From 1951, parallel to his stage career he kept on shooting two movies a year on average. Sacha Guitry directed him in Si Paris nous était conté and Si Versailles m'était conté; Gianni Franciolini worked with him on the small segment of Les amants de la Villa Borghese; Clément Duhour also had a small segment with Gérard in La vie a deux. Then came the more popular ones: Les belles de nuit by René Clair, in which the mythical hero takes refuge in his dreams; Le rouge et le noir, in which JUlien Sorel struggles between fame and love, by Claude-Autant Lara; Les orgueilleux by Yves Allégret, a moving story of an alcoholic doctor to whom love returns his human dignity; Monsieur Ripois by René Clément after the novel by Louis Hémon. Ripois is ambiguously despicable and victimized at the same time; in this role Gérard was considered to have showed every facet of his wonderful talent. He turned an unpleasant man into a hero of the first degree, with his moods of melancholy, false honesty, elegance, spirit and humour.
In Les grandes manoeuvres by René Clair he plays an impertinent but irresistible seducer, whose powers are impaired by an unexpected love (a role somewhat similar to that of Valmont from Les liaisons dangereuses a few years later). After that, Yves Allégret offers him a role in his movie La meilleure part. It is a slightly different role from Gérard's previous ones; the movie is about simple mine workers and their simple wish to better their living conditions. The movie won the award for Best Direction at the Karlovy-Vary film festival.
At that point Gérard felt that he could try his hand at movie directing. His wish was to work with René Wheeler on the movie adaptation of La légende de Uylenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak, a story about the mythical hero of Dutch resistance. He was similar to Fanfan la Tulipe, but more honest and up-to-date, expressing problems of our times: the constant struggle for freedom and liberation. Georges Sadoul, a friend, introduced Gérard to Joris Ivens, who would help Gérard direct the movie. The shooting lasted from february to may of 1956 in Belgium, Sweden, The Netherlands and France. Despite numerous problems, the makers of the movie were hoping for a reception similar to that of Fanfan on the audience's part. They were not expecing the facts: cold criticism after its premiere in november in Paris. Critics did not like the changing rhythm of the movie (parts too slow preceded by parts too fast), and they claimed that a nation's fight for freedom cannot be depicted through farce and jokes. (Obviously they would have considered Monty Python the worst movie makers ever. Webmistress' note.) The audience did not like the movie too much either, and Gérard, apart from losing a significant amount of money on the project, as well as priceless work and energy in its making, was naturally discouraged and deceived.
Even before Till was shown, Gérard embarked on another perilous journey: he incarnated painter Modigliani in Montparnasse 19. It was supposed to be directed in colours by Max Ophuls; when the director died, Jacques Becker took on the job and the movie was shot in black and white. Gérard started his work on this role with as much enthusiasmas as for his previous ones: he read everything he could find on Modigliani, he visited the places the painter had frequented. Audiences did not like this movie; neither did they like Pot-Bouille after the novel by émile Zola, or Le Joueur after the novel by Dostoevsky. In Pot-Bouille he is surrounded by several women, all of whom are swooning for his character; in Le joueur he plays the weak-willed gambler of the well-known Russian writer. (Webmistress' note: Montparnasse 19 is probably the first movie I saw with Gérard Philipe, and I consider both movie and Gérard's acting to be magnificent. The other two movies are also very good, and I find it puzzling that critics and the French audience claimed: the Gérard Philipe miracle had ended there.)