French in Action vit toujours

High School French teacher Matthew Lindsey posted this wonderfully creative FIA tribute elsewhere on the site—a remake of Leçon 15 produced by his class—but I thought it needed to be front and center here. Félicitations !




Dear FIA fans: Hope all of you are well. Yes, it’s been quiet here of late. However, I should have some very exciting news to report to you soon. Barry Lydgate has been in touch and something is afoot that I know most of you will be enthusiastic about. I have only the sketchiest of details, but hope to know more, soon. When I do, you’ll be the next to know.

Meanwhile, the beautiful, rediscovered Virginie (Marie Laure) has sent some us some still photos taken during FIA production by Sylvie Mathé that she wanted me to share. Here is what she said:

J’espère que vous allez bien , je vous envoie ces quelques photos, souvenirs du tournage de French in Action , vous pouvez les mettre dans votre site si vous pensez que cela puisse faire plaisir aux fans ! Amicalement, Virginie

Really lovely. It’s been too long since I’ve watched a FIA. Think I’ll do so tonight!



Bonne Année 2017 !

Here’s a holiday photo sent in by the lovely Virginie Castellani (née Contesse) who we know as Marie-Laure. One of the highlights of the outgoing year for me was discovering the adult Virginie and welcoming her into our group of French in Action fans.

Wishing all the best in the year ahead to everyone in the extended French in Action family!


C’est bien elle !

I’m still recovering from the shock I experienced two days ago when I saw that Virginie Contesse (now Virginie Castellani)—whose post-FIA whereabouts have always been a mystery and the subject of so much speculation over the years—posted a message to our blog, saying hello (see below).

She has kindly sent some recent photos of herself. These should put to rest any suspicion we’re dealing with an imposter (like the mustachioed « fausse bonne soeur » who Marie-Laure encountered at the door in Leçon 34…I love that scene). She looks so much like her younger self…even has pretty much the same haircut!

I think we all suspected little Marie-Laure would grow up to be a beautiful woman. Here’s the proof. Thank you for sharing these, Virginie, and welcome at long last to the family of your adoring fans! We’re ecstatic!


Here is an email Virginie sent to me with more details on her life post-FIA.

Bonjour John , 

Merci infiniment pour votre message et pour votre bon français. Effectivement il m est difficile de communiquer en anglais !!!

Oui j’ai beaucoup de regrets de ne pas avoir pu assister à cette réunion que j ignorait !  

Peut être qu un jour il y en aura une autre ? 

J’aimerai avoir et essayer de reprendre contact avec les autres notamment Valerie que je n ai jamais oublié . 

Merci en tout cas de ne pas m avoir oublié depuis tout ce temps .

J’ai arrêté ma carrière suite à un déménagement dans le sud de la France.

Ensuite j’ai fini mes études et j ai rencontré entre temps mon futur mari qui habitait Monaco.

Mon mari est français et chef saucier dans un grand restaurant.

Quand à moi j ai travaillé avant d être maman dans l’hôtellerie , ensuite j’ai décidé de me consacrer à mes enfants .

Aujourd’hui  je fais des extras en vente sur Monaco, fais de la danse orientale ou je retrouve le public quand nous faisons des spectacles et aime voyager.

J’adore les chats j en ai 3 !!!

Je garde en tout cas un très bon souvenir de ces années de french in action j’ai d’ailleurs pas mal de photos.

Je vous ferais parvenir des photos récentes pour le blog.

À très bientôt

Virginie ( Marie Laure ) .

If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, you can watch the scene avec Marie-Laure et la fausse bonne soeur here at minute 5:10.

Mystère et boule de gomme ! Marie-Laure est découverte après toutes ces années !

Dear FIA-fans,

Ça fait longtemps. Je sais. But it’s time to wake this blog from its slumber. What could occasion such a thing? How about a comment posted to the blog from Virginie Contesse! I have a feeling it’s really her. The age she gives for herself is correct. The email she used is from someone indeed named Virginie, but with another surname, probably that of the husband she mentions. Two children! They could be the age she was when FIA was filmed!

She posted it on the Fancy Robot Archive page where few will see it, so I reproduce it below, along with my reply.

I feel as if a rare and beautiful butterfly has alighted beside me and the last thing I want to do is scare it off. I am hoping she’ll humor us and respond to a few questions if we’re polite and respectful. Let’s let Virginie know how pleased we are she’s come out of hiding to her adoring fans and append your questions to her below as comments and let’s see what happens!

Doigts croisés !

Bonjour à tous les fans de french in action je suis Marie Laure ( Virginie Contesse. ) et je suis tombée par hasard sur ce site .
J ai vu les messages depuis plusieurs années qui m ont fait très plaisir . Aujourd’hui j ai 42 ans et je suis mariée , mère de 2 enfants . Je ne suis plus dans le milieu du cinéma aujourd’hui .
Je vous embrasse .
Marie Laure.

Je n’ai pas de mots…(et pas seulement parce que j’essaie de répondre en français). Vous nous avez beaucoup manqué toutes ces années ! J’espère que vous me permettrez de vous contacter par email. Il serait super si vous pouviez nous dire un peu plus. Pour nous, vous êtes une vrai Super-Star et nous sommes extatique de mieux vous connaître ! Bienvenue à notre site !

