• 52'
  • Authors : Frédéric Decossas, Renaud Fessaguet
  • 05-12-2010
  • Master : 1917

DE GAULLE AND HIS GORILLAS | France 5 | La case du siècle

Throughout the ten years he spent as head of the French State, General de Gaulle was protected by four bodyguards picked by André Malraux. Forty years after his death, three of them share their intimate memories of a great man, who also protected his private life. Like the three musketeers there were four of them. All for one and one for all: General de Gaulle’s bodyguards remained in his service until his death. There was Roger Tessier, the boxer; Henri Djouder, the Kabyle, a fighter with the Free French; René Auvray, the parachutist, who was replaced in 1963 by Raymond Sasia, the marksman; and Paul Comiti, their boss, Corsican, marine commando and resistance fighter. It was he who set the rules for those same four gorillas, whose devotion to the General was total. Responsible for his security during his travels, they embodied a golden age of close protection, with no cell phones, no earpieces and no snipers on the rooftops. In 1964 during his triumphant tour of Latin America, students jostled the General. So Paul Comiti picked him up and carried him: thus the legend of De Gaulle’s Gorillas was born. Today, René Auvray and Roger Tessier remember, “He didn’t want us, but he accepted us”; “we didn’t call him “The General” amongst ourselves, we called him “Pépère / Grandpa”.” They were the rampart between him and the crowd, in which de Gaulle loved to mingle, and the photographers and journalists that he appreciated less. “He never liked us photographers much because he didn’t like being photographed in his glasses,” explains Bernard Charlet, senior correspondent with France-Soir. De Gaulle’s shortsightedness provided a real challenge for the four gorillas, who had to be on constant alert in case he fell. But the most testing of all for the bodyguards was their boss’ character: “He ignored the danger,” explains Raymond Sasia. During the 1960s, no less than twenty assassination attempts against the General were foiled. Twice he escaped death. In this film, with the look of a 60’s detective story, gorillas and photographers relate their anecdotes, revealing a mischievous and proud de Gaulle, but a man who, all through his life, was able to remain discrete about his private side.