The Sicilian Clan

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The Sicilian Clan
Sicilian clan.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenri Verneuil
Produced byJacques-Eric Strauss[1]
Screenplay byHenri Verneuil
José Giovanni
Pierre Pélégri[1]
Based onLe clan des Siciliens
by Auguste Le Breton
StarringJean Gabin
Alain Delon
Lino Ventura
Irina Demick
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyHenri Decaë
Edited byAlbert Jurgenson
Pierre Gillette
Jean-Michel Gautier[1]
Production
companies
Fox Europa
Paris Films du Siècle[1]
Distributed byTwentieth Century Fox[2]
Release date
  • 8 December 1969 (1969-12-08)
[3]
Running time
121 minutes[2]
CountryFrance[2]
LanguageFrench
Budget$4.2 million[4]
Box office$9.25 million (rentals)[5]

The Sicilian Clan (French: Le clan des Siciliens) is a 1969 French gangster film[1] based on the novel by Auguste Le Breton. The film was directed by Henri Verneuil and stars Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura and Alain Delon, whose casting led to the film's box-office success in France.[6][7] Ennio Morricone completed the score for the picture.

Plot[edit]

In Paris, jewel thief Roger Sartet escapes from custody with the help of the Manalese, a small-time but well-organised Sicilian Mafia clan led by patriarch Vittorio and which includes his sons Aldo and Sergio and son-in-law Luigi. In prison, Sartet got to know an electrician involved in setting up an extensive security system at a diamond exhibition in Rome — the electrician returned home early, unannounced, caught his wife in bed with a lover and shot them. Unaccustomed to prison life, he made friends with Sartet and bit-by-bit supplied him with details of the exhibition and its security system.

Vittorio and a fellow Mafiose, Tony Nicosia of New York City, go to the exhibition, only to find that changes make a simple robbery difficult. Furthermore, the exhibition hall is near a police station. Nicosia instead comes up with a plan to steal the diamonds while they are en route to another exhibition in New York and sends over Jack, an alcoholic, in order to pass on the details.

Meanwhile, Commissaire Le Goff pursues Sartet with unbridled determination — the gangster having killed two of his men in cold blood during an earlier arrest. Guessing that Sartet needs false papers in order to leave the country, Le Goff's enquiries lead him to the Manalese and their arcade game business which serves as a cover for their illegal activities. While he questions Vittorio, Sartet slips out of the building, under Le Goff's nose.

Jeanne, the wife of Vittorio's son Aldo and an able crook, becomes fascinated by Sartet. She has always felt out of place as the only French person in the Sicilian clan. While hiding out, she attracts Sartet's attention by sunbathing nude but as they kiss they are seen by Luigi's six-year-old son Roberto. Jeanne gets the boy to promise not to mention it to anyone.

In Rome, the gang discreetly kidnap Edward Evans, the insurance man sent to oversee the transfer of the diamonds to New York. Sartet takes his place and joins the other officials accompanying the diamonds on a regular scheduled flight. Among the passengers joining the plane are Jack, Jeanne, Vittorio and his sons. Things almost go wrong when Evans' wife turns up, but Vittorio leads her to believe that her husband's same numbered flight is on the following day.

Having failed to contact, Mrs Evans goes to the police. At police HQ, she identifies Sartet as one of the men she saw on the plane. Meanwhile, the plane is making its descent towards New York when the gang hijacks the aircraft.

Warned of Sartet's imminent arrival in the United States, the local police race to the airport while the plane lands on a highway which has been closed off by gang's local members. Other Mafia men waiting in cars unload the diamonds from the plane and split up, Jack for Canada and the Manalese for Paris. Intending to move to Veracruz, Sartet hides out in New York while awaiting his share of the proceeds.

Back home, late one evening, the Manalese are watching a film which includes a scene of a couple making out. Roberto exclaims that it looks just what Sartet has done with Jeanne. Jeanne denies the affair but the others tend to believe it. They lure Sartet back to Paris with the promise to give him his share. Jeanne calls Sartet's sister Monique to warn him of the trap. Monique await him at the airport but learns that he boarded an earlier flight.

