Méliès: His Sexual Symbolism

L’éclipse de soleil en pleine lune
R: Georges Méliès. D: Georges Méliès, Mlle. Bodson, Manuel. P: Star-Film. Fr 1907

“Although Le voyage dans la lune has become Méliès‘ most famous film, two further films also deserve a mention: Le voyage à travers l’impossible  (1904) and L’éclipse de soleil en pleine lune  (1907). (…) While sexual symbolism can be read into these two films, sexuality becomes central in his later L’éclipse de soleil en pleine lune. This is a cheeky little film (…) featuring what appears as a homosexual encounter between an effeminate moon and a devilishly masculine sun. (…) During the ‘eclipse’ the moon covers the face of the sun. The expressions on the face of moon indicate that they are having a sexual encounter and as they part the sun is exposed. Now looking somewhat exhausted the sun goes to sleep. The third section of the film basically consists of series of heavenly bodies hanging precariously in a night sky. Here the performers are draped over representations of stars and moons and the section culminates in a battle between two male  bodies over the body of a female moon. This is followed by an orgasmic meteor shower which has been double exposed to reveal the ghostly figures of girls falling from the sky. (…) The sexual symbolism is undeniable in this later film, in which sexual desire is elided with the supposedly reasoned exploits of the scientist. The aspirations of the male technocrat are therefore undercut in the suggestion that it is sexual desire rather than rational science that fuels their ambition.”
Christine Cornea: Science Fiction Cinema. Edinburgh University Press 2007, p. 14-15

Christophe Pavillon wrote on Facebook, 01-02-2018:
I respectfully disagree… It is now a common trend to see some modern concerns in old movies. I read something similar about the kiss between the 2 main characters of Wings [1927], as being the first same-sex kiss in a movie. First, it is not because homesexuality is a concern in 2017 that it was a concern too in 1927. Second, anyone who has watched American silent films from the 20s know that seeing people from the same family kissing each others was very common. For example, before he goes to war, Richard Arlen kisses his mother on the lips. When him and Buddy Rogers kiss each other in the end of the movie, it is just to show their brotherhood.
But Let’s get back to the Méliès movie. First, I don’t know where the author read / heard / saw that the Moon and the Sun were two masculine characters ?! In French, we say LA lune (meaning the Moon is feminine) and LE soleil (meaning the Sun is masculine). Consequently, there is NO WAY the Moon could be masculine in a Méliès movie!
Second, anyone who knows about Méliès life knows that he was a womanizer. When he was married to his first wife, Eugénie Génin, he had at least two lovers : Jehanne d’Alcy (who became his second wife) and Bleuette Bernon. I don’t see how and why he could have been thinking about introducing any homosexual aspect in one of his movies… For he was highly attracted by women only.
Third, Méliès was a theatre owner, a magician, and he created his spectacles for only one reason : make people dream, and impress the audience. His movies, and their innocence proove it, are first degree movies. There is nothing hidden, no message, no intellectual concern. The only secrets are the special effects he developped…”

>>> Méliès: Attraction and Narration


W. S. Hart’s First Feature Film

The Bargain
R: Reginald Barker. B: William H. Clifford, Thomas H. Ince. K: Robert Newhard /
Joseph H. August. D: William S. Hart, J. Frank Burke, Clara Williams, J. Barney Sherry, Joseph J. Dowling. P: New York Motion Picture / Thomas H. Ince. USA 1914
Print: Library of Congress

