A Classic of Quebec Cinema
La petite Aurore l’enfant martyre (Little Aurore, the Child Martyr) was filmed in the summer of 1951 in the Montreal region. The outdoor scenes were filmed on Île Bizard and the indoor ones in studios situated in Côte-des-Neiges (Montreal). Jean-Yves Bigras, a radio director, directed the film, which was produced and distributed by France-Film. The screenplay was based on a novel written by the actor Émile Asselin (alias Marc Forrez), who was a member of the cast of the play and the film. In a dramatic turn of events in November 1951, Télesphore Gagnon and members of his family presented a motion for a temporary injunction in order to try to prevent the film's release. Their case was rejected. The lawyers for the France-Film company were able to demonstrate that the play had been showing for decades without anyone objecting to it.
The film's première took place on April 25, 1952. La petite Aurore l’enfant martyre would be translated into other languages and would be successfully presented abroad. The film, which cost $75,000 to produce, did extremely well at the box office, so much so that the production expense was recovered within the first five weeks following its release in cinemas. La petite Aurore thus became the greatest Quebec cinematographic success of its time, supplanting Un homme et son péché, Le Curé du village and Séraphin (1949-1950).
The actors who portrayed the characters in this melodrama were: Lucie Mitchell (the cruel stepmother), Paul Desmarteaux (Théodore Andois), Yvonne Laflamme (Aurore), Thérèse MacKinnon (Delphine Andois), Roch Poulin (Maurice), Jeannette Bertrand (Catherine, the neighbour), Jean Lajeunesse (Abraham, the neighbour), Marc Forrez (the parish priest) and J.-Léo Gagnon (the doctor). Several of these actors also acted in the play, whose stage life continued on for some time. Moreover, Thérèse MacKinnon, who played Aurore's mother in the film, had portrayed Aurore on stage thousands of times. For Lucie Mitchell, playing the role of the cruel stepmother on film meant, in a way, the end of her career. People identified her far too much with the stepmother character and she had difficulty finding other roles.
When the film begins, we are in the Andois home. Aurore's mother is very sick and a widow, Marie-Louise, is taking care of her. Right from the start, we understand that Marie-Louise would like Delphine to die and that she wants to take her place in the home. Delphine dies. Aurore is sent away to an aunt's for some time and her father marries Marie-Louise. Two years later, they decide to bring Aurore back home and things don't go very well for her. Her stepmother makes her work much too hard. She beats her and doesn't feed her. The neighbour discovers the situation at the Andois' place and, following a conversation with the little girl, she goes to inform the parish priest. Despite everything, the mistreatment continues and Aurore dies. The doctor realises that the child's death isn't natural and the parents must stand trial. The film ends with the sentencing to death of Marie-Louise.
Aurore: Aurore is a child who is full of life and who appears well brought up. She plays with Maurice (Marie-Louise's son) and with her new little brother. She is polite with the neighbours and seems to lead a normal life.
The father: Théodore Andois is a strong, tall farmer, slightly fat and meek, who believes his wife's lies. He appears to be financially well off. He has a nice house and nice furniture.
The mother: Delphine Andois is a beautiful woman and Aurore resembles her strongly. Very sick, she dies under Marie-Louise's "care" (there is more than a suspicion of poisoning).
The stepmother: Marie-Louise is tall and sturdy, and has an unpleasant face with hard features and little expression. She wears pretty flowered dresses. She is a widow and has a son, Maurice. The men in the village say that she isn't ugly, that she is hardworking and that she would make a good wife for Théodore.
The neighbour: Catherine Sirois is young and single at the beginning of the film, then a newlywed. She is worried about Aurore. She doesn't hesitate to tell Marie-Louise how kind she will be to her husband's children, unlike certain stepmothers. She informs the parish priest that Aurore isn't sick from "natural causes." In a way, she is Aurore's guardian angel.
In this section, you have access to an excerpt of dialogue, as well as to a bank of images from the film.
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