MovieChat Forums > Father Goose (1964) Discussion > French Consul Fleeing Japanese Invasion?

French Consul Fleeing Japanese Invasion?

If Miss Freneau's father was a diplomat for the French Government, wouldn't he have been representing the Vichy government and allied with the Japanese? The Vichy Government was set up by France to politically cry "UNCLE" to the Germans. While this new goverment was basically a German puppet state, they did openly engage allied forces in combat. The Vichy rounded up French Jewish citizens and even set up concentration camps for the Nazis, on French soil. The events in Father Goose take place in 1942, almost exactly in the middle of the Vichy regime wich ran from 1940 - 1944? Why would he flee?


Because she was EMPLOYED by British and American officials as a governess. She may have been able to save her own butt with your explanation, but her current association with this personel would make her highly suspect. And it would offer no mercy for her charges in any case. It is obvious where she placed her responsability in this respect.


Watch the movie again, this is the direct quote " I am Miss Catherine Freneau who is there please?" Commander Houghton responds. " I am the daughter of Charles Freneau the French Consul at Rabaul." "Yes I am in charge of 7 students from the consulute school: 4 English, 2 French, and 1 Australian, all of them daughters of diplomatic personnel. When the bombing started it was decided to evacuate them to Australia, unfortunately the plane our group was on put us down on Bundy and Mr. Eckland has been kind enough to bring us here."

During the snakebite scene where she and Mr. Eckland get drunk she explains her role at the consulate, "The truth is that when my mother died I became the mistress of the Consulate. I presided over all of the diplomatic dinners, we had martinis before dinner, white wine with the fish, red wine with main course, champaigne with dessert, cognac with the coffee, and port after dinner."

She wasn't EMPLOYED as a governess and had no reason to fear reprisals. She was escorting the children because of her political standing. Basically, she had more clout than a simple governess. Which still begs the question, why is a French diplomat escorting children from England, a country France was at war with?

I don't understand why you claim that she was working for the Americans. The only American in the film was Mr. Eckland and she never worked for him. I see this as another attempt to ignore Vichy France's crimes during WWII.


I mentioned Americans because of Anne. If I recal correctly, Anne was an American.
I stated "employed" meaning she was "working at....." not necesarily meaning stating she was on some payroll.
And I agree with your opinion of Vichy France.


If I recal correctly, Anne was an American.

No, Anne was probably Australian. There were no Americans among Mlle. Freneau's charges. In fact, Josborn828 even quoted from Catherine's explanation to Commander Houghton: "I am in charge of 7 students from the consulute [sic] school: 4 English, 2 French, and 1 Australian, all of them daughters of diplomatic personnel."

Josborn, wasn't Catherine mistress of the French Consulate for a number of years before the war started? The Consulate would have been pretty far removed from the European theater of operations, and much closer to Australia, a British colony--so maybe the Vichy government hadn't got around to replacing Catherine's father with a pro-Vichy official. Why would the people involved in writing and producing this film have wanted to whitewash the detestable Vichy "government"?

Of course you realize: this means war!


Tobistiener, Like you, I would have thought that Australia and other members of the Empire, realm, or whatever the proper word is, would be at war with the Vichy government since England was but they were not. I did some research before posting the comment and found out that Canada, due to it's many French citizens, maintained normal diplomatic relations with Vichy until November 1942. Australia maintained relations until the end of the April of 1945. Below is the link to the wikipedia page on Vichy France*, you can see their status with the different countries in the "relations with the allies" section.

In regards to the reason the studio might ignore the Vichy angle, relations with France and the United States were actually very bad at the time. I think that most people know that DeGaulle was a hero to the people of France during WWII but I think that far fewer know that most of his contemporaries despised the man. During the mid sixties after France became a nuclear power, they withdrew from NATO. The organization that was created to protect the countries of western Europe from being occupied by the soviet block. France had been occupied twice in just under 25 years and after the people of the allied countries paid a terrible price to restore a free Europe. There timing is terrible because 1964 and 1965 were the 20th anniversary of the liberation of France and now the war in Viet-Nam, a french colony and the sight of another war the French lost was begining to heat up.

The movie came out in 1964 but there were two incidents that occured in 1966 and 1967, that really speak volumes about France's relationship with the U.S. and Canada during this time. In 1966, shortly after France withdrew from NATO, DeGaulle contacted the United States demanded (not asked) "all American soldiers be removed from French soil". During a meeting between DeGaulle and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Lyndon Johnson ordered the Secretary to ask if "his order demanding that all U.S. soldiers be removed from French soil applied to the 100,000 soldiers (73,000 in WWII and 30,000 in WWI) buried there, that died fighting for France?".

The second event occured in Canada on July 24, 1967. During a speech at Quebec City's city hall DGaulle said that seeing the French Canadian crowd cheer him in the city reminded him of his "triumphant return to Paris after its liberation from Germany" (basically comparing the Canadian government to the Nazi's) and closed the speech to a largely french speaking audience by saying "Vive le Québec libre! Vive le Canada français! Et vive la France!" ("Long live free Quebec! Long live French Canada! And long live France!").

