Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Questions Surrounding The Origin of Gentleman Max

In a 2017 article, I addressed a claim made by film historian Alan Williams that Max Linder was a fairly obscure actor until Pathé employed him to replace their natty funnyman René Gréhan, who exited the company in 1907 to join rival Éclair. Williams stated that, in this changeover, Linder freely adopted Gréhan's stylish dress and dandy manner. This means that the character that made Linder an international star did not actually belong to Linder. That's a bold claim. The idea of Linder neatly filling Gréhan's shoes was repeated by Robyn Karney in her book "Cinema: Year by Year, 1894-2000" (2000). It turns up again in Linder's Wikipedia profile:
Linder was chosen to take over [Gréhan's] characterization for Pathé, and the style of dress and personality of Gréhan's character became his trademark.
A claim of this magnitude merits evidence and, to my knowledge, none has ever been produced. No evidence - not a photograph, a catalog listing, a trade review, or a frame of film - has surfaced to prove that Gréhan portrayed a comic dandy character before Linder made his debut in a highly similar role. 

I just recently came across a film that Gréhan made for Pathé in 1907. The film, called Le Cake-walk forcé, does prove that Gréhan was employed by Pathé during this period. This is an important fact. But Linder was already established as a star at Pathé by the time that this film was released. Also, Gréhan lacks Linder's impeccable dress. He has no silk top hat, no morning coat, no pin-striped pants, and no spats. 

It remains possible that Williams is correct. But I still need to see the evidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment