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MAX LINDER

(Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle)

France

Born: Caverne, France, 16 December 1883.
Died: 1925.


At 17 he left high school to study drama and soon after began an acting career on the Bordeaux stage. He moved to Paris in 1904 and started playing supporting parts in melodramas. In 1905 he embarked upon a parallel career in Pathé films. For three years he spent his days in the film studios and his evenings on the stage, using his real name in the theater and the pseudonym Max Linder on the screen. By 1908 he had given up the stage to concentrate on his increasingly successful screen career. By 1910 he was an internationally popular comedian, possibly the best-known screen comic on either side of the Atlantic in the years before WWI. Typically playing a dapper dandy of the idle class, he developed a style of slapstick silent screen comedy that anticipated Mack Sennett and Chaplin and set the premises of the genre for years to come. Ferdinand Zecca, Louis Gasnier, and Alberto Capelani were among the directors of his earliest films.

By 1910, Linder was writing and supervising, and from 1911 also directing, all his own films. His popularity was at its peak in 1914, when he was called to arms. Early in the war he was a victim of gas poisoning and suffered a serious breakdown. The injury was to have a lasting effect on his physical and mental well-being. He returned briefly to French films, but finding his popularity vanishing, he accepted a bid from Essanay and left for the US late in 1916.

Continuous ill health hampered the American phase of Linder's career from the start. In mid-1917, after only three films, he was felled by double pneumonia and spent nearly a year recovering in a Swiss sanitarium. When he returned to the US in 1921, he formed his own production unit, releasing through United Artists. But after making only three more American films, including the celebrated parody (of Fairbanks's The Three Musketeers) The Three Must-Get-Theres (1922), he returned to Europe, where he married the daughter of a Paris restaurateur in 1923. Linder made two more film appearances, one in France, the other in Austria, but realized his career was finished. In 1925 he entered a suicide pact with his wife. Their bodies were discovered side by side in a Paris hotel. He remained forgotten for years, until the 60s, when many of his old films began turning up, affording film historians an opportunity to evaluate his career and his contributions to the evolution of screen comedy.

— Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia



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