André Sauvage's 1928 visual essay Etudes sur Paris includes a brief staged drama among its documentary observations. Down a pair of facing staircases leading from the Quai aux Fleurs come a man and a woman, only to find that they cannot meet because the staircases don't meet:
So each turns to go back up the stairs, each disconsolate:
Several riverside staircases are featured in Etudes sur Paris:
Other staircases in the film are associated with railways, under and overground:
With churches, monuments and public buildings:
The film is of course interested in the stairs of Montmartre, those surrounding the Sacré Coeur and other, less monumental staircases:
The service stairs of the Eiffel Tower are shown:
To be echoed later by the temporary stairs of construction-work scaffolding:
This is a callback to a post from January 2012 (here), where I wondered where a staircase seen in two Durand-directed Gaumont comedies might be, or have been if it was now gone.
Although the strong likelihood was that these stairs were somewhere near the Gaumont studios in the 19e arrondissement, I had examined carefully every one of the 148 staircases featured in François L'Henaff's Paris en marches, the Parisian escalographer's bible, without finding a match. L'Henaff himself looked at the images and gave me an analysis of the staircase's construction, but didn't recognise it as an extant staircase in Paris.
Since then the staircase has turned up in two more of Durand's Onésime films:
These slightly different framings of the stairs give no more clues to their location, but I did find a clue in seeing more footage from Onésime et le pélican, where the shot of Onésime chasing the pelican down the stairs is preceded by one of him chasing it in a street with what appears to be the head of a staircase behind them:
This is the end of the rue des Lilas, 19e:
The staircase beyond leads down to the boulevard Sérurier:
If a shot of the top of a staircase is followed by a shot of the bottom of a staircase it doesn't necessarily mean that these are shots of the same staircase, but the probability is strong. Here, however, the staircase leading down from the rue des Lilas doesn't look enough like the staircase in the Gaumont films. For one thing, it bends to the left after the second landing, whereas the Gaumont staircase appears to carry on straight:
The handrail down the middle could have been added later, the lamp post could have been repositioned, but the first flight of the modern staircase has 25 steps whereas the one in the film has only 20. That seems to be an insurmountable obstacle to the identification of one with the other.
If this is the same place, then the staircase must have been remodelled. If the plan parcellaire of this place, drawn no later than 1896, is to be believed, the staircase linking the rue des Lilas and the boulevard Sérurier was originally straight:
So I'm inclined to think that the staircase was remodelled at some time, but the evidence I need is an image of the rue des Lilas stairs from before then. I haven't found a photograph from the period, but other visual evidence may be useful. At the head of this post I placed a painting by Alphonse Quizet of the top of the rue des Lilas staircase:
This picture (undated when it appeared at auction in 2003) suggests that there was no central handrail when it was painted, but otherwise offers little to allow a match with the staircase in the Gaumont films. Quizet painted other parts of the rue des Lilas:
And painted the boulevard Sérurier:
But didn't show anything of the stairs linking the two.
He does have one painting called a Staircase in Belleville, dating from the late 1920s:
This is promising. The stairs are the right type, there's no central handrail, and the corner of wall with the street name on it matches the one in his Rue des Lilas painting:
The slight differences may be due to changes over time, or to artistic licence, but the bigger problem is the upper part of the building. This, in the Rue Des Lilas painting, is the Manoir de Beauregard, an eighteenth-century mansion now serving as a guest house (see here). The Rue des Lilas painting accurately shows the chimney stack, the one dormer window in the roof, and other details:
Whereas the details of window and chimney in the Escaliers de Belleville painting are quite different:
Either Quizet was happy to be inaccurate, or the Escaliers de Belleville painting is of a quite different staircase.
If it is a different staircase, I haven't found it yet.
Another staircase painted by Quizet poses a different problem:
The last two images above are, I think, black-and-white reproductions of colour oil paintings. All three are, I think, of the same place; all three were identified by their various sellers as of staircases in Montmartre, but to my eye all three buildings at the top are variations of the Manoir de Beauregard on the rue des Lilas. I haven't, at least, found a Montmartre staircase with similar architectural surrounds, though I'm still looking.
If I get to be any more definite about either the staircase in the Gaumont film or the staircase(s) painted by Quizet, I shall post again.
