«Marie-Louise» is a success story whose beginnings were rooted in turbulence and doubt. It was the first time a Swiss production addressed the fate of refugees. Screenwriter Richard Schweizer broke a taboo and told the story of a French child refugee whom the Swiss authorities wanted, at a time of war, to send back to her country of origin. The film crew found the subject matter difficult to get to grips with; and were not sure at the end if they had made a good film. The judgement of the Board of Directors of the production company Praesens was scathing.
And the doubts about it seemed to be confirmed when the launch of the drama in Swiss cinemas in February 1944 got off to a very poor start. But one person believed in the film: the Migros founder and shareholder in Praesens, Gottlieb Duttweiler. He started an advertising campaign for this project which was so close to his heart - and succeeded in pulling in the necessary cinema audiences and preventing it being a flop.
What «Marie-Louise» is about
Marie-Louise, a French girl (played by Josiane Hegg), comes to Switzerland for three months in the midst of the war, in 1943. This is made possible by the Red Cross, which is offering children from war zones a refuge and place to recover for a few weeks, but then sends them back to their parents in their homeland. The young girl goes to live with Red Cross helper Heidi Rüegg (Anne-Marie Blanc). Heidi's father (Heinrich Gretler) is a seemingly unapproachable man of few words, who nevertheless takes to Marie-Louise immediately. When the authorities order the girl to return to France, neither the child nor her foster family is able to accept the situation.
Find out here where you watch the whole film, along with other information.
Josiane Hegg played the child refugee Marie-Louise, who settles in Switzerland but must then leave the country.
Dutti pulled in the crowds
Following its premiere in February 1944, Dutti published an enthusiastic review in «Brückenbauer», calling «Marie-Louise» «a courageous work of art» and went on to say: «Cinema-goers will carry on thinking about the issues raised and the characters involved for days and weeks after seeing the film - in distinct contrast to the vacuum that can arise straight after viewing an elegant feature film.»
Using some unconventional methods, Dutti succeeded in turning the film into a hit after all. For example, Migros offered all housewives a free cinema ticket for doing their shopping outside of peak times.
Special campaign in the «Brückenbauer» edition dated 25 February 1944
A brilliant happy end crowned by an Oscar
«Marie-Louise» ultimately pulled in cinema audiences numbering more than a million in Switzerland. The film was also a success abroad - the American critics, in particular, loved it. And in 1946 Richard Schweizer even won an Oscar for his screenplay. It was the first time this prize had gone to Switzerland - a splendid happy end for the film-makers. Marie-Louise is a pearl of a film, made in Switzerland, which paved the way for a successful Swiss film industry to develop.
Richard Schweizer (second from the right) won an Oscar for his screenplay in 1946. It was the first time the prize had gone to Switzerland.
filmo: rediscover Swiss films
A large part of our Swiss film heritage is at risk of decay or can only be viewed by the public with extreme difficulty. With filmo, a platform has been launched that makes classic Swiss films accessible to the public and gives them greater visibility. The story of our national film industry is brought to life - for younger generations, too. filmo is currently celebrating its second anniversary, and is using the occasion to launch an anniversary season of eleven Swiss film hits, entitled «Tops of Swiss Films». This online Swiss film resource now has a total of 100 films in its catalogue, which can be streamed over various platforms.