UPDATE! Marie-Laure—I mean Virginie—wrote us a longer note in the Fancy Robot comments, I reproduce it below. Merci, Virginie !

Dear Everybody,

I’m so excited to write a comment for you. I just found this website, but I can see that this blog has been created since a long time.

I’m the real Marie-Laure, Virginie Contesse before, and Virginie Castellani now (my husband last name).

I can’t post a photo of me, but this is my e-mail : virginie.castellani1 (at) gmail (dot) com.

It will be a pleasure to talk with you and to send you a lot of photo !

As I wrote before I’ve two childrens : Florian (21 years old), and Anais (17 years old), … I was married at 21 years old (that’s why my childrens are older than you can think).

I try to understand all of your beautiful messages, and I want to tell you that only this message is written by me. (All others are wrong).

My son, helped me a lot to write this message. I hope you will understand me.
As I helped you a lot to learn French, I want to continue and I’m going to translate this message in French.

I wish you all the best to everyone, and do not hesitate to contact me.

Virginie CASTELLANI (Marie-Laure)

Translation in FRENCH !

Bonjour tout le monde,

Je suis tellement excitée d’écrire un commentaire pour vous. Je viens juste de voir ce site, mais je peux voir que ce blog a été crée depuis longtemps.

Je suis la vraie Marie Laure, Virginie Contesse avant, et Virginie Contesse maintenant (le nom de mon mari)

Je ne peux pas poster de photo de moi, mais voici mon e-mail:
virginie.castellani1 (at) gmail (dot) com.

ça sera avec plaisir de parler avec vous et de vous envoyer des photos.

Comme je l’ai écrit avant j’ai deux enfants : Florian (21 ans) et Anais (17 ans), je me suis mariée a 21 ans (voila pourquoi mes enfants sont plus âgés que vous pouvez penser).

J’essaye de comprendre tous vos beaux messages, et je veux vous dire que seul ce message est vraiment écrit par moi (tous les autres sont faux).

Mon fils, m’a beaucoup aidé à écrire ce message. J’espère que vous me comprendrez.

Je vous souhaite tout le meilleur, et n’hésitez pas a me contacter

Virginie CASTELLANI (Marie-Laure)

marie-laure mireille

Remembering Pierre Capretz at Yale

Dear FIA-fans,

I’ve been remiss about not posting anything about the Pierre Capretz memorial service that took place at the Battell Chapel at Yale University on Saturday, October 11. I was present at the event and participated. The other speakers on the schedule were Barry Lydgate, Béatrice Abetti, Maurice Samuels, Suzanne Boorsch, and Brian Reilly. All the others had known Pierre Capretz for decades. I had met him only briefly at the 2011 Reunion. But with the impact he has made on my life via French In Action, I wasn’t at a loss for words and was grateful to have been included. I felt I was there to represent the hundreds of thousands Pierre touched through his magnum opus.

Luckily, thanks to the appearance of a surprise guest, I wasn’t the last speaker, as shown on the schedule copied below. Charles Mayer was with us and gave a heartfelt and poetic tribute to the man who cast him as Robert. (Afterwards at the reception at the Graduate Club, Charles shared some memories of that experience.) We can’t imagine French in Action without Charles Mayer as Robert, Valérie Allain as Mireille and of course it never would have existed without Pierre Capretz.

In my remarks, I reflected on Pierre Capretz the myth-maker, Pierre Capretz the « sage of the human condition » and Pierre Capretz the talented actor. I played some of my favorite clips of Pierre from FIA (unfortunately I’m unable to post videos on this blog). In between speakers there were musical selections that accompanied a slide show of photos from Pierre’s life including many splendid ones from his childhood. The entire event was recorded, although I do not know when or if it will be available to be seen. I will of course post something here if it is.

It was lovely to see many of the folks I had met four years ago at the reunion, including Sylvie Mathé, Pierre’s partner of many decades, as well as to meet some others for the first time, including Pierre’s son.

Sylvie passed along to me a number of great photos of Pierre she wished me to share with you, many of them taken by Sylvie herself. (Pierre photographed well and Sylvie is a talented photographer: she took the stills you’re probably familiar with of Mireille and Robert used in FIA.) They are posted below scans of the leaflet and invitation for the service.

As I said in my remarks, there is a timeless quality about French in Action and in a very real sense Pierre Capretz remains with us.


Handout at the Pierre Capretz Remembrance service


Handout at the Pierre Capretz Remembrance service


Announcement for the Pierre Capretz Remembrance service


Announcement for the Pierre Capretz Remembrance Service

PC juin 1950

Pierre Capretz in 1950. The year he finished his PhD and started teaching at the University of Florida

Photo PC 1 Pierre bar à champagne Pierre black tie Pierre cabine

Pierre Paris Pierre Riviéra Pierre-in-Action Pont 1

Memorial Ceremony for Pierre Capretz

Dear FIA fans: A memorial ceremony for Pierre Capretz on the Yale campus has been scheduled for Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 1:30 PM. Check here for details. I know your attendance would be appreciated if you can make it. I plan to go and will say a few words at the event. Many of you have already left comments here about the significance of Pierre Capretz and French in Action in your life, but I would be pleased to relay more of your thoughts and reflections to those in attendance. Please leave as a comment to this post anything you’d like me to read. Thank you.