I have included another link.** It recalls the event, Explains Degaulle's reasons for making the statement and gives examples of the affect it had on Canada.

While I don't think that there was a concerted effort to "prop up" France after WWII, I don't think that the practice was discouraged. If you ask people the average U.S. citizen about France's involvement in WWII, I think 90% of Americans you ask (that consider themselves knowledgeable about WWII) about France in WWII will even know about Vichy France. Except for Casablanca, the only mention of Vichy I can think of is in "The Big Red One" and they make it seem like 5 minutes into the landing, the French troops kill the evil officer and run out to greet the allies with open arms.

You can make the same argument about other European nations of the Axis except for Germany. Von Ryan's express portrays the Italian army as an unwilling pawns of Germany with only the POW camps commander being openly against the allies. I can't think of a single film that mentions any of the other countries of Europe fighting with the Axis. Below is a list of countries that fought with the Axis***





I would have thought that Ms Frenault's situation was clear - and actually that of the French Consulate.

Bombs don't say "Ah, that's ok. We'll ignore that building, it's Vichy."

Most bombing was indiscriminate: the Consul would send his daughter away and what better excuse than to put her in charge of the kids?

From the way Ms Frenault knows the kids it would be a surprise if she did not also teach them, but even if not, the bombing issue seals it for me.

On a different note, the Vichy issue - and for that matter since you bring it up, the Italians - is a difficult one. By no means every French man or woman supported the Vichy government, ditto the Italians supporting the Fascists. The Italians did not have the enthusiasm for conquest that Mussolini had. And in some ways we have those individuals to thank: by losing ground in Yugoslavia, Greece and Africa, his Austrian mate Adolf had to bail him out, further stretching his forces and making victory all the more likely. We often talk of D-Day as the Second Front. It wasn't. It was probably better described as the fourth!


Being of European Descent, I think we give each other a pass when it comes to treatment of the enemy. Look at the 442 RCT for example, recruited from Japanese Internment Camps and only allowed to fight in Europe. While at the same time: Italian and German born "Americans" were sent to Europe with little thought.

I have often thought the same thing about the D-Day invasion but people never talk about how the Soviets maintained normal relations with Japan until after the "the bomb" was dropped and then demanded control of northern Japan. No telling how many lives would have been saved if they would have allowed US bombers to attack Japan from bases inside USSR. The few times US Pilots did perform emergency landings in the USSR, the pilots were arrested and their planes confiscted and copied. The copied a captured and copied the B-29 so closely the rudder pedals had Boeing cast on them.

I was watching this show on the History Channel, back when they had historical programing on it, and they discusses Mien Kampf II. Take it with a grain of salt, but in the writings, Hitler developed the plans for "the Holocaust" by studying how the US handled Native Americans, If you read it the similarities are quite shocking.


I concur with your contempt for the Vichy government.

However, as to how she wound up with British children to care for, I think you only need to give some thought to the misfortunes of war. A cinematic example of such misfortune is how Jamie Graham in "Empire of the Sun" wound up in a Japanese internment camp. In reality, many families wound up in the Los Banos Japanese interment camp in the Philippines.

Whether or not there is a logical explanation for how she wound up with these children in her care, it's obvious she took her responsibilities for them with deep care and concern.

Also, during World War II, and in 1964, when "Father Goose" was filmed, women took their responsibilities for children--all children--resolutely and fiercely. Unfortunately, that's not always true in 2011.


Vichy France was the legal government of France. Its diplomats were the legal representatives of the French government. The French Consul is not however a diplomat, technically - no consular official is.

Everyone fled from the Japanese invasion. The Japs killed or imprisoned all non-natives, irrespective of nationality. Even Nazi officials were not safe.


holy hell it's just a Cary Grant movie! It's never been billed as a documentary on WWII or Vichy France. I have a degree in history and am still capable of suspending reality to watch a film. Get over yourself!

The people you idolize wouldn't like you.


I think everyone is missing the point here: whether Miss Freneau is a French citizen, a governess, or merely escorting American, British and Australian young ladies to a safe area in the early days of WWII, is not the issue. The fact is the Japanese Imperial Army & Navy was known for their mistreatment, abuse and killing of non-Japanese women in WWII. Any Allied country's women, be they Chinese, American, Australian, British, or any other nation, would be subject to torture, rape, imprisionment, and fear of death at the hands of their Japanese captors. Fear is a powerful motivator to escape at any length, by any means and by any method. The failure to escape would mean submission to one's captors, what ever they decided to do with you.



Which leads to the question:

Since the rules and etiquette of war were changing why be so confident that diplomatic immunity would extend not only to the CHILDREN of diplomats but their presumably embassy-employed "nanny" that said nanny would reveal on an open airwave her real name and she was with the children of several diplomats? Arrogance? Entitlement issues? Blind faith?


Many people who are not regular users of military radio communications and are, therefore, not frequently reminded of communication security issues treat open frequencies as secure. Those whom we monitored and were most likely to compromise security were senior officers, field grade and above.