“One hundred years ago today, Hart’s very first feature film opened for business. He had been making successful western shorts and features were the next logical step in his career. Stardom came immediately and Hart became one of the most popular figures in the still-young motion picture industry. This is the movie that started it all. (…) Hart’s westerns get praised for their realism but for all their dust, they are just as stylized as the more flamboyant cowboy pictures. In fact, Hart laid the groundwork for the modern antihero. (…) Ironically, the gritty look and antihero sensibilities — the very things that appeal to modern audiences — were deemed old-fashioned by the twenties. Grim and dark were out. Exuberance, humor and epic scenery were in. The sweep of John Ford’s epics, the jocular stunts of Tom Mix and, later, the clean-cut folk wisdom of Hopalong Cassidy; these were the pictures audiences of the twenties and thirties wanted and these were the pictures that stayed popular through the golden age. While there were patches of gloom during that time, westerns would not return to Hart’s 1910s level of darkness for nearly half a century. The Bargain opened for business on December 3, 1914 and it laid the groundwork for the Hart features to follow. The story followed the exploits of a stagecoach bandit who decides to go straight and gets nothing but trouble as a result. Hart rolls cigarettes one-handed, carries twin revolvers and generally behaves like the baddest hombre west of the Rio Grande. However, his grim persona is not yet fixed in place and so this is a lighter, happier Hart than viewers may be used to seeing. (For the record, Hart did do cheerier stuff later in his career but his most famous and most viewed films happen to be his darkest.)”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently

An interesting controversy

“The Bargain is nothing more than an old-fashioned western. I cannot truthfully say that it is one inch above the average of such pictures. Its scenic background is superbly beautiful, but not more than that shown in many old single reels. Its plot follows the old familiar lines: the outlaw, finely enacted by William S. Hart, robs the stagecoach…..the outlaw escapes happily and something like six felonies go unpunished. It is said that pictures of this sort are still popular in certain sections of the country and that nickelodeons in many big cities still yearn for them. This may be true, but it still does not alter the fact that pictures of this sort have been in the past the most dangerous weapon in the hands of our enemies [the censors]. There can be no doubt whatsoever that a picture of this kind has a bad influence on youthful minds.”
Stephen Bush, Moving Picture World, December 5, 1914

“Old fashioned—– in 1914? Bad influence on youthful minds? Oh to time-transport him to 1969 and run him The Wild Bunch. Critics are indeed eternally clueless, they never get it right. Little did Mr. Bush (another sign of cluelessness perhaps?) realize was he was actually present at a very important beginning, the start of movie stardom for William S. Hart, and the rise of the Western feature film. (…) Hart had been playing western roles on the stage for years, including the lead role in The Virginian, following Dustin Farnum, an old friendly actor-rival of Harts who had created the role. Ince thought the lean and stoic actor, who also had an eye for credible western lore as well as a keen knowledge of western culture and history, would be perfect for pictures. (…) The Bargain is a terrific early western, more stylish than Demille (sic!) and Apfel’s The Squaw Man. Barker handles the whole milieu beautifully, and there’s some great shots of Stokes/Hart riding through a still tourist-unspoiled Grand Canyon. Even though so many of Hart’s well-repeated future themes are present, Hart has not cemented so many of his mannerisms yet, and his performance has a freshness it would never have again. You can easily see why Ince sold the film to Paramount to get wider distribution, especially on the tail of the successful Squaw Man as he held back the quickly produced second Hart feature, On the Night Stage, not releasing it though his own distributor, Mutual, until more than six months after it was made. Ince knew he had a new star on his hands.”
Richard M Roberts, May 31, 2009

>>> William S. Hart on this site

>>> The William S. Hart Formula


Obsessed with a screen image

The Picture Idol
R: James Young. B: James Young. D: Maurice Costello, Clara Kimball Young, Mary Maurice, George Cooper, Tom Powers, Charles Eldridge, Alice Lake. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912
Print: EYEfilm
Dutch titles

“The Vitagraph Company was well supplied with a leading man to play this situation, its own star romantic hero filled the bill. All the players seem to have enjoyed playing it; it is full of good comedy and made, on Broadway, where it was perhaps best understood, many good, appreciative laughs. A schoolgirl, played by Clara Kimball Young, falls in love with a picture hero, played by Maurice Costello. The girl’s parents (Mr. Eldridge and Mrs. Maurice), as well as her schoolboy sweetheart (…), are troubled. The father goes to see the picture idol and they make up a plan to disillusion the girl. His table manners made laughs, but didn’t quite cure the girl; so they made up one of the boys as the idol’s wife, and got four kids to come in from the street. This did the business. The camera work is very good.”
The Moving Picture World, June 15, 1912

