Thursday, July 31, 2008
Max Linder was born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle to a wine growing family in Gironde, France on December 26, 1883. He grew to become an influential pioneer of silent films. He grew fascinated with motion pictures and in 1905 when he really started becoming active in the business, took the name of Max Linder.
He made his film debut in 1905 and quickly became a famous and successful comedian in both Europe and the US. He started out making more than a hundred short films portraying the character he created named "Max", who was a wealthy, elegant, joyful, romantic dandy and dapper man about town frequently in hot water because of his love of beautiful women, and the good life in general. By 1911 he was directing his own films as well as writing scripts and his silent films brought him fame and fortune throughout Europe. Making him the highest paid entertainer of the day.
Max was the original creator of "The Mirror Gag" in which two men would stand on either sides of either a full length or bureau mirror in which the glass was removed and mimic each others movements exactly so it looked as if they were actually looking into a mirror but seeing someone other then themselves moving exactly as they do. The Marx brothers would borrow this gag years later.
The first World War halted his career for a while as when he was at war he was gassed, and brought back home close to death. In 1916, considering himself recovered he started working again in America for the same studio that Charlie Chaplin has just left. But his fragile health allowed him to shoot only three films out of twelve that he had planned, these films do not survive. He again returned to France for a year for medical treatment, but when he came back to America Charlie Chaplin had taken over as the major comedy star of the era and Max was all but forgotten.
However, fate intervened and Max was asked to make a screen version of "Le Petit Cafe" (1919), a movie that was very well received by both critics and audiences alike, on both sides of the Atlantic and he was on a roll once again.. He returned to Los Angeles and worked as a film producer, screenwriter, director and leading actor in three consecutive films; "Seven Years Bad Luck" (1921), "Be My Wife" (1921) and the one he personally considered he best work "The Three Must-Get-There's" (1922).
But the work exhausted him and after the last film he left for France once again.
In 1923, he was married to seventeen year old Ninette Peters and subsequently had a daughter who was named Maud Max Linder (also known as Josette).
He then wen to Austria to direct "The King of the Circus" (1924). But in spite of having a baby daughter, and his last films critical acclaim along with a nomination to be president of the Screenwriters Association, and also being committed to another film project, Max suffered from severe depression and emotional issues. He and his wife made a suicide pact early in 1924and attempted suicide at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, but they were found and recuperated. It was called an accidental overdose of sleeping powder. But in Paris on October 31st, 1925 they were successful. Max Linder was 42 when he died. The newspaper headlines at the time said "Max Linder and his Wife open their Artery - Both Die - Tragic end of a Star Comedian - Alleged Double Suicide".
Out of 500 films Max made, only 82 have been found.