Max Linder 1912

Max a peur de l’eau
R: Max Linder. B: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, Lucy d’Orbel. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1912

Max lance la mode
R: René Leprince, Max Linder. B: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, Stacia Napierkowska, Jane Renouardt. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1912

“Actor, director, and screenwriter. Born Gabriel Maximilien Leuvielle in 1883, Max Linder, as he would be known onscreen, was attracted to theater from a young age. He began to seriously study theater at the age of seventeen and then went to Bordeaux to become an actor. In 1904, he moved to Paris where he became a star of the Parisian theater and of the café-concerts. Because of his connection to other theater and café-concert performers and managers turned cinema pioneers (Ferdinand Zecca, Gaston Velle, and Lucien Nonguet among them) Linder was hired on at Pathé in 1905. He was already something of a star at that time, since he was one of the more popular of the Parisian performers. (…)  However, it was in cinema that Linder would truly become a star, in many ways the first film star, with one of the first truly developed and recognizable characters in cinema, the eponymous Max, and by 1908, Linder was working so much at Pathé he was forced to give up the theater altogether.

The character of Max was not an immediate creation at Pathé. Linder’s first films, mostly under the direction of Louis J. Gasnier, featured him in various comic roles, although the elements of Max, the look of the refined gentleman, the comedy that derives from a combination of bad luck and hedonism, are there. Linder’s first credited role in La Première sortie d’un collégien (1905) already contained some of these elements, which were no doubt holdovers from his live performances in the café-concerts. These comedic traits or signatures become progressively more evident in the early films such as Le Pendu (1906) and Idée d’Apache (1906). The character Max, a dandy in a top hat and a bit of a cad, made his debut in the 1907 film Les Débuts d’un patineur. (…)

While Linder’s Max was undoubtedly the best known and one of the most influential of the comic characters of the silent-film era, he was not the first. André Deed‘s Boirieau and Roméo Bosetti’s Roméo had both already appeared in film before Linder arrived on the scene, as it were. However, both Boireau and Roméo remain fairly two-dimensional. Both are representative of  ‘the fool’ type character typically found in common burlesque, and both lack the distinctive character traits that made Max so memorable. Moreover, there is a move toward subtlety and sophistication of performance in Linder’s comic performances, a differentiation between what is needed onstage and what onscreen. It is this comic subtlety, no doubt, that would influence later screen comics, such as Charlie Chaplin, and it is completely absent from the performances of either Deed or Bosetti.”
Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins. 2007

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