Sartet contacts Vittorio for his share in the jewelry loot and meets him, accompanied by Jeanne, on off-track wasteland outside town. Vittorio shoots both him and Jeanne dead. Leaving both bodies, along with Sartet's money for the police to take care of, Vittorio returns home but is arrested there by Le Goff.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The film was based on a novel, the second in a series of books by Auguste Le Breton who had written Rififi. The first had been filmed by Bernard Borderie as Brigade antigangs (1966). Film rights to The Sicilian Clan were bought by Henri Verneuil, who teamed with Jacques-Eric Strauss and signed a deal with 20th Century Fox.[8]

Verneuil wrote a screenplay with Pierre Pelegri and then José Giovanni. Verneuil wrote the two lead roles with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon in mind - he had worked with both men before.[9] As they wrote he decided that the part of the police officer was another strong role and decided to cast Lino Ventura, who had made his film debut in Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) starring Gabin.[8]

Irina Demick was unhappy with the role of her character in the film compared to the novel where she was a lot more active, taking part in the hijacking scene. Verneuil felt the actor would not be believable doing this, but she had considerable influence as she was the then-mistress of the head of Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck. So Verneuil rewrote the scene so that Demick's character takes part in the hijacking as a stewardess.[8]

Shooting[edit]

Second unit filming started in New York in March 1969. Dialogue scenes started on March 24 at the "Franstudio" in Saint-Maurice. The film was shot in two versions - French and English.[8]

At the time, Delon was involved in a real-life scandal, the Markovic affair, in which his former bodyguard Stevan Marković had been found murdered.

Release[edit]

The film had its premiere in Paris on 8 December 1969.[3]

Reception[edit]

In the book French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present, author Rémi Fournier Lanzoni wrote, "This gangster film reinvented the classic gangster genre, elevating it to a higher level with its hard-boiled acting, deep character studies, and attractive photography."[9]

Critical[edit]

According to the New York Times the film "has its occasional moments... but mostly it's a tired example of a tired genre."[10] The Los Angeles Times said it "winds up seeming more corny and contrived than witty and ironic."[11]

Box office[edit]

In France, the film drew 4,821,585 admissions.[12] It was the third most popular movie of 1969 in France, after Once Upon a Time in the West and The Brain.[13] It was the second-highest grossing film of all-time in France of films not shown on a roadshow release basis, behind La Grande Vadrouille (1966).[3] In the United States and Canada, the film earned $1 million in theatrical rentals during 1970.[14]

According to Fox records, the film required $7,925,000 in rentals to break even and by 11 December 1970 it had earned worldwide rentals of $9,250,000.[5] By September 1970, it had made Fox a profit of $533,000.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Le Clan Des Siciliens (1968)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 October 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c "The Sicilian Clan (1970)". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Broadcasting System (WarnerMedia). Retrieved 8 October 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c "'Sicilians' Moves In French Stakes; Now B.O. Second". Variety. 11 February 1970. p. 11.
  4. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  5. ^ a b Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 329.
  6. ^ Michael L. Stephens Gangster films - 1996 "A surprising success in the United States (where it grossed over $2 million), The Sicilian Clan was an enormous box office success in Europe, and remains one of the all-time moneymakers in France. It is yet another variation on the heist gone wrong"
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent. "New York Times: The Sicilian Clan". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-09-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ a b c d Lombard, Philippe (3 August 2008). "The Sicilian Clan". Film Stories.
  9. ^ a b Fournier Lanzoni, Rémi (22 October 2015). French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present (2nd ed.). United States: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 266–267. ISBN 978-1-5013-0307-4.
  10. ^ Screen: Verneuil's 'The Sicilian Clan' By VINCENT CANBY. New York Times 30 Mar 1970: 52.
  11. ^ Heist Theme Featured in The Sicilian Clan' Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 27 May 1970: e15.
  12. ^ Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  13. ^ "French Box Office 1969". Box Office Story.
  14. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970". Variety. 6 January 1971. p. 11.
  15. ^ Silverman p 259

External links[edit]