“A spectator’s obsession with a screen image was (…) not an individual aberration but a cultural development signifying a profound change in social relations. Stardom as a widespread form of commodity fetishism signified the end of small-town values and the subsequent estrangement of human beings in an industrial order. The Picture Idol mistigates this transformation by showcasing its star in a small-town milieu. But under consumer capitalism, social relation would eventually be subject to reification so that, in the words of Georg Lukács, ‘a relation between people takes on the character of a thing.’ When personality displaced character as a basis for self-making in urban life, human beings and relationships became commodities subject to market forces. (…) Women were especially vulnerable because they were commodified as spectacle in heterosexual romance, while losing the supportive homosocial ties of Victorian femal culture.”
Vicki Callahan: Reclaiming the Archive: Feminism and Film History. Wayne State University Press 2010, p. 268

Another look at Maurice Costello and Clara Kimball Young:

Delayed Proposals
R: James Young. B: L. Rogers Lytton (scenario), Eugene Mullin. D: Maurice Costello, Clara Kimball Young, James Young, L. Rogers Lytton, Mae Costello. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1913
Print: EYEfilm

>>> Clara Kimball Young in:  Jerry’s Mother-In-Law and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Alma Taylor – More than acting

An Engagement of Convenience
R: Hay Plumb. D: Alma Taylor, Cyril Mannering, Harry Royston, Marie de Solla. P: Hepworth. UK 1914
Print: BFI

Alma Taylor spent virtually her entire silent career, beginning in 1907, with producer Cecil Hepworth, co-starring with Chrissie White in the Tilly Girl series (1910-1915) as well as 75 or more short subjects. She was the obvious favourite of the producer, who was proud that she never used make-up in any of his films, and Taylor, in return, was Hepworth’s most loyal performer, starring in his last film, The House of Marney (1926).
She starred in only three non-Hepworth films: The Shadow of Egypt (d. Sidney Morgan, 1924), Quinneys (d. Maurice Elvey, 1927) and Two Little Drummer Boys (d. G.B.Samuelson, 1928). In 1924, she was named by the ‘Daily News’, along with Betty Balfour, as Britain’s top star.”

“Very few of the films which Taylor made in the 1910s seem to have survived, and these are nearly all short one-reelers from the first half of the decade rather than any of the feature film productions that she went on headline. This scattered evidence does give us some indication of what the formal performative indices of her famous spontaneity and artless probity were, though. An Engagement of Convenience, for example, seems at times to be carefully trying to direct and organise the viewer’s intimate and privileged bond with the actress. It dictates an interpretation of the resonances of her performance, so that this can be seen as something more than a piece of acting. (…) In her diegetic role as the phoney fiancée, Nance accompanies Fred to meet Aunt Rosemary at the station. Taylor’s Nancy stand apart from them both to signify a degree of awkwardness, and as they exit left (in both shots) she makes three nervous half-glances to the right of the screen to further betray her unease. One does not need to read between the lines to understand that she is distinctly uncomfortable and unconvincing precisely because she is consciously acting.”
Bruce Babington: British Stars and Stardom: From Alma Taylor to Sean Connery. Manchester University Press 2001, p.32/33

>>> Hamlet and The Magic Glass by Hay Plumb on this website

>>> Tilly the Tomboy Visits the Poor with Alma Taylor

UK 1914/15: Acts of Heroism

The Man Who Came Back
R: Charles Weston. D: Arthur Finn. P: Regent Film. UK 1914
Print: BFI

“Dramas in the early days of WWI often focused on individual acts of heroism, as they had during the Boer War era. With little aesthetic or dramatic progression since those early reconstructions, The Man Who Came Back seems, in some ways, a pale imitation of AEW Mason‘s ‘The Four Feathers’*. But the plot introduces an interesting class angle, with the hero condemning the irresponsible upper classes.”
BFI Player

