Five French films remade in English – which version is better?

A dislike of subtitles or dubbing in the US and UK means some French films get recreated in English – for better or worse

Marilyn Monroe was not the first actress to play this role; Tom Selleck and Arnold Schwarzenegger have both starred in French remakes
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US (and to some extent UK) viewers are notoriously reluctant to watch foreign language films because they have to be either dubbed or subtitled.

If a French film has success at the box office, Hollywood’s reaction is not to heap praise on it but remake it in English, as if all good films should be in the vernacular of Shakespeare.

Sometimes the remake is better than the original. Sometimes it is the other way around.

Occasionally, the two versions are as good as each other.

Here are five examples of comedies that were filched from the French and remade in America.

Read more: Ten French film titles that differ (widely) from English originals

1. Some Like it Hot (1959, directed by Billy Wilder)

The film is based on Fanfare d’amour (1935).

In the remake, two musicians on their uppers, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, finally manage to get work – but only by dressing as women.

They run into Marilyn Monroe who treats them like two more of the girls, putting the dampers on any romance.

The English-language film is a classic; no one remembers the French original.

Read more: The Paris theatre saved by Marilyn Monroe memorabilia

2. Three men and a baby (1987, directed by Leonard Nimoy, of Star Trek fame)

The film recreates Trois hommes et un couffin (1985, Three Men and a Cradle).

The title says it all: a trio of bachelors are left to care for an infant dumped on their doorstep by the lover of one of them.

A hard call as to which is the better film.

3. True Lies (1994, directed by James Cameron)

The remake is an action comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. It is based on La Totale (1991).

Harry Tasker is a spy who’s perfect cover is to have a boring life.

Even his wife, Helen, thinks he is boring and she is bored too because of his constant absences “for business trips”.

A plot twist leads to Harry kidnapping Helen and sending her on a mock mission. The baddies disrupt this and Harry and Helen have to go into action together.

The US film has the advantage of a much bigger budget that includes a sequence using a Harrier Jump Jet.

4. The Birdcage (1996, directed by Mike Nichols)

It is a remake of the Franco-Italian production La cage aux Folles (1978), based on the French play of the same name.

The plot stays the same – openly gay owners of a drag club must entertain the ultra conservative parents of their son’s fiancée – but the setting moves from St Tropez to South Beach, Florida.

Both films are equally good.

5 Dinner for Schmucks (2010, directed by Jay Roach)

The film recreates Le dîner des cons (The Dinner Game), directed by Francis Veber, 1998.

A group of sophisticated metropolitans amuse themselves by holding dinner parties to which each must bring someone idiotic to mock.

Things go awry when a pet idiot invites a tax inspector to the apartment to a smug tax evader.

The American version is a brave attempt but there’s something indescribably Gallic about the concept of a ‘con’.

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