Max Linder (1883-1925)

Today Max Linder is probably one of the least known silent comedy actors and filmmakers, but his influence upon the medium of film was profound. He predated all the more well known silent film clowns, such as Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, and his influence was clearly seen in their comedy years later, and in the sophisticated comedy of Raymond Griffith, who bore an amazing resemblance to Max. Few now recall Max’s elegant and svelte silhouette, which between 1905 and 1925 shone brightly on the screen, his top hat worn proudly, his gentle and amusing demeanor making the audiences of the United States and Europe laugh with abandon.

Max Linder was born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle in Gironde, France on December 16th, 1883 to a wine growing family. Because he often played truant at his local school, his parents sent Max away to a boarding school in Bordeaux, but even there he did not attend to his studies, preferring sports and the theater. Without his parents’ knowledge he began his career as an actor in the French theater, but after making his screen debut in 1905 in a film for Pathé he quickly became a famous and successful film comedian to audiences in both Europe and America, thanks to the creation of his character “Max”, an elegant, joyful, romantic dandy, and also due to the fact that film comedy was silent; a French accent (or any accent for that matter) did not matter in the silent era, when title cards in any language could explain the action on the screen, and when pantomime was considered to be a true art form all its own.

Due to his instinctive understanding of the new medium, Max may be considered the first international movie star. Endowed with an overflowing imagination, he filled his films with an inexhaustible variety of gags. For instance Max was the original creator of “the mirror gag”, which the Marx Brothers used so memorably in their film “Duck Soup” (1933). The weekly adventures of “Max” were impatiently awaited by faithful and enthusiastic audiences. But the First World War changed everything for Max. He went to war and was gassed, brought back from the front lines on the verge of death. In 1916, considering himself recovered, he signed a lucrative contract with Essanay Studios in America, the same studio Chaplin had just left. Unfortunately, Max’s fragile health allowed him to shoot only three films out of the twelve planned, and these films do not survive. He returned to France for a year to receive medical treatment, but when he tried to make a comeback Chaplin had taken over as the major comedy star of the silent era, and Max seemed destined to be forgotten. However, fate intervened once more, and Max was asked to make a screen version of “Le Petit Café” (1919). This movie was received enthusiastically by critics and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic: for awhile it seemed like Max was his old self again. He returned to Los Angeles, which had become the movie capitol of the world since his recovery. He worked as a film producer, screenwriter, director and leading actor in three consecutive American films: “Seven Years Bad Luck” (1921), “Be My Wife” (1921), and the film he considered his best, “The Three Must-Get-Theres” (1922). However, the work exhausted Max, and after finishing the last film he left the United States once again. In convalescence in Lausanne he received a telegram from Douglas Fairbanks, faithful friend and representative of United Artists: “Your movie is a big success in New York. Enthusiastic critics. Congratulations. Sincerely, Douglas Fairbanks.”

In 1923, Max married seventeen year old Ninette Peters, and had a daughter with her named Maud. He then went to Austria to direct “The King of the Circus” (1924). In spite of having a little daughter dependent on him, in spite of his last film’s critical acclaim, in spite of Linder’s nomination to be president of the Screenwriters’ Association, in spite of his having completed pre-production work on a big budget René Clair film entitled “The Barkas Knight”, and in spite of his commitment to film an adaptation of “The Porter From Maxim’s”, Max Linder suddenly abandoned all his film projects, and at the age of 42 killed himself, taking his young wife along with him, in an alleged suicide pact. The reason for the tragedy has never been discovered. Max and Ninette Linder died on Halloween, October 31st, 1925 in Paris, France. Out of over 500 films Max Linder made, only about 82 have been found.

In 1983 Max’s daughter Maud made a superb, loving documentary about her father and his films, titled “The Man In The Silk Hat.” Many film clips in surprisingly good condition from his surviving movies were included in the documentary, showing clearly that, almost a century after he first entered pictures, Max Linder still possessed the ability to make an audience laugh. ~ Copyright © 2004