(*’The Four Feathers’ is a 1902 adventure novel by British writer A.E.W. Mason that has inspired many films of the same title. The novel tells the story of British officer, Harry Feversham, who resigns his commission in the East Surrey Regiment just prior to Sir Garnet Wolseley‘s 1882 expedition to Egypt to suppress the rising of Urabi Pasha. LibriVox)

“The turn to pathos (and Chaplin‘s move toward respectability) in The Vagabond depends on a recognition scene and like The Roll of Honour portraits the recognition is of a loved one who has been lost, her salvation dependent upon the investigating gaze of the mother. In The Man Who Came Back, Harold Marsh/John Learning is positioned in the same space in the homefront imagination as the men in the ‘Roll of Honour’ films. He can never be known but by a few, and through a similar mechanism of distance/personal he is able to traverse class boundaries and oddly acknowledge the irresponsibility of the upper class while at the same time covering it up. What marks this film is the scene when the father and the stepmother read of his death in the papers. This re-enacts the terrible moment of recognition which accompanied the arrival of the telegram for officer’s families and letters for enlisted men. The film then generates through a fantasy of loss of identity a re-establishment of the family, if only for the audience. He still exists but is carrying out his duties to his country under another guise.”
Michael Hammond: “The Men Who Came Back”: Anonymity and Recognition in Local British Roll of Honour Films (1914-1918)

“With 20 million people visiting cinemas each week, exhibitors could have a real impact, recruiting and raising funds – notably for ambulances to go to the Front – and organising community screenings of ‘Roll of Honour’ films to commemorate local men lost or wounded. Inevitably, film producers focused on war subjects, and although newsreel cameras were still banned from the fighting, images of allied troops away from the Front were a regular feature of newsreels – and of course the home front was covered extensively. The war profoundly affected drama too. The first ever version of the Edith Cavell story, Nurse and Martyr, was rushed out only a month after her death at the hands of a German firing squad, and the cinema offered escape through the new long features, which continued to grow in popularity with historical subjects like Jane Shore, a lavish medieval spectacle.”
BFI Player

Nurse and Martyr (not complete)
R: Percy Moran. B: Edgar Wallace. D: Percy Moran, Cora Lee. P: Phoenix. UK 1915
Print: BFI

“Edith Cavell’s afterlife in myth began almost at once, with a short film Nurse and Martyr rushed out and dated November 1915, shot within days of her death. The BFI version runs for eleven minutes and opens with a nurse lying on her bed, smoking, then escaping from her room by means of knotted bedclothes, threatening to get her own back on Edith Cavell. We’ll probably never know why. Under arrest, Cavell is seen being vigorously denounced by this woman now in civilian dress. From then on, arrest and imprisonment, praying and death are clear enough to make perfect sense to an audience who already knew the story. It’s in effect a staged newsreel, though one with a slant. The Germans behave badly, carousing outside her cell door while she’s praying. Cora Lee’s eye-rolling performance leads seamlessly to, after her death, the intertitle ‘The Blood of the Martyr calls to YOU’, and her apotheosis in a screen blocked out in the shape of a cross. She could stand in for any martyred or victimised heroine in the calendar, from Sts Barbara to Bernadette, and has turned into a recognisable recruiting poster.”
studio 1

>>> WAR

Erotic Metonymy

Les chaussures matrimoniales
R: Émile Cohl. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1909

“Exercé à considérer le corps comme un système de figuration fragmentable et transformable à l’infini, d’emblée Cohl se montre sensible aux frontières entre corps réel et corps imaginaire, fantasme et réalité. Le film les Chaussures matrimoniales (1909), qui réduit en six minutes ce qui pourrait constituer l’intrigue d’un vaudeville en un ou deux actes, propose sur ce point une magistrale variation sur le thème du costume comme projection de la personne complète – corps, âme, désir, inconscient. Impossible à exhiber pour des raisons de convenance, la rencontre érotique de deux clients d’un hôtel s’opère métonymiquement par celle de leurs chaussures déposées devant leurs portes. Comme indifférentes à la volonté consciente de leurs propriétaires, les chaussures s’animent d’elles-mêmes, marchent les unes vers les autres, se caressent, pénètrent dans l’une des chambres, et s’unissent en toute liberté. C’est ainsi qu’elles agissent en vraies entremetteuses, puisque les deux personnages, qui ne se connaissaient pas au début du film, repartent comme un couple le lendemain matin.”
Olivier Goetz, Isabelle Moindrot et Romain Piana: Émile Cohl et le théâtre
1895. Mille huit cent quatre-vingt-quinze

