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Max Linder
Born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle
December 16, 1883(1883-12-16)
Saint-Loubès, Gironde, France
Died October 31, 1925 (aged 41)
Paris, France
Occupation Actor
Years active 1905–1925
Spouse(s) Jean Peters (1923-1925)

Max Linder (December 16, 1883 – October 31, 1925) was an influential French pioneer of silent film.

Contents

Birth and early career

Born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle in Saint-Loubès, Gironde, France to a wine growing family, he grew up with a passion for the theater and as a young man joined a theater troupe touring the country. While working in Paris on the theater stage and in music halls, Leuvielle became fascinated with motion pictures and in 1905 took a job with Pathé Frères that saw him become a comedic actor, director, screenwriter, as well as a producer under the stage name, Max Linder.

Film

Max Linder created what was probably the first identifiable motion-picture character who appeared in successive situation comedies. Linder made more than one hundred short films portraying "Max," a wealthy and dapper man-about-town frequently in hot water because of his penchant for beautiful women and the good life. By 1911, he was directing his own films as well as writing the script and the universality of silent films brought Linder fame and fortune throughout Europe, making him the highest paid entertainer of the day. Interestingly, he gave Maurice Chevalier his start in movies, but the silent medium did not suit Chevalier, who stuck to the stage until the all-singing all-dancing features came in, many years later.

World War I brought a temporary end to Linder's career in film. Physically unfit for combat duty, he worked as a dispatch driver during the war until he was seriously wounded.

United States

In 1916, the most popular comedian in the world was Charlie Chaplin. When Chaplin left his employer, the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, for more money and independence, Essanay tried to replace him with Max Linder, whose pantomime skills were equally accomplished. Linder came to the United States to work for Essanay, but his first few American-made "Max" films didn't make the same impression as the Chaplin shorts. The financially troubled studio may have been counting on Linder to restore its flagging fortunes; in any case Essanay could no longer afford to sustain the series, and cancelled production of the remaining films on his contract.

Linder returned to France in 1917 but two years later made another attempt at filmmaking in Hollywood. Once more he failed to establish himself in American productions. and a discouraged Max Linder went back to his homeland. After having made several hundred short films, he all but gave up on the business, appearing in only two more films during 1923 and 1924 including "Au Secours!" (Help!) for director Abel Gance.

Depression and suicide

The aftereffects of Linder's war service was that he suffered from continuing health problems including bouts of severe depression. In 1923, he married an 18-year old girl with whom he had a daughter they named Maud Max Linder (also known as Josette). The emotional problems besetting Linder evidenced themselves when he and his wife made a suicide pact. In early 1924 they attempted suicide at a hotel in Vienna, Austria. They were found and recuperated, the incident being covered up by the physician reporting it as an accidental overdose of sleeping powder. However, in Paris on October 31, 1925 Linder and his wife were successful in taking their own lives.[1]

Legacy

After Max Linder's death, Chaplin dedicated one of his films: "For the unique Max, the great master - his student Charles Chaplin". In the ensuing years, Linder was relegated to little more than a footnote in film history until 1963 when a Max Linder compilation film titled Laugh with Max Linder was released, and in 1983 his daughter made a documentary film titled The Man in the Silk Hat. It was screened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[2] In his honor, Lycée Max Linder, a public school in the city of Libourne in the Gironde département near his birthplace was given his name.

Selected coverage in the New York Times

  • New York Times; November 1, 1925; page 1. "Max Linder and Wife in Double Suicide; They Drink Veronal, Inject Morphine and Open Veins in Their Arms. Paris; October 31, 1925. Max Linder, one of the earliest film comedians in the world, committed suicide this morning in a death compact with his lovely wife, formerly Miss Peters, a wealthy Paris heiress."
  • New York Times; November 2, 1925; page 1. "Max Linder's wife could not quit him; Refused to Heed Her Mother's Pleading, Though She Wrote "He Will Kill Me." Bothe left last letters. "Quo Vadis" Film Is Believed to Have Pointed One Way of Suicide to Star. Paris; November 1, 1925. Permission to bury the bodies of Max Linder, France's great cinema actor, and his wife, was given today by the Magistrate in charge of the inquiry into the causes of their death, and so it must become the official version that they died in a suicide compact on either side of the world."
  • New York Times; January 20, 1935; page 19. "Parents of suicide dispute over child; French Comedian and Wife Who Killed Themselves in Paris Left Conflicting Wills. Paris; January 19, 1935 (AP) Nine years after the double suicide of Max Linder, celebrated French movie comedian, and his wife the court contest for custody of their daughter, Josette, has been renewed between two embittered families."

In popular media

  • Linder is referenced in Quentin Tarrantino's Inglourious Basterds where the owner of a cinema in Nazi occupied Paris in 1944, Shosanna Dreyfus, says that she will be having a Max Linder festival. The relative merits of Linder and Chaplin are then discussed by the German soldier, Frederick Zoller, who argues that Linder is superior to Chaplin while also admiting that Linder never made anything as good as The Kid

Selected filmography

  • The Skater's Debut (1907)
  • Max and His Mother-in-Law (1910)
  • Max and His Dog (1912)
  • Max's Hat (1913)
  • Max and the Jealous Husband (1914)
  • Max in America (1917)
  • Max in a Taxi (1917)
  • Max Wants a Divorce (1917)
  • Seven Years Bad Luck (1921)
  • Be my wife (1921)
  • The Three Must-Get-Theres (1922)
  • Au Secours! (Help!) (1924)

References

External links

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