The film is based on a true story of a young actor, Robert Hugues Lambert, who was hired to play the role of aviation hero Mermoz in occupied France during WW II. But his career came to a brutal end when his homosexuality was discovered and he was sent to a Nazi camp. The Vichy government's directive to bring to screen edifying films based on national myths, such as Charlemagne or Joan of Arc, led one producer to decide to make a film about Mermoz, an airmail pioneer who perished at the height of his fame, crashing in 1936. This symbolic figure was also an activist in an extreme rightwing party, the vice-president of a movement known as 'The Crosses of Fire.' Lambert, a relatively obscure theatre actor was hired for his physical resemblance. Another actor was hired to complete the film, but the sound crew managed to smuggle a microphone through the barbed wires to get a recording of Lambert's voice. The film had its premiere in Paris, but Lambert was shipped to Auschwitz, never to return. Based on this story, Jean Claude Grumberg wrote a fictional comedy about making a film during the Occupation. He decided that only a comedy could narrate the way most French people went about their business with their heads in the sand during the Occupation, seeking refuge in derivative comedy. The film's light tone, however, changes dramatically at the end when Lambert is taken away.
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