>>> Émile Cohl on this website: Émile Cohl – the Pathé Period,  Émile Cohl: Dreams and NightmaresÉmile Cohl, Master of Animation

>>> Amor pedestre by Marcel Perez

An early Maurice Tourneur

Le friquet (Frgm.)
R: Maurice Tourneur. B: Jean Joseph-Renaud , Willy (play), Gyp (novel). D: Pauline Polaire, Henry Roussel, César, André Dubosc, Renée Sylvaine, Gilbert Dalleu. P: Éclair. Fr 1913

“One of Tourneur‘s most acclaimed films was this (…) tale – one of Tourneurs earliest important surviving works – which was long thought to be the first film he directed at Éclair. Scripted by the author-director Jean Joseph-Renaud, it stars the well-known vaudeville artist Polaire (Emile-Marie Bouchard-Zouzé, 1873-1941), a close friend of Colette, in her first film. A tale of a young girl seeking love, Tourneur’s film takes in the elements of abandonment, abuse, and sacrifice. (…) The film was one of the earliest by Tourneur to be shown in the United States – where the director was unmentioned in the credits. It is ‘well staged and photographed’, wrote ‘Moving Picture World’ (4/11/14), ‘and there are charming exteriors and fine interiors.’ There is also comedy when, for the first time in her life, Marie encounters a real bed and ‘toilet accessories’, in the home of the mayor.”
Harry Waldman: Maurice Tourneur: The Life and Films. McFarland 2001, p. 19/20

“(…) the writer whose pseudonym was Gyp (1849-1932), was born Sybille Gabrielle Marie Antoinette de Riquetti de Mirabeau, Comtesse de Martel de Janville. (…) As Gyp, she pretended to be an army officer with a satirical view of fashionable high society. In her writing, Gyp employed the enfant terrible as narrator. Gyp aroused her enemies, created political excitement, and won the respect of Henry James. She was a combination of fanatical nationalist and right-wing anarchist, calling herself an Anti-Semite. Her influence during the Dreyfus Affair was destructive, and any film based on her work was bound to create a stir. (…) Tourneur adapted several works by the rabble-rousing Gyp before coming to the United States.”
Harry Waldman, op. cit., p. 8

Tourneur in Hollywood
Like D.W. Griffith, Mickey Nielan, Rex Ingram, and a host of other American directors who reached their stride in the mid-1910s, only to fall into unemployment, unproductivity or hackdom by the mid to late 1920s, Maurice Tourneur was a victim of the American studio system and the concomitant institutionalization of what has become known as classical Hollywood narrative. Like Griffith, Tourneur fought against the encroaching power of the film monopolies, attempting not only to produce what he perceived to be high quality, artistic films, which went against the conventions of standardized, genre production, but also to polemicize against the overriding profit mania of the film factory. For a brief ten years, from 1914 to 1924, Tourneur maintained his status as an independent producer-director, financed for much of that time by the film entrepreneur, Jules Brulatour. (…) In his best surviving work, one can see Tourneur clinging to conventions, which Noel Burch has called the “Primitive Mode,” but which might better be identified as the road not taken by classical Hollywood cinema. Their visual theatricality and self-conscious compositions would be antithetical to the plot and logic driven narratives Hollywood would come to prefer. Likewise, Tourneur’s oftentimes fragmented and episodic narratives consciously defy the rules of classical plot construction, as they were being formulated by industry practitioners.”
Jan-Christopher Horak
UCLA Film & Television Archive

