This small piano piece is a light-hearted piece of musical grotesquerie, a mock funeral procession with a jaunty beat and a carefree tune over a humorously not-slow-enough funeral march rhythm. Gounod himself, recognizing its popularity, set it for orchestra in 1879. Other composers have arranged it for various combinations, and the piece gained international fame beginning in the 1950s when it was selected as the sardonic theme music introducing appearances by film director Alfred Hitchcock at the beginnings and ends of his television anthology series on suspense and the grotesque, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Gounod's dead marionette is now as unseverably linked in most people's minds with the portly British filmmaker as Rossini's William Tell Overture has been with the Lone Ranger.
The piece has a little program: the marionette has died in a duel, and the funeral procession enters. A contrasting central section depicts the "mourners" stopping off for refreshments at an inn on the funeral route. At the end, though, Gounod lets a little more solemnity show.