Slapstick Italiano: Marcel Perez

Robinet vuol fare il jockey
R: Marcel Perez (i.e. Marcel Fabre). B: Arrigo Frusta. K: Giovanni Vitrotti. D: Marcel Perez. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1910

L’Auto di Robinet
R: Marcel Fabre. D: Marcel Fabre. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino. It 1911

Robinet aviatore
K: Giovanni Vitrotti. D: Marcel Perez. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1911

Amor pedestre
R: Marcel Perez. D: Marcel Perez. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1914

Perez was a comedy star first in Europe and then the U.S., much like Max Linder. He was born in 1885 (or so), spent the early part of his entertainment career in circuses and music halls (we believe), and started appearing in films around 1900 (allegedly). Details about his life are about as murky as an eyeful of cream pies (partly because of the tall tales he liked to cheerfully mix in his backstory). We do know that in 1910 the Ambrosio Company of Italy gave him his own starring comedy series, some of which survive today. When WWI began, Perez left Europe for the U.S., where he continued to direct and star in successful comedies. A big reason why much of Perez’s story has fallen into obscurity is probably because he used as many names as a phone book. At different times he went by Marcel Fabre, Fernandez Perez, Marcel F. Perez, and Marcel Perez, and he apparently used a different screen nickname for almost every film company he worked for: Robinet, Bungles, Tweedledum, Twede-Dan, and Tweedy! (…) He was a perfect fit for cartoony gags and could pull off a zany acting style that stayed just this side of the Keystone Ford Sterling/Al St. John line. Some of his mannerisms just might remind you a little of Jerry Lewis.”

“According to both the film’s listing on European Film Gateway and on Cineteca Milano’s site, Amor Pedestre was inspired by the play ‘Le Basi’ by Futurist-in-chief Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, in which only the actors’ feet were visible to the audience. In fact the influence was in the other direction; Marinetti’s play was staged a year later, in 1915, and was inspired by Amor Pedestre. Fabre does not seem to have had any links to the Futurist movement, but was rather expressing ideas about motion and contemporary life that were in the ‘zeitgeist’. In Italian Silent Cinema: A Reader, Giovanni Lista refers to Amor Pedestre, writing:
‘A clear and definite stance [on the part of the Futurist artists] with regards to cinema was becoming ever more cogent: independently of Futurism, in fact, several films were pioneering or adopting expressive or promotional solutions that one would have associated with the Italian avant-garde movement.'”
Silents, Please!

More about Amor Pedestre:
Essay by Christel Tsilibaris: Marcel Fabre’s Amor Pedestre