Released in 1963, Mélodie en sous-sol by Henri Verneuil marks the first collaboration between Jean Gabin and Alain Delon, who will later respond in Le Clan des Siciliens (1969) by the same director and Deux hommes dans la ville ( 1973) by José Giovanni.
Mélodie in the basement follows a retired mobster just out of prison but who refuses to buy good behavior. He decides to mount a big break: the burglary of the Palm Beach casino in Cannes. To carry out this project, Charles will have by his side Francis, a young unscrupulous thug and Louis, his brother-in-law. Each will have a well defined role: Charles will monitor the rooms of the casino, Francis will use his charms to visit behind the scenes of the place and Louis will be the driver of the two accomplices.
The filming of the film is not taking place in the best conditions. The tensions between Delon and Verneuil are so frequent that Claude Pinoteau, then assistant director, must act as their intermediary. There is also water in the gas between Gabin and Michel Audiard, dialogist of the film. The two men are long-standing collaborators and sign their 16th film with Mélodie in the basement. Why is their tandem starting to flap?
The actor considers that his role is not important enough and believes that Maurice Biraud, the interpreter of Louis Naudin, has a better text to play because he is friends with the dialogist. The duo never stop quarreling and are not ready to make concessions. After a working relationship of seven years, Gabin and Audiard decide to take different paths, without cutting the bridges. “We were a bit fed up with each other, so we looked for bad pretexts. (…) When I was supposedly falling out with Gabin, I never stopped seeing Gabin. (…) But we didn’t talk about cinema. I was just telling him that I didn’t like the films he made outside of me, that’s all, “ tells Audiard (extract from Audiard by Dominique Chabrol, Flammarion).
If Mélodie in the basement interrupts their collaboration, it meets a large public success with 3.5 million cinema tickets. Audiard subsequently wrote for other major players in French cinema, such as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Bernard Blier, Lino Ventura and Jean Lefebvre. He finally found Gabin at the end of the 1960s-beginning of the 1970s with Le Pacha, Under the sign of the bull and The black flag flies on the pot.