The Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory ( Paths of Glory 1 ) is a war movie American during the First World War of Stanley Kubrick , in black and white , released in 1957 , based on the eponymous book by Humphrey Cobb appeared in 1935 .


Trailer of the film.

In 1916 in France , during the First World War . It is the stagnation: the trench warfare begins following a brief war of movement ; regular assaults are organized to try to take over the enemy.

Bringing the prospect of a promotion, the French divisional general Broulard incites Brigadier General Mireau to launch one of his regiments to attack a very strong German position, located at the top of a fortified hill and very well armed: the Anthill , without reinforcements or preparations and with little artillery preparation. During the assault of the French forces, Colonel Dax’s regiment was repulsed by enemy fire, suffered heavy losses and had to withdraw. Observing the scene and realizing that some of the men did not leave the trench, General Mireau enraged and ordered to fire the cannon on his own troops to force them to attack. His order, oral, is rejected by the artillery officer.

Faced with this rejection, General Mireau reflects the regiment martial ( court martial ) for “cowardice before the enemy”, wishing a hundred soldiers are shot. Colonel Dax rejects this initiative, which he considers revolting and barbaric. Finally, General Broulard pushes to compromise: only three men, one per company, will be judged.

Colonel Dax, lawyer in the civil, then asks the authorization to General Broulard to defend the three men who will be designated. But, despite his talent and motivation, he fails to bend the judges for whom the sentence is no doubt: the soldiers will be shot the next day.

As a last resort, Colonel Dax decides to find General Broulard to bring him the proof that General Mireau ordered his artillery to fire on his own troops. This did not prevent the execution of the three soldiers, but General Broulard ordered an inquiry into the actions of General Mireau and offered Colonel Dax the command of the brigade, believing that he acted out of pure ambition. Disgusted by Broulard’s cynicism, Dax categorically rejects this advancement and hastens to return to his men.

He is attracted by the cries and hisses of soldiers crammed into a bar. A German is presented on a scene in tears, mocked by the soldiers. Then she begins to sing, the men are silent, moved by the song. They will even sing with the young German girl. A new order arrives to the colonel: the men must return immediately to the front, but it allows them to remain in this bar a few minutes more.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Paths of Glory
  • French title: Les Sentiers de la gloire
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson , from the novel by Humphrey Cobb appeared in 1935
  • Production: Kirk Douglas , James B. Harris and Stanley Kubrick
  • Director of Photography: Georg Krause
  • Music: Gerald Fried
  • Generic of the beginning: La Marseillaise
  • Studios: Munich – Summer 1957
  • Distribution Company: United Artists
  • Budget: $ 935,000 (estimate)
  • Language: English
  • Format: 1: 1.37, black and white
  • Genre: War
  • Duration: 88 minutes
  • Release dates:
    •  West Germany :
    •  United States :
    •  France :


Adolphe Menjou and Kirk Douglas in the film.

Note : the dubbing was done in 1975 when the film was released in French cinemas.

  • Kirk Douglas (VF: Alain Mottet ) : Colonel Dax
  • George Macready (VF: Georges Wilson ) : General Paul Mireau
  • Ralph Meeker (VF: Sylvain Joubert ) : Corporal Philippe Paris
  • Timothy Carey (VF: Jacques Balutin ) : Private Maurice Férol
  • Joe Turkel (VF: Pierre Trabaud ) : Private Pierre Arnaud
  • Adolphe Menjou (VF: Georges Riquier ) : General Georges Broulard
  • Wayne Morris (VF: Claude Brosset ) : Lieutenant Roget
  • Peter Capell (VF: Jacques Thébault ) : The President of the Court Martial
  • Richard Anderson (VF: Claude Giraud ) : the government commissioner
  • Emile Meyer (VF: Raymond Loyer ) : the chaplain
  • John Stein (VF: René Arrieu ) : Captain Rousseau
  • Harold Benedict (VF: Francis Lax ) : Captain Nicolas
  • Bert Freed (VF: Roger Lumont ) : The Sergeant Head of Section
  • Kem Dibbs (VF: Jacques Richard ) : Private Lejeune
  • Fred Bell (VF: Henri Poirier ) : the soldier hit by shrapnel in the trench
  • Halden Hanson (VF: Jean Berger ) : the military doctor and a soldier
  • Jerry Hausner (VF: Yves Barsacq ) : the host of the cabaret
  • Christiane Kubrick (Christiane Harlan credited under the name of Susanne Christian): the German singer

Historical context

The Paths of Glory is inspired by many real facts. During the First World War , about 2,500 French soldiers were sentenced to death by the war councils, of which just over 600 were actually shot “for example” by the army for various reasons (abandonment of post, voluntary mutilations, refusal of obedience …), the others having seen their sentence commuted to hard labor .

