Philippe de Broca

Philippe de Broca

Photo of Philippe de Broca from 2003

Philippe de Broca, 2003
Born Philippe Claude Alex de Broca de Ferrussac
(1933-03-15)15 March 1933
Paris, France
Died 26 November 2004(2004-11-26) (aged 71)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Nationality French
Occupation Film director
Years active 1959–2004
  • Michelle de Broca (m. 1958; div. 1961)
  • Margot Kidder (m. 1983; div. 1984)
  • Valérie Rojan (m. 1987)
Partner(s) Marthe Keller (1970s)
Children 4

Philippe de Broca (French: [də bʁɔka]; 15 March 1933 – 26 November 2004) was a French movie director.

He directed 30 full-length feature films, including the highly successful That Man from Rio (L'Homme de Rio), The Man from Acapulco (Le Magnifique) and On Guard (Le Bossu). His works include historical, romantic epics such as Chouans! and King of Hearts (Le Roi de cœur), as well as comedies with a charismatic, breezy hero ready to embark upon any adventure which comes his way, so long as it means escaping everyday modern life: Practice Makes Perfect (Le Cavaleur), The Devil by the Tail (Le Diable par la queue), The African (L'Africain). He had links with the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, with whom he made six films, as well as with Jean-Pierre Cassel, Philippe Noiret and Jean Rochefort.


Philippe de Broca was born on 15 March 1933 in Paris, France.[1] He was the son of a cinema set designer and the grandson of a well-known painter, Philippe de Broca. He studied at the Paris Photography and Cinematography School (école Vaugirard), graduating in 1953. He carried out his military service with the service cinématographique des armées (army film service) in Germany and then in Algeria, directing or acting as head cameraman on short films. Greatly affected by the war he witnessed, he vowed to show life in its best light in his future films “because laughter is the best defence against upsets in life”. Back on civvy street, he set off on a journey taking in the length of Africa in Berliet trucks before returning to Paris.

He began working as an intern with Henri Decoin, before finding assistant positions with Claude Chabrol: Bitter Reunion (Le Beau Serge), The Cousins (Les Cousins), Web of Passion (À Double Tour), François Truffaut: The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups) and Pierre Schoendoerffer: Ramuntcho. In 1959, Claude Chabrol produced de Broca's first film for him, The Love Game (Les jeux de l’amour) with Jean-Pierre Cassel. De Broca went on to work with Cassel again in The Joker (Le Farceur, 1960), Five Day Lover (L’Amant de cinq jours, 1961), and Male Companion (Un Monsieur de Compagnie, 1964).

De Broca's first commercial success came with Swords of Blood (Cartouche), filmed in 1962. This film also saw two more names become associated with de Broca: the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and the producer Alexandre Mnouchkine. International acclaim came with That Man from Rio (L'Homme de Rio) in 1964, Up to His Ears (Les tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine) in 1965, The Man from Acapulco (Le Magnifique) in 1973 and Incorrigible (L'Incorrigible) in 1975.

In 1966, he co-wrote, directed and produced King of Hearts (Le Roi de Cœur). This parody of the Great War, which some cinema-lovers consider his masterpiece, was a commercial and personal failure, to de Broca's dismay.

Next his career took a turn towards seemingly straightforward comedy and fun: The Devil by the Tail (Le Diable par la queue) featuring Yves Montand in 1969, then Dear Detective (Tendre Poulet) in 1978 and Jupiter's Thigh (On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter) in 1980 with Philippe Noiret and Annie Girardot, and finally Practice Makes Perfect (Le Cavaleur) in 1979 with Jean Rochefort.

In 1988, his film Chouans! with Sophie Marceau and Philippe Noiret, which questioned historical philosophies, was not as successful as expected.

He then directed ten or so telefilms, enjoying the speed of filming as well as the teamwork involved. De Broca found success again in 1997 with his adaptation of On Guard (Le Bossu) for Daniel Auteuil.

In 2004 Philippe de Broca filmed the adaptation of the novel Viper in the Fist (Vipère au poing) with Jacques Villeret and Catherine Frot. This movie was to be his last hit with the cinema-going public, although he was not able to enjoy the success, passing away from cancer on 26 November 2004.

Throughout his career, de Broca's work alternates between two styles: large-scale productions like Swords of Blood (Cartouche), King of Hearts (Le Roi de cœur) or On Guard (Le Bossu), and lively, punchy contemporary adventure-comedies like That Man from Rio (L'Homme de Rio), The Man from Acapulco (Le Magnifique) or Practice Makes Perfect (Le Cavaleur). Yet even this dual classification is not easily applied to Philippe de Broca's work, because the man himself hated conventions and enjoyed blurring the line between the real world and the imaginary. His films, which may at first glance seem lightweight, are being re-assessed by cinema-lovers as a thoughtful life's work, which asks questions about society in the second half of the 20th century.

De Broca remained loyal to his actors throughout his films, as well as to the writers Daniel Boulanger and Michel Audiard, and enjoyed an exceptional musical affinity with Georges Delerue.

Today, Philippe de Broca is acknowledged by the younger generation of movie directors, who frequently cite his work.

Personal life

Philippe de Broca was married to Michelle de Broca, with whom he founded the production company Fildebroc. He has two daughters, Chloé and Jade and a son, Alexandre, with Michelle; and one son Alexandre, with Marthe Keller.

For over 30 years he lived in the village of Vert in the Yvelines department to the west of Paris, where he greatly enjoyed tending his garden. He felt a strong connection with Brittany since his childhood, his painter grandfather having lived there, as well as being fond of his boat. He chose to be buried in Sauzon cemetery on Belle-Ile.


Assistant director




The majority of the music featured in Philippe de Broca's films has been published in its own right. Below are a few notable compilations.




  1. Lanoë, Henri. "Philippe de Broca Bio". Philippe de Broca. Retrieved 21 March 2016.


  • Wakeman, John, ed (1988). World Film Directors, Volume 2, 1945–1985. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company. pp. 158–162. ISBN 978-0-82420-763-2. 
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