Les Jumeaux de Brighton

On 5 February 1908, two little girls were born at 18 Riley Road, Brighton.  They were the conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton.

Five weeks later, Tristan Bernard published his comedy Les Jumeaux de Brighton [The Brighton Twins ].


Title screen of the 1936 film version of the Bernard play. Rights owner sought

Les Jumeaux de Brighton was based on Plautus’s Menaechmi (aka. “The Brothers Menaechmus”) written some 1,100 years before Bernard put pen to paper.  Both plays are comedies about mistaken identity involving a set of twins.

In a speech given to a first-night audience in Paris, Bernard rather cheekily compares his play to that of an English author.  His version, he says, is:  pas si compliqué toutefois que celui de “la Comédie des Erreurs”, une pièce que mon illustre confrère en adaptation, William Shakespeare, a également tirée des Ménechsmes. [however, it is not as complicated as the plot of “The Comedy of Errors” by my illustrious fellow author, William Shakespeare whose adaptation was also drawn from Menaechmi.]

The link with Daisy and Violet?  Bernard wrote fast and furiously.  By March 1908 he was already on his second play of the year when he published Les Jumeaux de Brighton.  In his 40 year career (1895-1937) he produced about 20 books and over 50 plays.

My guess is that he was well into writing Les Jumeaux when he spotted this item in le Petit Parisien newspaper on 27 Ferbruary:

Deux phénomènes … viennent de naître à Brighton.  Ce sont les filles d’une servante.  On les a baptisées Violette et Pâquerette.  Elles ont trois semaines et dorment parfaitement bien dans leur berceau où elles sont couchées dos à dos … [Two marvels have just been born in Brighton.  They are daughters of a domestic servant.  They have been christened Violet and Daisy.  They are three weeks old and sleep perfectly well in the cot where they lie back to back …]

“Ah ha !” thought Bernard (in French, of course), “Brighton is fashionable.  The name will attract theatre-goers to my new play.”  The fact that the play is set in Le Havre did not seem to worry the author unduly.

The stage play was a popular success for some years and in 1936 was turned into a film with Raimu and Michel Simon.

Pathé Consortium Cinéma

Publicity Poster, 1936 © Les Documents Cinématographiques, Paris

It would seem that neither the play nor the film ever came to Brighton.  This might have been no great loss for the town.

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