|Photography from Seven Years Bad Luck. Starting 1920, Max will know how to use close-ups more frequently.|
"Max is cinema itself", wrote Louis Delluc. However, Max Linder is probably one of the least known filmmakers of his time. Although his name may live on, few remember his elegant and svelte silhouette which, between 1905 and 1925, spun around on the screens, the eternal top hat worn tightly and proudly, making all Europe and the United States laugh at his misadventures.
Due to his instinctive understanding of this new form of expression he may be considered the very first international movie star. Above all, he knew how to get away from the theatrical and gesture-ridden grandiloquence of the time in order to lend the simplicity and casualness of everyday life to his performance.
He was the first to create a genuine character on the screen, a sort of French dandy who perpetually found himself in comical and sometimes even perilous situations. Endowed with an overflowing imagination, he packed his films - which were often inspired by a news item or by personal experience - with an inexhaustible variety of gags.
As a result, the weekly adventures of Max were impatiently awaited by a faithful and enthusiastic audience…
But the First-World-War suddenly interrupted this career. Brought back from the Front on the verge of death, he was discharged. In 1916, considering himself recovered, he signed a fabulous contract with Essanay Studios of Chicago, the studio Chaplin had just left. Unfortunately, his fragile health betrayed him and allowed him to shoot only three films out of the twelve planned. He returned to France to receive treatment at home…
He then disappeared briefly from the screen while a newcomer, Chaplin, took over as the new star.
He would have to wait more than a year to work again, when his friend Tristan Bernard called upon him for the screen version of the Petit Café. The movie was received as enthusiastically by the critics as by the audience: for everyone it looked like Max had returned !
However, Max Linder returned to the United States, to Los Angeles, which had become the movie capital of the world. He would be all together producer, screenwriter, director and leading actor of the three films he directed and produced consecutively: Seven Years Bad Luck, Be my Wife, and the film he considered his best, The Three Must get Theirs.
Exhausted after having finished this last film Max left the United States once again. In convalescence in Lausanne, he received the following telegram from Douglas Fairbanks, faithful friend and representative of United Artists distributors of the movie worldwide: "Your movie is a big success in New York. Enthusiastic critics. Congratulations. Sincerely. Douglas Fairbanks."
|A press photograph from The Three Must get Theirs distributed by United Artists.||Whatever the subject of the movie is, and even in The Three Must get Theirs, Max will always find a way to wear, even for an instant, his favorite top hat.|
Linder's d'Artagnan would receive just as warm a welcome in France. He then shot Help with Abel Gance, but disagreement between the two friends over the editing eventually prevented it from being released.
In 1923, he married seventeen-year-old Ninette Peters, then went to Austria to direct The King of the Circus, which turned out to be his last film. In spite of the laudatory critics, in spite of Linder's nomination as president of the Screenwriters' Association, in spite of having completed the pre-production work on the heavy-budget film The Barkas Knight, and in spite of his commitment to shoot an adaptation of The Porter From Maxim's, Linder suddenly abandoned all his projects and, at 42, committed suicide, taking his young wife with him. The disappearance of most of his work is certainly the main reason for the oblivion his work has fallen into.