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Presenting Sacha Guitry


The Story of a Cheat (1936)         The Pearls of the Crown (1937)

Desire (1937)           Quadrille (1938)


Sacha Guitry was once a household name. Something of a Gallic counterpart to Nöel Coward, this disarming, multitalented artist served up some of 1930s French cinema’s tastiest dishes. The son of a beloved theater actor, Guitry was devoted to the footlights, first turning to the silver screen as a way of bringing his plays to a wider audience. His films were anything but stage-bound, however: often the director, writer, and star of his popular movies, Guitry brought a witty inventiveness to the cinema and deployed radical tactics with such aplomb and control that he’s considered one of the medium’s first “complete auteurs.” With these four films, American audiences can finally sample Guitry’s creative, comic confections.





THE STORY OF A CHEAT (Le roman d’un tricheur) Considered Sacha Guitry’s masterpiece, this fleet, witty picaresque about a gambler and petty thief is a whimsical delight. Guitry himself stars as the “tricheur” looking back fondly on a life of crime, which he narrates with an effervescence matched by his clever editing and cinematography. With its rapid storytelling and inventive use of voice-over, The Story of a Cheat’s style has influenced filmmakers from Orson Welles to François Truffaut.

THE PEARLS OF THE CROWN (Les perles de la couronne) Sacha Guitry plays four roles—including King Francis I and Napoleon—in this multilingual whirlwind of pageantry that investigates the fate of three pearls missing from the royal crown of England. Guitry’s first script written directly for the screen rockets through four centuries of European history with imaginative, winking irreverence.

DÉSIRÉ Sacha Guitry exchanges his usual top hat for a uniform in Désiré, in which he plays a cavalier valet embroiled in an awkward flirtation with his new employer (played by the actor-director’s real-life wife, Jacqueline Delubac), who is involved with a stuffy politician. A carefree class farce filled with memorable supporting characters, Désiré blurs the line between upstairs and downstairs.

QUADRILLE A sparkling four-way affair overflowing with dialogue that showcases writer-director Sacha Guitry’s wit, Quadrille stars Guitry as a magazine editor whose longtime girlfriend (whom he hopes to make his fiancée) is uncontrollably drawn to a handsome American movie star. Meanwhile, a discerning reporter (Jacqueline Delubac) watches from the sidelines with amusement and provides the final corner of this romantic rectangle. 


Theatrical Releases: 1936 - 1938

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse 22: Presenting Sacha Guitry from the Criterion Collection (4-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC



DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:21:42, 1:45:28, 1:37:42 and 1:35:06
Bitrate:  The Story of a Cheat
Bitrate: The Pearls of the Crown
Bitrate: Desire
Bitrate: Quadrille
Audio French (original mono) (some English and Italian as well in Pearls)
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case

DVD Release Date:
July 27th, 2010
4 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
16, 13, 10, 9



NOTE: The 4 main features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases (see image above and below) they are not sold separately, by Criterion, at this time. These particular NTSC editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series 22 package at present although their are other PAL editions (ex. Paramount has a boxset available in France HERE) briefly described by our own Jonathan Rosenbaum in his 30 Great Movies on DVD article as "Sacha Guitry, the witty playwright-filmmaker-actor whose cinematic “golden age,” 1936-1938, comprising no less than nine features (my favorite is the trilingual The Pearls of the Crown), are all available with English subtitles in one gigantic box set issued in France by Gaumont, Sacha Guitry L’Age d’or 1936-1938."

Three of the four DVDs are dual-layered with only The Story of a Cheat (1936) being single-layered. All are progressive in their original 1.33 aspect ratios.

The sound is original French mono - imperfect but dialogue is clear enough and quite audible - I noted a couple of instances of minor hiss, but overall it is supporting the films well. There are optional English subtitles (font samples below).

Bitrates are reasonably strong ranging in and around 8.5 Mbps for the three dual-layered transfers.

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover) there are no supplements.

On the image - Criterion have pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review) the transfer. NOTE: The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to indicate the amount of the pictureboxing (indicated by the black border circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. production made cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC) limiting the resolution. Only Quadrille has damage strong enough to bother mentioning. The oldest film, The Story of a Cheat , tends to look the strongest but both The Pearls of the Crown and Desire not far behind showing nice grain and excellent contrast (strangely the menus look decidedly green). The damage in Quadrille is apparent in a consistent mark around the center-top of the image (see captures below) and plenty of light scratches worn just under the surface. It was distracting and could only be alleviated with film-level restoration that probably wasn't cost-effective. I doubt any of the alternative PAL releases will be at this standard - but if we have the opportunity to compare - we certainly will.

I know there are MANY cinephiles that will appreciate this package as Eclipse are continuing with their mission statement: "...a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer."

I have never been exposed to this brand of unique humor. It was all at once sly, witty and retaining a certain undercurrent of roguish respectability. I can see myself revisiting these films for the rest of my life. There is a prevailing French charm that I can see being very addictive. I've already been seeking out more of Guitry's work to find what is available on DVD in English friendly releases around the world. Where Jonathan touts The Pearls of the Crown - I think I lean to The Story of a Cheat as my personal favorite - in limited exposure to this under represented director. I suggest that there are a lot of people who would see the healthy value to this set by... simply watching it. It has our heartfelt recommendation.      

Gary W. Tooze

DVD Menus


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




Screen Captures


The Story of a Cheat (1936) aka 'Le roman d’un tricheur'


Directed by Sacha Guitry








Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




Screen Captures


The Pearls of the Crown (1937) aka 'Les perles de la couronne'


Directed by Sacha Guitry








Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




Screen Captures


Desire (1937) aka 'Désiré'


Directed by Sacha Guitry








Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




Screen Captures


Quadrille (1938)


Directed by Sacha Guitry









DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:





Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC


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Gary Tooze

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