>>> Tourneur films on this website: Figures de CireAlias Jimmy Valentine

Studdy’s War Studies

Studdy’s War Studies (Studdy’s War Cartoons Compilation Film)
R: George Studdy. P: Gaumont Company. UK 1915
Print: BFI

“Cartoonist George Studdy (1878-1948) was popular even before the creation of his iconic Bonzo dog character in the 1920s, as shown by his eponymous Studdy’s War Studies series in newsreels. He quickly went beyond the self-promotional ‘lightning sketch’ to create truly innovative animated editorial cartoons – such as the WWI-era ‘Frightfulness vs Fairplay’ here.”

George E. Studdy was born in Devonport, England in 1878. He was the eldest son of the family and was expected to pursue a career in the military just like his father, who was a lieutenant. George Studdy enrolled in preparatory school in Bristol, but had an unfortunate pitchfork accident which badly injured his foot. Unable to start his career in the army, he became an engineer’s apprentice and joined a stockbroker, a job which he quit after three years. He then started evening classes at Heatherley’s Art School in London, specializing in animal anatomy. He shared an art studio with friends and became a freelance artist, contributing to magazines such as ‘Comic Cuts’, ‘Boys Own’, ‘The Big Budget Comic’ and ‘Tatler’. It was ‘The Sketch’ who eventually employed him for a weekly full-page drawing in 1912, the same year Studdy married his French sweetheart.”
Lambiek Comiclopedia

“When war broke out, he was again refused entry into the army due to his childhood injury. In addition to his graphic work, he was commissioned by Gaumont to make a series of three short cartoon films entitled Studdy’s War Studies, which were released monthly from December 1914.
After the Armistice in 1918, George was busy drawing illustrations for many publications – such as various Children’s Annuals – as well as still supplying ‘The Sketch’ with weekly full-page illustrations. However, as the war had finished the magazine’s editor felt that the subject matter should be somewhat lighter. In time, he expressed interest in ‘The Studdy Dog’- which George had developed over the past few years – suggesting they gave it a six month trial in the magazine. The first appearance was on 2nd November 1921. It proved a winner, with the character of the dog developing over time, moving away from more recognized breeds into a cartoon version. The pup’s antics capturing the interest of the readers, but it was still only known as the Studdy Dog. The editor, Bruce Ingram, received many letters complaining that as the dog had become the Nation’s pet, it was about time that his name be revealed. So on the 8th November 1922, it was announced that the little dog was called ‘Bonzo’. It is interesting that it was Bruce Ingram who suggested the name, and not Studdy himself, who didn’t much care for it!”
Richard Fitzpatrick
George Studdy and Bonzo web site

Cecil B. DeMille: The Captive

The Captive
R: Cecil B. DeMille. B: Cecil B. DeMille, Jeanie Macpherson. K: Alvin Wyckoff. D: Blanche Sweet, House Peters, Gerald Ward, Page Peters, Jeanie Macpherson. P: Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. USA 1915

“Based on a play scripted by DeMille and Macpherson (who has a small part in the film), The Captive will come as a surprise to those more familiar with the director’s ‘sin-and-salvation’ efforts or even his later Biblical epics. It’s sparingly told (the movie’s length is only five reels), and awards us a look at how the 34-year-old Cece is becoming more and more assured behind the motion picture camera. (…) While DeMille would later develop a reputation in the industry for being able to masterfully control ‘thousands of extras,’ on Captive he was still learning the ropes; his insistence on using real, loaded guns during some of the battle scenes resulted in an extra being killed.”
Ivan G Shreve Jr.
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

“The film stars Blanche Sweet and House Peters, neither of whom had much of a career once talkies got going. Sweet’s performance as Sonia is effective – she doesn’t go in for the arm-waving histrionics that are the stereotype of silent movie acting, but keeps most of her performance in her face, and her posture. (…) Tinting is widely used: the indoor scenes have a light blue tint, while the outdoor scenes are practically yellow. The sets of the film are filled with detail and character, and a lot of care clearly went into the production design. The firefights are energetically staged, and the battle where Markos loses his life has a sense of scope to it that would point to DeMille’s later much more elaborately staged epics.”
Kent Conrad
Cinema Sentries

