Passing of Bernard Château, the Gentleman with the Movie Camera Car

La Lettre AFC n°267

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We were saddened to learn of the death of Bernard Château, “a camera car specialist” as he liked to call himself, on Monday, 15 August 2016, at the age of 83. His long career spanned feature-length and short films, television advertisements, second units, and much more. But the project of which he was proudest was his work on Gérard Oury’s cult classic, La Grande vadrouille. We will always remember his attendance at the Micro Salon in 2011 and 2014, his friendly nature, and his two last camera cars, which he took care of like the apples of his eye !
Bernard Château - DR
Bernard Château

Born on 23 February 1933, Bernard Château began working in the early 60s for the Loca-Films corporation, where he began by preparing prop cars and camera cars for shootings. Having left the company a few years later, he chose to become the driver of Lumex or Pierre Durin cars. In 1970, he met with key grip André Bouladoux, another person who had a great influence on grip equipment, and began a collaboration that lasted until 2003.

Besides his career as a camera car man, which spanned 40 years, Bernard was an inveterate collector. He could be found browsing through the stands at the Foire de Bièvres or the Cinglés du cinema in Argenteuil, or sitting with his friends discussing the world of cinema, always ready with a story to tell. He would always bring home some object that was missing from his shelves. Indeed, whoever had had the opportunity to visit him at his home in Eure-and-Loire could but marvel at the collection of instruments and accessories he had assembled in his personal treasure trove.

He liked to lend pieces from his collection to public expositions whenever he could. For example, he lent his 1966 Cadillac Eldorado, which he used from 1968 on La Chamade through 1997 on Le Bossu, to an exhibit at the 35th Salon Retromobile in 2010. He later presented it again at the Micro Salon in 2014, as he had presented his 1962 Oldsmobile Sky Rocket in 2011.
That Oldsmobile had been transformed into a camera car in the 1960s by Pierre Durin for his company Loca Films. It was equipped with Citroën hydraulic suspension, a 3-speed automatic transmission, and a 325-horsepower 8-cylinder V Rocket engine from 1961. In 1966, Bernard drove the camera car for Gérard Oury during the famous scene from La Grande vadrouille in which Bourvil and Louis de Funès attempt to flee two Wehrmacht soldiers on motorbike in an old Citroën truck.
The following year, in 2012, Bernard brought his Cadillac to the 14th annual Traversée de Paris en voitures anciennes (Paris Antique Car Demonstration), which he presided that year. Recently, his Deux-Chevaux, which had been used for special effects on Le Corniaud, and which he preserved with special care, was presented on Saturday, 23 July, in Vézelay (Yonne) during one of the numerous festivities organized to celebrate the 50th anniversary of La Grande vadrouille.

The AFC presents his widow, Josiane, his family, and his close friends with its sincere condolences.

  • Read (in French) the memorials written by cinematographers Bernard Cassan, AFC, Pierre-William Glenn, AFC, and Pierre Lhomme, AFC, key grip Jean-Pierre Mas, and production designer Laurent Tesseyre.