Max Linder’s Silent Films

Zirkuskönig, Der (1924)
… aka Circusmania (1924) (UK)
… aka Clown aus Liebe (1924)
… aka King of the Circus (1924) (USA)
Au secours! (1924) …. Max
… aka Haunted House, The (1924) (UK)
… aka Help! (1924) (USA: US version)
Three Must-Get-Theres, The (1922) …. Dart-In-Again
Be My Wife (1921) …. Max, the Fiancé
Seven Years Bad Luck (1921) …. Max
Petit café, Le (1919)
… aka Little Cafe, The (1919) (USA)
Max in a Taxi (1917)
Max Wants a Divorce (1917)
Max devrait porter des bretelles (1917) …. Max
Max médécin malgré lui (1917) …. Max
Max Comes Across (1917) …. Max
… aka Max Linder Goes to America (1917) (UK)
… aka Max On a Liner (1917)
… aka Max in America (1917)
Max et le sac (1917)
Max entre deux feux (1916)
Max et l’espion (1916) …. Max
Max et le Main-qui-étreint (1916) …. Max
… aka Max victime de la Main-qui-étreint (1916) (France)
Max Is Love Sick (1915)
Coiffeur par amour (1915) …. Max
2 août 1914, Le (1914)
Anglais tel que Max le parle, L’ (1914) …. Max
Idiot qui se croit Max, L’ (1914) …. Max
Max dans les airs (1914) …. Max
Max décoré (1914) …. Max
Max et le bâton de rouge (1914) …. Max
Max et le commissaire (1914) …. Max
Max et le mari jaloux (1914) …. Max
… aka Jalousie (1914) (France)
Max illusionniste (1914) …. Max
Max maître d’hôtel (1914) …. Max
Max pédicure (1914) …. Max
Max sauveteur (1914) …. Max
N’embrassez pas votre bonne (1914)
Escarpins de Max, Les (1913) …. Max
Hasard et l’amour, Le (1913)
Mariage forcé, Le (1913)
Max à Monaco (1913) …. Max
Max a peur de l’eau (1913)
Max asthmatique (1913) …. Max
Max au convent (1913) …. Max
Max et le billet doux (1913) …. Max
Max fait des conquêtes (1913) …. Max
Max n’aime pas les chats (1913) …. Max
Max virtuose (1913)
Ruse de Max, La (1913) …. Max
Un enlèvement en hydroaéroplane (1913)
Un mariage imprévu (1913)
Vacance de Max, La (1913)
… aka Max part en vacances (1913) (France: alternative title)
Max fait de la photo (1913) …. Max
… aka Max Takes a Picture (1913) (USA)
Chapeau de Max, Le (1913)
… aka Max’s Hat (1913) (USA)
Duel de Max, Le (1913) …. Max
Max toréador (1913) …. Max
Rivalité de Max, La (1913) …. Max
Max Linder pratique tous les sports (1913) …. Max
Débuts d’un yachtman, Les (1913)
Max jockey par amour (1913) …. Max
Rendez-vous de Max, Le (1913) …. Max
Mal de mer, Le (1912)
Match de boxe entre patineurs à roulettes (1912)
Max a peur des chiens (1912) …. Max
… aka Max Fears the Dogs (1912) (USA)
Max collectioneur de chaussures (1912) …. Max
Max émule de Tartarin (1912) …. Max
Max et Jane veulent faire du théâtre (1912) …. Max
… aka Max Plays at Drama (1912) (USA)
… aka Max veut faire du théâtre (1912) (France)
Max et la doctoresse (1912) …. Max
… aka Max and the Lady Doctor (1912) (USA)
Max et la fuite de gaz (1912) …. Max
Max et la statue (1912) …. Max
… aka Max and the Statue (1912) (USA)
Max in a Wardrobe (1912) …. Max
Max jongleur par amour (1912) …. Max
… aka Max Juggles for Love (1912) (USA)
Max patineur (1912) …. Max
… aka Max Learns to Skate (1912) (USA)
… aka Max Wants to Skate (1912) (USA)
Max, professeur de tango (1912) …. Max
Max veut grandir (1912) …. Max
… aka Max Gets Stuck Up (1912) (USA)
Roman de Max, Le (1912) …. Max
Un mariage au téléphone (1912)
Vengeance du domestique, La (1912)
Voyage de noces en Espagne (1912)
Entente cordiale (1912)
… aka Max et l’entente cordiale (1912) (France)
Max boxeur par amour (1912) …. Max
Amour tenace (1912)
Max peintre par amour (1912) …. Max
Un pari original (1912)
Une idylle à la ferme (1912)
Max et les femmes (1912) …. Max
… aka Oh les femmes! (1912) (France)
Max cocher de fiacre (1912) …. Max
Malle au mariage, La (1912)
Max et son âne (1912) …. Max
Une nuit agitée (1912)
Max escamoteur (1912) …. Max
… aka Succès de la prestidigitation, Le (1912) (France)
Que peut-il avoir? (1912)
… aka Que peut-il arriver? (1912) (France)
Max bandit par amour (1912) …. Max
Max contre Nick Winter (1912) …. Max
Max amoureux de la teinturière (1912) …. Max
Max et son chien Dick (1912) …. Max
… aka Max and His Dog (1912)
Max reprend sa liberté (1912) …. Max
… aka Troubles of a Grasswidower (1912) (USA)
Max lance la mode (1912) …. Max
Flûte merveilleuse, La (1911) …. Max
… aka Max Makes Music (1911) (USA)
Mariée récalcitrante, La (1911)
Max est charitable (1911) …. Max
Max et Jane en voyage de noces (1911) …. Max
Max et les crêpes (1911)
