Young pianist in the first cinemas

From 1916, at the age of 15-16, Henri Tomasi, out of pecuniary necessity, played the piano in the cinemas of Marseille, his native city: the “Femina”, the “Saint-Ferréol”, etc … Accompanying the first silent films he learns to improvise, which reveals his gifts for composition. The films of Chaplin, and many others, give him a taste, which will never fade, for the cinema. Student at the Conservatoire in Paris in the 20s, he continues to “do the job”, “Studio de l’Etoile”, “Marivaux”, etc … Until his death he remained a cinephile warned.


1938 : Légions d’honneur – Director : Maurice Gleize

1939 : Récif de corail

1939 : Les frères corses

1939 : L’homme du Niger

1944 : L’Ile d’amour

1945 : Naïs – Directors : M. Pagnol and Raymond Leboursier

1946 : Les santons : short film on ballet represented at the Paris Opera

1946 : Various documentaries :
Week-end américainSous terre et sous merChasses excentriquesFemelles meurtrièresGangsters de la forêtErmite au pays des crabesMarécagesMystères de NeptunePays désertiques

1948 : Colomba

1948 : Au bout de la route

1951 : Côte d’Ivoire

1951 : L’Ile de lumièreDirector : Cousinet

1954 : Les Lettres de mon moulinDirector : M. Pagnol

Henri Tomasi and exoticism

Marseille gave Henri Tomasi early taste of distant countries, and he wanted to become a sailor, like many of his Corsican parents; Africa and Asia attracted him particularly. The Colonial Exhibition of 1931 in Paris will stimulate his imagination and inspire him a symphonic poem that will be a great success and establish its notoriety, Tam-Tam, based on a radio play by Julien Maigret. The latter, director of the station “Radio-Colonial” then founded, hires him as a conductor. If asked by Maurice Gleize in 1938 to compose the music of “Legions of Honor”, it is thanks to the impact Tam-Tam had. It is important to note that in 1936 Henri Tomasi was an ardent supporter of the Popular Front and in 1968 he composed a Third World Symphony dedicated to the emancipation of all oppressed peoples. His commitment as a leader to “Radio-Colonial” and his score for the film Legions of Honor obviously have nothing to do with any sympathy for the colonialism to which he was opposed. They are much more related to its attraction for “exoticism”.