Finding our first location .. and clues to the next

The pier at L'Île-Rousse in April 2024 ©

So where to start on our quest for filming locations? Luckily some years ago Uli had asked the author of Grasshopper Island - Joy Whitby - if she recalled where the filming had taken place all those years ago. Joy explained how the island of Corsica came to be selected. Frank Muir was a friend of hers and had suggested Corsica as the ideal location. Its sunny climate and the happy fact that he owned a holiday home there was instrumental in bringing the Grasshopper Island production to Corsica. Frank Muir would play the part of rival grasshopper expert Dr. Hopper and the cast and crew would stay in rented accommodation in the locality.

Joy was able to recall that Franks home was in a village high above the idyllic French seaside town of L'Île-Rousse. Although she could not recall the exact name of the village, she did remember that the beach scenes took place close to L'Île-Rousse. The series was filmed in summer 1970, 54 years before these intrepid bloggers set off on our Blue Button expedition of discovery. We did not know if the locations would still exist more than half a century later. But we would do our best to discover them. Only time would tell.

Armed with the knowledge that L'Île-Rousse would be our starting point, we set off from our base in Calvi on a sunny April morning. Travelling along the coast by train we were like excited school boys on a school outing. The Mediterranean sea shone like a jewel as the little train - U Trinichellu - made its way along the single track toward L'Île-Rousse. Soon we alighted at the tiny station. A short walk later and we were standing on the pier.

Mr Button & Lupus arrive to “the mainland” © Grasshopper Productions 1971

Before our arrival to Corsica, we had individually prepared by re-watching the TV series and selecting several “still frame” moments from any scenes which showed good geographical landmarks. Perhaps one of the most identifiable scenes occurs in episode 9. In this episode Lupus and Mr Button set off in their row boat to reach the mainland. When they arrive they disembark at the pier and meet several local people who welcome them. You will have seen this still frame and “location reveal” in our previous blog post.

While I was creating this still frame comparison video, three local men were walking with a dog down the ramp onto the pier. As they passed, I heard my travel partner Uli exclaim “Excuse moi monsuiers!”. I must admit that I was just a little bit mortified by his willingness to socialise despite the absence of the required language skills in which to successfully do so. Nonetheless Uli explained, in a well rehearsed sentence, that he did not in fact speak any French. One of the men shrugged his shoulders and proclaimed in French “then speak Corse”. He did so in a jolly way with a knowing smile, and we knew straight away that these three friends would be willing to help. With much joviality and a lot of hand gestures we managed to explain why we were at L'Île-Rousse. Clutching my handful of still photos I began to show these men the scene featuring Mr Button and Lupus. They studied the photos intently and particularly one photo which featured Lupus doing some grocery shopping. In this photo, appears some local people and our new found quayside friends began pointing at the photo and stating what sounded like a name. “Jo Jo”, they proclaimed, going on to explain that this man seen standing with Lupus had passed away some years ago. They also provided the name of the village in which the vegetable shop was located. “Monticello” - was the word they repeated several times. We gratefully wrote this information down.

Chris showing scenes from Ep. 9 to the local "elderly boys" 

Moving on to another photo, which featured the waiter who served Mr. Button in episode 9, they once again provided a name. “This is Paul Viard” they told us, in French, and Uli and I looked at each other in disbelief. Could it be that the first three local people whom we encountered were able to identify some of the people who appeared in “the mainland” scenes? It was quite amazing ! In my bag was my iPad containing all 13 episodes in digital form. I was able to play the scenes which featured the exact location upon which we were standing to these elderly boys. These kind gentleman were so enthusiastic and engaging, and seemed truly delighted that Uli had stopped them. Conversely we were flabbergasted at our good fortune. We asked their names, and they asked ours. The encounter was really very wonderful. We bade them farewell and packed the photos and iPad, excited to move to the next location. We thank Hilaire, Toussant and Pierre for a wonderful welcome to L'Île-Rousse and for their helpful support.

Since Mr. Button can be seen dining at a large tree lined square, we walked onward into this square which we were to learn was called Place Pascal Pauli. Our main focus was to see if an ice cream shop still existed at this location, as one of our freeze frame photos featured the words “crème glacée maison” upon one of the buildings. Would we encounter any further local people? Would we discover more about this village called Monticello or the man called Paul Viard ? Could he or a member of his family still be living at L'Île-Rousse?

That's the topic of our next blog post - now available here:

02 - The Ice Cream Shop


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