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Repka Nick form 11 ”B”
As I have never seen a Max
Linder film, I cannot write anything about him. I have thus reproduced here two separate articles. Suffice to say, Walter Kerr in
The Silent Clowns (see books page) rates him as a true pioneer of film comedy (e.g. the joke of being unveiled on a statue used by
Keaton in The Goat and Chaplin in City Lights was first used by
Linder). b. Gabriel-Maximilien
Leuvielle Dec 16 1883, Caverne, France. d. 1925.
At 17 he left high school to study drama and soon after began an acting career on the Bordeaux stage. He moved to Paris in 1904 and started playing supporting parts in melodramas. In 1905 he embarked upon a parallel career in
Pathe films. For three years he spent his days in the film studios and his evenings on the stage, using his real name in the theater and the pseudonym Max Linder on the screen. By 1908 he had given up the stage to concentrate on his increasingly successful screen career. By 1910 he was an internationally popular comedian, possibly the best-known screen comic on either side of the Atlantic in the years before WW I. Typically playing a dapper dandy of the idle class, he developed a style of slapstick silent screen comedy that anticipated Mack Sennett and Chaplin and set the premises of the genre for years to come. Ferdinand Zecca, Louis Gasnier, and Alberto
Capelani were among the directors of his earliest films.
By 1910, Linder was writing and supervising, and from 1911 also directing, all his own films. His popularity was at its peak in 1914, when he was called to arms. Early in the war he was a victim of gas poisoning and suffered a serious breakdown. The injury was to have a lasting effect on his physical and mental well-being. He returned briefly to French films, but finding his popularity vanishing, he accepted a bid from Essanay and left for the US late in 1916. Continuous ill health hampered the American phase of Linder's career from the start. In mid-1917, after only three films, he was felled by double pneumonia and spent nearly a year recovering in a Swiss sanitarium. When he returned to the US in 1921, he formed his own production unit, releasing through United
Artists. But after making only three more American films, including the celebrated parody (of Fairbanks’ The Three Musketeers) The Three Must-
Get-Theres, he returned to Europe, where he married the daughter of a Paris restaurateur in 1923. Linder made two more film appearances: one in France, the other in Austria, but realized his career was finished. In 1925 he entered a suicide pact with his wife.
Their bodies were discovered side by side in a Paris hotel. He remained forgotten for years, until the 60s, when many of his old films began turning up, affording film historians an opportunity to evaluate his career and his contributions to the evolution of screen comedy.
Quinlan’s Film Comedy Actors
With his foxy brown eyes matched by a like moustache, cane, elegant cutaway coat, silk cravat, kid gloves and gleaming top hat, Max Linder could have been every inch the French boulevardier who “walked along the Bois de
Boulogne with an independent air”--had not, in films, everything gone wrong for him. Max Linder was France’s first great film comedian. But not for him any kind of dress that smacked of the circus clown. Max was always debonair, even in the face of disaster.
His early films in France, of which he made scores, are cameos of catastrophe, little gems which work a variety of gags on a single situation, such as taking a bath, getting dressed, or (quite often, as the wolfish Max pursued his prey) chasing a damsel. He was enormously popular in the early 1900s. And, had not war intervened, he would perhaps have been happily entertaining continental audiences into his sixties, competing with such upstarts as Jacques Tati and
Fernandei. Linder spent the early part of his life in America, where his father had gone to plant vineyards. When the business failed the family returned to France and Max completed his education there. He was a natural athlete (once pole-vault champion of South West
France), an ability that was to stand him in good stead in the more energetic of his comedy capers on screen. Leaving high school in
1901, he studied drama for two years before beginning a stage career under his real name. But by 1905 he was playing minor film roles as
Max Linder, progressing to comic leads by 1907 and international fame by 1910. His style of comedy somewhat foreshadowed that of Chaplin
(one of his greatest fans) and his dapper, disaster-prone dandy would later prove a useful prototype for Charley Chase. These were the golden years for Linder, who directed all his own work from 1911 to
1917. But the war changed everything. Linder not only received severe shrapnel wounds but was the victim of serious gassing, which left him with moods of black melancholia in between patches of inspiration.
With his work output and his popularity in France diminishing, a partially recovered Linder accepted an offer to work in America in
1916. After three of a projected run of 12 two-reelers, however, his health broke down again. Returning to the continent after a dire battle with double pneumonia, the ailing Max entered a convalescent home in Switzerland for a year. Refusing to retire despite continued fragile health, Linder returned to America, formed his own production company there and made three feature films which contain much of his best work. The first, Seven Years Bad Luck, contains an extended sequence involving a mirror with no glass which predates several such scenes with other prominent American comedians, notably The Marx
Brothers in Duck Soup. The last of the three, The Three
Must-Get-Theres, a triumphant parody of Dumas’s famous swashbuckler, contains sustained action tomfoolery which makes the
Richard Lester version 50 years later pale by comparison. But the films were only moderately successful with American audiences and
Linder found trouble getting his work distributed. Disconsolate after a deal with Samuel Goldwyn fell through, Max returned to France.
There was one more film here and one in Austria but the once-confident Linder was becoming an increasingly forlorn figure.
There was talk of another film but Linder and his young wife entered into a suicide pact and, a few weeks short of his 42nd birthday, were found dead together in a Paris hotel. Fortunately, in later years his daughter Maud launched a battle to bring his genius to a fresh audience, resulting in two compilation films, Laugh With Max Linder in 1963, and The Man in the Silk Hat 20 years later.
1905 La premiere sortie d'un collegien
1906 Le premier cigare d'un collegien
1906 Le poison
1906 Le pendu
1906 Les contrebandiers
1907 Idee d'apache
1907 Une mauvaise vie
1907 La mort d'un toreador
1907 La vie de Polichinelle
1907 Les debuts d'un patineur
1908 La rencontre imprevue
1908 Une conquete
1908 La tres moutarde
1909 Un mariage a l'americaine
1909 Le petit jeune homme
1909 See the picture!
1920 Le feu sacre
1921 Seven Years Bad Luck
1921 Be My Wife
1922 The Three Must-Get-Theres
1923 Au secours!
1924 Clown aus Liebe/Le roi du cirques (GB and US: Max, King of the Circus)
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