adaptations of OSS 's André Hunebelle). The character of OSS 117 (pronounced One Hundred and Seventeen not one one seven or even double one seven), played by Jean Dujardin, is shown as quintessentially "franchouillard" (typically French). He often creates awkward social situations due to his colonial ideology, staunch French patriotism, chauvinism and machismo. At the same time, he is the ideal secret agent: intelligent, handsome, physically adept (he loves fighting and dances everything from the mambo to the twist), and he uses his charm and often seduces quite a few women.
List of film adaptations
- OSS 117 n'est pas mort (OSS 117 is not dead), 1956, directed by Jean Sacha, starring Ivan Desny as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath/OSS 117
- OSS 117 se déchaîne (OSS 117), 1963, directed by André Hunebelle, starring Kerwin Mathews
- Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117 (Shadow of Evil or Panic in Bangkok), 1964, directed by André Hunebelle, starring Kerwin Mathews
- Furia à Bahia pour OSS 117 (OSS 117: Mission for a Killer), 1965, directed by André Hunebelle & Jacques Besnard, starring Frederick Stafford
- Atout coeur à Tokyo pour OSS 117 (Terror in Tokyo), 1966, directed by Michel Boisrond, starring Frederick Stafford was not based on a Jean Bruce novel but featured an original screenplay by James Bond director Terence Young
- Pas de roses pour OSS 117 (OSS 117 Double agent), 1968, directed by André Hunebelle, Renzo Cerrato & Jean-Pierre Desagnat, starring John Gavin
- OSS 117 takes a vacation (OSS 117 takes a vacation), 1970, directed by Pierre Kalfon, starring Luc Merenda
- OSS 117 tue le taon [TV], 1971, directed by André Lerouxs, starring Alan Scott
- OSS 117: Le Caire nid d'espions (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies), 2006, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin
- OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus (OSS 117: Lost in Rio), 2009, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin
- p. 543 Dulles, Allen Welsh, Petersen Neal H. From Hitler's Doorstep: The Wartime Intelligence Reports of Allen Dulles, Penn State Press, 1996.
- Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath alias OSS 117 sur Boomer-café.net, retrieved on 17 november 2010.
- OSS 117 entreprise familiale, documentary for the French channel 13ème rue, retrieved on 29 October 2010.
- p. 60 Williams, Nicola. France, Lonely Planet, 2007
- Blake, Matt & Deal, David The Eurospy Guide Luminary Press 2004
- Review of OSS 117: Lost in Rio on sbs.com.au