24 Frames: O Assassinato de Papai Noel (L’Assassinat du Père Noël, Christian-Jaque, 1941)
The absence of overt political representation during the occupation reflects the fact that filmmakers deliberately avoided making reference to France’s material hardships and conquered status. Rather, the historical costume dramas, fantasies, and legends that dominated the films of the Vichy era reveal a “desperate wish to believe that the outside world did not exist.” Evelyn Ehrlich notes with some irony that the only feature films made during the occupation that can be construed as having any pro-resistance subtext whatsoever were those produced by Continental. L’assassinat du Père Noël (Who Killed Santa Claus? 1941), Continental’s first film directed by Christian-Jaque, ends with the film’s Santa Claus figure, a globe maker played by Harry Bauer, telling a boy about a French Sleeping Beauty waiting for her Prince Charming to wake her and bring her happiness. The narrative has been read allegorically as embodying the hope of France’s eventual “awakening” or liberation. Whether such a resistance message was intentional or merely the product of historical hindsight, the German censors did not notice it at the time and the film enjoyed a successful release.
Grand Illusion: The Third Reich, the Paris Exposition, and the Cultural Seduction of France – Karen Fiss