In a pan the film climbs the stairs that connect the rue Paul Albert with the rue Lamarck, finishing with a view of its tourist protagonists at the Hôtel 'A La Savoyarde':
Looking up from their hotel room they have a view of the Sacré Coeur :
Looking down they see the top of the staircase, and the woman that one of them has come to meet:
The stairs are still as they were, but the façade of the hotel has changed, it has lost its principal entrance, and it is no longer a hotel:
Among the Paris locations found by Albert Capellani in 1913 for his historical drama Le Chevalier de Maison Rouge was the cour de Rohan, also known as the cour de Rouen. This is a set of courtyards with parts dating back to the thirteenth century, though most is from the sixteenth century onwards, such as this well:
But the most often represented feature of the cour is the staircase:
Here it is in a postcard, franked in 1908, and in a photograph by Atget from 1915:
It was photographed by Marcel Bovis in 1938 and by Janine Niepce in 1957:
And Mark Shaw photographed a Chanel dress there in 1955:
Just up those stairs was the painter Balthus's studio. When Leslie Caron runs up them, as Gigi, she appears to be going to visit him:
When Louis Jourdan comes down into the courtyard after visiting Gigi, in the next shot he is in the rue de Furstemberg, which is where Balthus had a studio before coming to the cour de Rohan. These are strange coincidences.
The steps of the entrance to the Palais de Justice, on the île de la Cité, facing the place Dauphine. These steps were inaugurated in 1875.
These are images illustrating a paper on 'Les Escaliers de Paris' for the 'Paris en Images' conference, 24-25 May 2012. For details of the conference see here: Paris en Images
L'escalier Daru in the Louvre: Belphégor (Henri Desfontaines 1927); Funny Face (Stanley Donen 1957); Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard 1964); The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci 2003)
The escalier Daru is part of Hector Lefuel's modifications of the Louvre in the 1850s. Lefuel was the Louvre architect from 1853 until his death in 1880. The escalier Daru was only fully completed in 1930.
Straub and Huillet give two views of the Victory of Samothrace, but do not show the stairs above which the statue was placed in 1884.
rue Piat, passage Julien Lacroix, rue Vilin, passage de la Duée, Notre Dame de la Croix, all 20e, in Le Ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse 1956)
(With thanks to Piet Schreuders and Furore, where you will find the missing red balloon.)
passage Cottin, 18e in I Vinti (Michelangelo Antonioni 1953) and Mata Hari agent H.21 (Jean-Louis Richard 1964)
The passage Cottin appears in its natural dilapidated state in Antonioni's film, made and set in 1953, but eleven years later, in Richard's film, it has to be cleaned up to represent the Paris of 1917:
place Emile Goudeau, 18e, & rue Paul Albert, 18e - Leur Dernière Nuit (Georges Lacombe 1953) & Les Rendez-vous de Paris (Eric Rohmer 1995)
The pension where the protagonists live is in the place Emile Goudeau. It's now a TimHotel, and appears in Eric Rohmer's Les Rendez-vous de Paris (1995):
The same stairs appeared in Jean Renoir's La Chienne (1931):
For other stairs in La Chienne, see an earlier escalographe post, here.
In Leur Dernière Nuit, the school where the woman works is nearby, at the bottom of the stairs rue Paul Albert:
rue André Antoine, 18e - Des Gens Sans Importance (Henri Verneuil 1956) & possibly La Chienne (Jean Renoir 1931)
These look like these stairs in Renoir's La Chienne (1931), but there isn't enough readable detail to be sure:
unidentified, probably Belleville - Onésime tu l'épousera quand même (Jean Durand 1913) & Onésime et le pélican (Jean Durand 1913)
These stairs appear in two Gaumont comedies, one from 1913 and the other from about the same period. The shot of Onésime and the pelican features in the documentary about Jean Durand in the Gaumont box featuring his films (Le Cinéma premier vol.2), but the film is not identified there.
This is likely to be somewhere near the Gaumont factory and studios,in Belleville.
We see two flights of twenty steps, and the third is probably of the same length, making this a substantial stairway. It doesn't seem to match any stairway in Paris today.
unidentified, almost certainly Ménilmontant - Rien que les heures (Alberto Cavalcanti 1926) & Du rififi chez les hommes (Jules Dassin 1955)
This same stairway appears in two films thirty years apart. In the interim a central handrail has been added, and the wooden fencing replaced with railings.
My rough calculation suggests there are about forty steps.
Rien que les heures is not sufficiently localised to give a clue as to whereabouts, but in Rififii the context strongly suggests Ménilmontant.
In the credit sequence of the Ménilmontant-set La Maternelle (1949), there is a view of this staircase, which seems to me conclusive:
L'Escalographe is an occasional blog about stairways in Paris that appear in films
My chief work of reference is François L'Henaff's magisterial Paris en marches: les escaliers des rues de Paris, published by the APUR, and available here.