“The film is gorgeous! It has that moody 1910s cinematography, all shadows and silhouettes and light streaming through things. Alvin Wyckoff once again proves himself to be one of the finest cameramen of the decade and it is his contribution that makes the film such a looker. The set design and costuming also have a nice layer of grit to them, you believe that these people really do live out in the middle of nowhere. (…)
(T)he biggest draw is seeing Blanche Sweet at the height of her fame. (…) I can say with confidence that Sweet gives a superior performance in The Captive when unshackled from Griffith’s bizarre notions of fluttering, fragile femininity. While The Avenging Conscience has her ridiculously cooing and pecking at a portrait of Henry B. Walthall and Judith of Bethulia has her go to pieces when she has to decapitate him, the heroine of The Captive is cool and confident. Sweet convincingly plays a tough cookie who is trying her best to hide her softer side. She strides around, owning her scenes but she melts for her kid brother. These scenes are the riskiest but they do not fall into the trap of tweeness and are instead rather charming. Reviews published at the time had nothing but praise for her skill and they are correct. Sweet is natural, attractive and appealing.”
Fritzi Kramer
Movies Silently


An elegant, swaggering Parisian dandy

Gontran et la voisine inconnue
R: Unknown. D: René Gréhan. P: Éclair. Fr 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“[The young dandy] character was the exclusive property of the actor [René] Gréhan, who was, with Andre Deed, one of [Pathé’s] most successful series comics.  In 1907 Gréhan got a better offer at a new competing studio, and his departure left a big gap in the company’s production schedule.  Linder was chosen to fill Gréhan’s shoes, as well as his evening coat, dress shirt, and tie.  Assuming the costume and much of the manner of Gréhan’s character ‘Gontran,’ Linder made, under Gasnier’s direction, Les Debuts d’un patineur/Max Learns to Skate (1907), the first work in which he becomes, recognizably, ‘Max.’  The film was not a hit either with audiences or with Pathé executives, however.  For two years it remained without a sequel, while Linder continued to perform as a lead or secondary character in various other projects for the studio.”
Alan Williams: Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking. 1992
Anthony Balducci’s Journal

“Given the 1907-1908 films he (i.e. Max Linder) appeared in as a presumptuos young dandy interested in sports and amusements, one can speculate that the Pathé company may have considered constructing a series around Linder that would complement the Boireau films. For some reason, however, these films did not establish Linder as a major comic, and Pathé seems to have turned to Gréhan, whose elegant, swaggering Parisian dandy, Gontran, might supplement Deed’s work for the company. ”
Richard Abel: The Ciné Goes to Town. French Cinema 1896-1914. Updated and Expanded. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London 1994, p. 237

Williams claimed that Gréhan was one of Pathé’s early comedy stars and he created a dapper character that Linder later imitated. He doesn’t specify when Gréhan started at the company, but he is clear that the comedian left in 1907. That story doesn’t appear to be true. Gréhan made five or six films for Pathé in 1910, after which he moved to the Éclair Film Company. (…) Abel‘s account is closer to the truth than Williams’ account. Abel claimed that Pathé had become disillusioned with Linder, who had failed to catch on with audiences, and brought in Gréhan as a potential replacement. Gréhan may have, in fact, been a potential replacement. Linder had a history of bad health. He had been unable to work due to illness from October, 1908, to March, 1909. He was sidelined again in December, 1910, due to appendicitis. It could be that Pathé brought in Gréhan to satisfy exhibitors in case their fragile star became sick again and was unable to stay on schedule.”
Anthony Balducci

Another Gréhan comedy, produced by Éclair:

Comment Gaston a perdu son épouse
R: Unknown. D: René Gréhan. P: Éclair. Fr 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles