French Film
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Max Linder
Pioneer of all movie comedians

signed picture of Max Linder from 1912Portrait of Max LinderMax Linder differs from comedians at that time because of his style. Instead of surface burlesque he does act without overacted mimic and launched the comic from the movement. Like many other comedians in those days he also was a highly gifted artist who carried out his stunts himself, e.g. his dance on telephone wires high up. Linder was also endowed with a good portion curiosity. So he insisted on learning the handling of a just now invented seaplane and work it into one of his movies. He pursued several new kind of sports and seized the opportunity to integrate individual scenes into his movies. By it his movies became a kind of reflection of his time which demonstrated the newest trend in the society.

Max Linder, with his real name Gabriel Leuvielle, was born in Saint-Loubès in 1883. His parents were winegrowers and as a child Max played hooky and preferred to play between vines and together with the grape harvester. As an adult he preferred to recover there from his stays in Moscow, Los Angeles or Paris. His parents sent Max to a boarding school in Bordeaux, but soon he also devoted his time more for other things than for school. Sport was a field he was very interested in but especially the theater could fascinate hime. Without the knowledge of his parents he enrolled for a theater school. Then the tiring search for a job began. He played to countless theater directors till got hearing at the theater Ambigu and got a tiny part.
Linder could make the decisive step for his future career when he was admitted into the theater de Variété. 
At Charles Pathé he got his first chance in 1905 to shoot a movie. At the beginning he was "only" a player who had to follow to the instructions of other directors, but finally he could convince Pathé that he should be his own author and director. He got his chance and from now on he had to finish his movies within one day, among them the movie "Les Debuts d'un patineur - Debut of a ice-skater" (1908) is remarkable because Linder's confused snob appeared for the first time. When in his credits for the movie "Max et la doctoresse" appeared the following text 
written by Max Linder and played by the author
it was the first time in film history that there was mentioned an author in connection with a cinematic work.

Max Linder in colorPicture of Max LinderAfter a development through different figures Linder found to his final appearance with top hat and suit. Because of that the actor Max Linder changed into a kind of comic figure which became the first unmistakable figure for the audience in film history. In later years there were actors like Pat & Patachon, Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd or Laurel & Hardy  who succeeded in the same way.

After André Deed went to Italy, Linder moved up to the comedy star No. 1 for Pathé. In 1910 he shot one comedy each week; they all revolved round the blameless bachelor Max who lives in luxury and gets into funny situations because he is after a well-behaved, pretty young lady.

But soon the first of several bad illnesses interrupt Linder's activity and the audience became worried when the supply of new movies like "Max se marie - Max gets married" (1910) stopped. A cholera sickness in his childhood and a serious accident during shootings with a roller-skate interlude which nearly killed him and troubled him.

In order to explain his absence to his audience Linder appeared in the documentary "Max dans sa famille" (1911) where he commented the reasons of his absence. However, shortly afterwards he came back in triumph and added his movies with a bow-tour through Europe.

In 1914 he was world-famous and soon after he became his own producer who was able to sell his movies to Pathé like yard goods. His success didn't have any limits: whether Spain, Germany, Italy or Russia, Max Linder was everywhere welcomed with enthusiasm during his live entrances in the capital cities. In Russia the police had to call the Army for help so that Linder was able to leave the Moscow railroad station. 

By outbreak of World War I he volunteered as a soldier but came back seriously fell ill after several months. Unfortunately he came into contact with the notorious combat gas which gave him a physical hard time. 
The mere rumour of Max Linder's death was enough at those days that France was in mourning.
The beginning of World War I also rang in simultaneously the end of the "Belle Epoque. A new time began, the taste and the mental state of the audience changed.

In 1916 he went to the USA where he was engaged by Essanay for eight movies as successor of Charles Chaplin. But only three were completed before Linder had to go back to Europa because of a pleurisy. For the convalescence he went to the idyllic lake of Geneva.

Scene from The Three Musketeers - Archive Maud LinderLinder shot "Le petit Cafe - Das kleine Cafe" (1919) in Paris before he returned to Hollywood in order to complete three movies, including "Seven Years Bad Luck" (1921), which went down in all cinematic history books because of the genius mirror scene, and the inventive parody "The Three Must Get Theres" (1922), which Max Linder described as his best movie. But Linder's complaint drew again attention and he had to go back to Europe before his movie "The Three Must Get Theres" (1922) celebrated his first night. Douglas Fairbanks wrote him a cable in which he informed Linder that the movie had an enormous success in New  York and that critics were enthusiastic.

Max Linder fell in love with a seventeen year old girl in 1923 and they got married. At the same year he inaugurated his own Max-Linder cinema. He kept a special place in the building for the live orchestra because he always set great store by the musical background of his movies.

Likewise in 1923 he shot the movie "Au secours? - Help!", co-written by Abel Gance. In this movie he played a tragic part; later he forbad the showing because he saw his reputation as a comedian in danger.  His last finished movie - "Le roi du cirque - King of the Circus" (1924) - came into being in Vienna. For the movie "Der Ritter Barkas - The Knight Barkas" he contacted the in those days unknown director René Clair. But the destiny adopted a different method, the movie wasn't realized.

Max Linder committed suicide on November 1st 1925 at the age of 42 after he killed his wife. No one can understand today what the real reason for this offence was - his morbid becoming jealousy or his poorer becoming state of health. 
The newspapers were coined by headlines of his decease:
"Max Linder and his wife open their artery: Both die" or 
"Tragic end of a star comedian - alleged double suicide".

Max Linder's influence on the development of the film comedy is recognized by many people, among them no less a person than Charles Chaplin (whose first movies point to a copy of the Max Linder figure).
His work became especially known by the contemporary audience through the compilation movie "En Compagnie de Max Linder" (1963).
Till today there are re-discovered only 105 movies of origin 500 movies, sometimes in a very bad condition.

I close this report with that dedication which Charles Chaplin wrote on a picture for his master:

"For the unique Max, the great master - his student Charles Chaplin".

Portrait Max Linder