Max Linder (Gabriel Maximilien Leuvielle) - biography
Max Linder (December 16, 1883 – October 31, 1925) was an influential French pioneer of silent film.
Birth and early career
Born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle in Saint-Loubès, Gironde, France to a Catholic wine growing family, he grew up with a passion for the theatre and as a young man joined a theatre troupe touring the country. While working in Paris on the theatre 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. Linder was the younger brother of celebrated French rugby player Maurice Leuvielle (b. June 28, 1881 in Saint-Loubès).
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. Initially, it was reported by one newspaper that he had been killed, however Linder actually phoned the offending publishers, leading them to run the headline "Max Linder Not Killed"
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; discouraged, he 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
As a consequence of his war service, Linder suffered from continuing health problems, including bouts of severe depression. In 1923, he married a 17-year old girl with whom he had a daughter 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 revived, the incident being covered up by the physician reporting it as an accidental overdose of barbituates. However, in Paris on October 31, 1925 Linder and his wife were successful in taking their own lives. They drank Veronal, injected morphine and cut open the veins in their arms. The suicide was inspired by the movie Quo Vadis.
After Max Linder's death, Chaplin dedicated one of his films: "For the unique Max, the great master - his disciple 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. 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. Max Linder was buried at the Saint-Loubès Catholique Cimetière.
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 admitting that Linder never made anything as good as The Kid.
- 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)