The director Stanley Kubrick is based mainly on the matter of corporals Souain where General Réveilhac would have fired on one of his own regiments (the 336 th Infantry Regiment ) whose men refused to leave the trenches during a suicidal assault on a hill occupied by the Germans, before having four corporals executed on March 17, 1915 . These soldiers (three from the Channel : Theophile Maupas, Louis Lefoulon, Louis Girard and one from Ille-et-Vilaine Lucien Lechat) will be rehabilitated in 1934 thanks to the action of the wife of Theophile Maupas, the teacher Blanche Maupas. A monument is still visible in Sartilly (Manche) commemorating their rehabilitation. At the beginning of the 1914-1918 war , military justice had become an exceptional justice since the decrees of August and September 1914: the suspension , the application for review , the extenuating circumstances and the right of pardon were abolished.

The episode of the soldier on a stretcher that is revived to shoot him is inspired by another case, that of second lieutenant Jean-Julien-Marius Chapelant executed onafter a mock trial . Severely injured in the legs for several days, unable to stand up, morally and physically exhausted, Sub-Lieutenant Chapelant was then tied up on his stretcher and he was placed along a tree to be shot. Buried in Loges’ wood in a mass grave, still unidentified to this day of November 11, 2012, only his name appears in the Ampuis cemetery where he was born. His (empty) tomb was honored by the Union of the Mutilated and Veteranswho have affixed a marble plaque bearing the inscription: “the veterans to their brother-in-arms Jean Julien Marius Chapelant, martyr courts martial”. Jean Julien Marius Chapelant was “declared” and recognized ” dead for France ” by Minister Delegate for Veterans Affairs Kader Arif onand this gesture was formalized at the Remembrance Day ceremonies (November 11) 2 .


At first glance, The Trails of Glory is an anti-militarist film that denounces the behavior of the high military hierarchy, as well as the animalization of soldiers, considered as mere pawns and whose physical and psychological state is execrable. The film also highlights the desperate resistance of a man, Colonel Dax.

Unlike the classic war movie , the confrontation is not between two enemy camps but between the general officers and the soldiers of the same camp, some playing their promotion, the others their life. Moreover, we do not see Germans, because the film denounces partly the war but especially the relation between high ranking officers and soldiers.

This theme will be repeated in the films Men Against (1970), A Long Sunday Engagement (2004), Merry Christmas (2005) or even in the TV movie Le Pantalon (1997). The British film For the Example (1964) deals with the same subject in the British Army.


The film is screened in Munich on3 . It is perceived as a direct criticism of the French army, by the cruelty of the final scenes and the violent satire of the French staffs. He receives several awards , including the Chevalier de la Barre 4 award .

Under pressure and the threat of retaliation from associations of French and Belgian veterans, the French government , then immersed in the turmoil of the Algerian war , protests with the United Artists and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists on the Belgian for it to be deprogrammed 5 . Faced with the scale of the protest movement, the producers of the film decide, by self-censorship not to distribute it in France, and did not ask the minister in charge of French cinema for an exploitation visa . Many countries in Europe , such asSwitzerland , refuse to broadcast it 6 . It was only eighteen years later, in 1975 , the film was finally screened in France 7 .

Around the film

  • Before being filmed, Humphrey Cobb ‘s book was adapted in 1935 for Broadway by Sidney Howard , a playwright and screenwriter known for his left – wing views. The play was a failure but Howard publicly declared that the novel deserved a film adaptation.
  • The film was partly shot at the new Schleissheim castle in Bavaria .
  • The film used American actors and German extras; behaviors and mimicry are very little French. The ” Present … Weapons!  Is German.
  • The number of the “701 th ” infantry regiment did not exist (the French army never counted more than 418 infantry regiments during this conflict).
  • The conduct of the trial before the court martial is Anglo-Saxon, rather than French. There is never an “objection” in France during a trial.
  • The helmets of hairy mix those of 1915 and those of 1926, the shotguns of the trench are not all period.
  • The song performed by the young German at the end of the film is Der treue Husar (literally “the faithful hussar “), adapted in France by Francis Lemarque under the title Marjolaine .
  • The title of the film is an explicit reproduction of that of the eponymous painting  (in) 8 painted in 1917 by the British Christopher Nevinson, which depicted corpses of soldiers spread out in No Man’s Land , which was censored at the time.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ The film takes the title of Humphrey Cobb’s novel which he is adapting. But his title is also a quote from Thomas Gray’s poem , Elegy written in a country cemetery , which then gave his title to an iconic painting  (in) of the First World War painted by Thomas Gray .
  2. ↑ AFP, ” A shot for the example from 1914 said” death to France “ ”  [ archive ], on , (accessed November 9, 2012 )
  3. ↑ Stanley Kubrick , Marcello Walter Bruno ( p. 211), Gremese International, 2001.
  4. ↑ The award, presented at the Cannes Film Festival , was intended to reward annually a film that “exalted the spirit of tolerance and human brotherhood or denounce intolerance and injustice of any origin.”
  5. ↑ “As off-the-law, this film caused a scandal”, Le Point , o 1984 of 23 September 2010.
  6. ↑ Stanley Kubrick , Marcello Walter Bruno ( p. 11), Gremese International, 2001.
  7. ↑ Paths of Glory [ archive ] – Card of the National Center for Educational Documentation (CNDP)
  8. ↑ Title which is itself derived from a quote from the poem Elegy written in a country churchyard written by Thomas Gray : “The paths of glory lead goal to the grave”

Leave a comment