Complete manuscript of this play in three acts, one of Cocteau's first dramatic attempts.
The last page of the manuscript bears the date: "Bassin d'Arcachon le 30 septembre 1920". The play was thus written during the summer of 1920, during a stay at Le Piquey in the company of Raymond Radiguet, with whom Cocteau was at the same time writing the libretto for the comic opera Paul et Virginie, and the playlet Le Gendarme incompris. He writes to his mother that he is working on "a big play in three acts for the boulevard. [...]
It looks like Bernstein (better written)". This play was never published or performed during Cocteau's lifetime. It was only in 2003 that the text was published in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade in the edition of Cocteau's complete theater (unfortunately with its ending removed).
The action of the first two acts takes place in 1913. Baron Alfred Lazare, a wealthy industrialist and enlightened art lover, maintains an aging actress, Gladys Rubis, "a bad actress and a great courtesan". She is in love with a gigolo opium addict, Jacques
Touraine, who wants to leave her to marry
Rosine, the daughter of the baron, who is absolutely opposed to it. One evening, the baron is taken in by Alice, a young prostitute. Encouraged by her pimp André, known as Dédé, she lures him into her nets. When the curtain rises on the third act, we are in 1919, after the war. The Baron has married
Alice and, badly seen by high society, has retired to Maisons-Laffitte. He accepts the gigolo
Jacques as son-in-law, after the latter has proved his uprightness during the war.
But the return of Dédé, who continues to see and exploit Alice, opens his eyes to her true feelings and the baron ends his life.
The play is interesting in more ways than one, besides the situation of certain characters that will be found in the novel The Great
. By its mastery of the procedures of the Boulevard theater, it announces the great successes to come of Les Parents terribles and Les Monstres sacrés. The important use of the telephone and the character of Gladys prefigure La Voix humaine. Other elements to note are Jacques' addiction to opium, and the scene between the baron and the art dealer Raphaël Bloch, an amusing plea for modern painting.
This manuscript is contained in a cardboard folder on which Cocteau has calligraphed the title in large letters in a cartouche.
The piece is preceded by a Preface. "In writing Le Baron Lazare my intention was not to paint the type of an end of race of the great Jewish families of finance.
I was rather yielding to a kind of wager. I am always reproached for not holding in high enough esteem certain works that are crowned by the success of the boulevard. "Do the same since it is so simple" say the enemies. The friends imply it. [...] I literally did the 3 acts in the dark, one sleepless night [...] Afterwards, it took three days to write it"...
The detailed list of characters is preceded by a very corrected draft.
The manuscript of the play presents numerous erasures and corrections. At the beginning, the title Le baron Lazare replaces the original title: "Le coeur d'or"; Cocteau added the subtitle: "ou une pièce comme les autres". Among the corrections, one will note that several lines were crossed out.
It should be noted that Cocteau has also taken great care with the very detailed stage directions.
Provenance : Carole WEISWEILLER.