Max se marie (1911)
Max, victime du quinquina (1911) …. Max
Par habitude (1911)
Une mariée qui se fait attendre (1911)
Max a un duel (1911) …. Max
Max dans sa famille (1911) …. Max
… aka Max en convalescence (1911) (France)
Voisin… voisine (1911)
Cauchemar de Max, Le (1910) …. Max
Feu sacré, Le (1910)
Mariage au puzzle (1910)
Max aéronaute (1910) …. Max
Max a le feu sacré (1910) …. Max
Max célibataire (1910) …. Max
Max champion de boxe (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Has the Boxing Fever (1910) (USA)
Max cherche une fiancée (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Embarrassed (1911) (USA)
Max et Clancy tombent d’accord (1910) …. Max
Max et la belle négresse (1910) …. Max
Max et le téléphone (1910) …. Max
Max et l’inauguration de la statue (1910) …. Max
Max et sa belle mère (1910) …. Max
… aka Max and His Mother-in-Law (1910) (USA)
Max et ses trois mariages (1910) …. Max
Max fiancé (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Is Forced to Work (1911) (USA)
Max hypnotisé (1910) …. Max
Max joue le drame (1910) …. Max
Max maîtresse de piano (1910) …. Max
Max ne se mariera pas (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Is Stuck Up (1911) (USA)
Max se trompe d’étage (1910) …. Max
Max manque un riche mariage (1910) …. Max
Duel d’un Monsieur Myope, Le (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Has Trouble with His Eyes (1910) (USA)
Max prend un bain (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Takes a Bath (1910) (USA)
Qui a tué Max? (1910) …. Max
… aka Who Killed Max? (1911) (USA)
Comment Max fait le tour du monde (1910) …. Max
… aka How Max Went Around the World (1911) (USA)
Débuts de Max au cinéma, Les (1910) …. Max
Effets des pilules de Max, Les (1910) …. Max
Max est distrait (1910) …. Max
… aka Max Is Absent Minded (1910) (USA)
Max fait du ski (1910) …. Max
Max et l’edelweiss (1910) …. Max
… aka Max in the Alps (1910) (USA)
Romeo se fait bandit (1910) …. Romeo
… aka Romeo Turns Bandit (1910) (USA)
Max et son rival (1910) …. Max
… aka Perseverance Rewarded (1910) (USA)
… aka Tout est bien qui finit bien (1910) (France)
Pacte, Le (1910) …. Max
… aka Max in a Dilemma (1910) (USA)
Une bonne pour monsieur, un domestique pour madame (1910)
Timidité guérie par le sérum, La (1910)
Exploits du jeune Tartarin, Les (1910) …. Max
Avant et… après (1909)
Baromètre de la fidélité, Le (1909)
Bridge au plafond, Le (1909)
Chapeau-claque, Le (1909)
En bombe (1909)
Ingénieux attentat, L’ (1909)
Je voudrais un enfant (1909)
Kyrelor, bandit par amour (1909)
Mes voisins me font danser (1909)
Mon chien rapporte (1909)
N’embrassez pas votre bonne (1909)
Petite rosse, La (1909)
Ratelier de la belle-mère, La (1909)
See the Picture! (1909)
Soulier trop petit, Le (1909)
… aka Max’s Feet Are Pinched (1911) (USA)
Timidité vaincue, La (1909)
… aka Cure for Timidity, A (1910) (USA)
Trop aimée (1909)
Une campagne électorale (1909)
Une jeune fille romanesque (1909)
… aka Romantic Young Lady, A (1910) (USA)
Une poursuite mouvementée (1909)
Une séance de cinématographe (1909)
Un mariage à l’américaine (1909)
Une conquête (1909)
… aka Conquest, A (1910) (USA)
Petit jeune homme, Le (1909)
Amoureux de la femme à barbe (1909)
Repos impossible (1908)
… aka Noisy Neighbors (1908) (USA)
Très moutarde, La (1908)
Vive la vie de garçon (1908)
… aka Troubles of a Grasswidower (1908) (USA)
At the Music Hall (1907)
Mort d’un toréador, La (1907)
Sganarelle (1907)
Une mauvaise vie (1907)
Vie de Polichinelle, La (1907) …. Polichinelle/Ponchinella/Harlequin
… aka Harlequin’s Story (1907) (USA)
… aka Legend of Polichinelle, The (1907) (USA)
… aka Legend of Ponchinella (1907) (USA: video title)
Idée d’apache (1907)
… aka Hooligan Idea, A (1907) (USA)
Débuts d’un patineur, Les (1907)
C’est papa qui prend la purge (1906) …. Lover in the street
Contrebandiers, Les (1906)
Cross Country (1906)
… aka Great International Cross-Country (1906) (France)
Lèvres collées (1906)
… aka Joined Lips (1906) (USA)
Pendu, Le (1906)
… aka Attempted Suicide (1907) (USA)
Poison, Le (1906)
Premier cigare d’un collégien, Le (1906)
… aka His First Cigar (1906) (USA)
Rencontre imprévue, La (1906)
… aka Unforeseen Meeting (1906) (USA)
Dix femmes pour un mari (1905)
Première sortie d’un collégien, La (1905)


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