Marcel Pagnol wrote the screenplay for this first in his trilogy of films named after the characters Marius, Fanny, and Cesar.
Cesar (Raimu) owns a cafe on the waterfront in Marseilles, and his son Marius (Pierre Fresnay) works for him. Although the characters often argue with each other, the underlying tone is usually affection rather than hostility. Marius is in love with Fanny (Orane Demazis), the daughter of Norine the fishmonger. Although Fanny is about 20 and he is about 50, Panisse wants to marry her and discusses it with her mother. Panisse and Marius quarrel, because Fanny and Marius are very much in love.
A month later Marius and Fanny spend the night together. His father and her mother discuss the problem and hope they will marry soon. Norine scolds her daughter and says Marius must propose soon. Arriving late for work, Marius tells Cesar that he was reading until dawn. His father asks him how he is getting along with Fanny and if they are going to get married. Cesar tells his son how Zoe was abandoned by a Spanish sailor. Marius assures his father they will marry and tells the chief he cannot go to sea as he had promised; but Fanny tells the chief that Marius will make the voyage. Marius asks Fanny to call her mother; but Fanny knows that he really wants to go to sea. She tells him not to worry, and he says that she can marry Panisse. Cesar is blocking the way to the ship; but Fanny tells Marius to go out the window, and she will distract his father. Cesar tells Fanny how glad he is that they are marrying and how much he really loves Marius. As he welcomes her into their home, the ship leaves with Marius.
These characters are all quite likable even though they are often at cross-purposes. The French seem to have a way of arguing with each other without giving or taking offense that is quite refreshing. Marius is able to explore his deep desire for adventure and travel, while Fanny graciously sacrifices marriage because she really loves Marius and is willing to let him have what he wants.