Translation of: Hablando con Max Linder, La Correspondencia de España, 4. Oct. 1912
Talking to Max Linder
Cinema is in the news, and especially those that we encounter in the movies.
Max Linder, the very popular French actor who is so familiar to all audiences, is in Madrid for two days.
He comes to the Gran Teatro where he will be presented next Monday. How will the public receive him?
Surely well, because Max deserves it. It is not in a common acrobatic act, where he manages to get the public laughing by means of somersaults and dislocations. Max Linder is exaggerating, but he is an actor and he comes as such.
It is futile to talk of the successes in the cinema: everyone has admired their various skills and the appropriate outputs of their celebrated mime.
Be applauded by an audience is easy, being cheered by all is difficult, and this has largely been achieved by Max Linder.
His presence in Madrid certainly is a hot topic. There will therefore be a need to meet and chat with him for a while.
Max Linder is kindness itself, dressed in the usual elegant toilette. He has his striped trousers, like in the movies. The only difference we notice in him, is that his height is lower than in the movies.
—How was Spain?
—You'll see ...
Before getting into detail, Max Linder, because I asked him, speaks to me about his first steps in the theater world.
—I wanted to be an actor, but papa was opposed. My family has a good reputation in the Gironde and he had other plans for me. When I showed my absolute decision to be a comedian, papa said, "I only let you if you enter the Comédie Française." Just imagine! I was very young then.
—How old are you now?
—Twenty-nine years. I was twenty then. I came out with the first prize of the Conservatory and devoted myself to the famous actor Le Bargy to give me a few lessons. Certainly we were master and disciple alternatively, because while he taught me diction, I taught him fencing.
—You are a marksman?
—I am the second champion of Spain. But I have had too much affection. When I was most excited about the Bargy lessons, one day he said to me, "My dear Max, your temperament is not for comedy. It will not be classic, and I think you would do well to devote yourself to the theaters of the Boulevard. "Do you understand what this means. Wearing jackets or coats, but not the classic costume. Then I hired on as a second suitor at the Ambigu Comique.
—You met your true passion.
—I was there for two years, and I made a contract with the Théâtre Réjane, but while I was rehearsing I was offered a better contract by the Variétés, and I moved there for three years. Then I made other theaters.
—I suppose you had great success.
Yes, my first steps were lucky. By then the splendor of the cinema already began, and I made some movies. With them alternated my stage work.
—That's called leverage.
—Bah! I am young and strong.
I look at Max Linder, and sure enough, his youth and strength emanates an air of health and happiness, and I am happy to continue talking to the man who was consecrated to amuse mankind, who begins to have fun himself and rely on his own will and energy.
—By then I earned a salary I never thought possible. Pathé once asked me, "How much do you make? '" A thousand francs a month. '"I give you five thousand." "Deal." and I kept on making movies and feeling the satisfaction that these were the most requested. So I reached under 50,000 francs a year.
—Now you see what happened to me. I, in imitation of some other artists in Paris, alternated between the theaters and the music-halls. "It was a matter of contract. They took me to Olympia, there, among other works, into a number consisting of a section of boxing on skates. Do not want to tell you that it was exposed! This happened to me, one night I slipped and fell.
—Two years of illness, from the blow I was told of the peritonitis and had to have this terrible operations. I have the belly open from three or four sides.
—Horror! I'm sure that when many readers read this, it will seem that it is impossible for the boy to be happy and have fun, that the Max they admired, had to suffer such painful trials. And yet, it is.
—Needless to tell you that I would pass the two years alone, sick, and thinking that for me it was over. Meanwhile, the film house I worked for, I thought would replace me and look for other artists. They paraded several of the best known in Paris, becoming payed dearly. I was cured, and, naturally, I wanted to resume my life. I went to see Pathé, and said:
—I'm well. When do we resume?
—Whenever you want.
—Perfect, but first I want to see what has been done during my illness.
—Whatever you want to call it, but I think you will find it natural. I saw what they had done and asked Pathé:
—What now? —Well, as always. —No, them or me. —You. —Then I want, instead of 15,000 francs, 250,000.
—And they gave it to me, and here I am contracted for three years.
—So 250,000 francs per year? That's the film business!
—Tell me something about how it's made.
—That's horrible, because, my friend, I think out by myself and I plan to myself. Sometimes I'm lying down and toying with an idea when I start to see clearly the matter, bang, jump out of bed, wrap myself in a gown and on the spot start to unfold the matter. When I have finished one, I have to start thinking about another.
—How many movies do you have to do?
—Fifty. That is almost one a week. I have hired six actors, cast them, explaining what to do and then to work. We talk about the films we make, saying what comes to mind when appropriate. Meanwhile, the operator works and everything goes smoothly.
—And on the street?
—That's hard, but I liken it to a battle plan. Simply when the commanding general knows to pave the way for the troops, things keep running smoothly. The first thing to take care of is that the public does not realize that we are there when it comes to doing something on a street. Just imagine that this is an incident that takes place in the Place de la Opéra in Paris. Because the passing public would not be noticing a possible filming. Everything has been agglomerated when the flow is interrupted and officers would take us to the police station before we had accomplished our purpose. I tell the operator to be there at a certain place at a specific time. The artists that we engage has the same, and to the second bang! we appear where they come together. When officers and the public want to approach us, the film is already made.
—Many expenditures for that?
—Huge, but the contract gives me room for it all. Oh, if I stumble every day matters! So out in the most difficult locations in the world, we operated there!
—Do you want to talk about your tournée of Spain?
—You see. My main purpose was to have some rest and to make a pleasure trip. A businessman from Barcelona talked with me and found exactly what I proposed. There was not a huge fee for me, but the trip helped me. I explained that I would give a little demonstration how films are made, presenting it with three or four artists with a small piece, in which I could do things. Do you understand?
—It's just a little comedy, which expresses the joy and the pain, fear, despair and a few other sensations. There is also the time of fine comedy. Do not forget that I have taken lessons from Le Bargy and I have performed at the Ambigu and Variétés. Well, when I arrived in Barcelona I found that I had made an atmosphere that hurt me a terrible way. Just imagine that they thought I was going to present a serious comedy in three acts, like those which have been submitted by other French artists when they came on tournée to Spain. The public, to be fair, much applauded me, and I'm happy that way, but the press has treated me very badly. Sure: they had counted on a comedy in three acts and have encountered a show that gives twenty five minutes. What do you think will happen here?
—So that the public will not suffer such a mistake and appreciate its worth.
—I want to make this clear: I do not come to present comedies, but to provide a little bit of entertainment. We'll see if I succeed. Don't think that this is happening to me for the first time. You see, not long ago I went to work for a French population. I introduced myself doing a comedy, and I noticed that in the first act and the next, I realized that I had failed. Viewers. accustomed to my stuff and to farcical movies, suffered a dreadful disappointment. Yes? I said. Well now see. Then came the third act, and you can not imagine the things I did. I leaped, jumped, rolled across the floor, and I had a crazy success. Anyone doing comedies gets serious! Do you understand now why it harmed me in Barcelona with the belief they had, that I was going to do that? Serious comedies, no!
—I've got to tell the people of Madrid, what are you going to do. Who accompanies you?
—Two artists and Miss Napierkowska.
—The dancer right?
—And a lot of talent. Shall take part with me in representing the little piece and then dance, Ah! Mind you that they do Egyptian dances, of the antiquity, classicals, which she interprets. Let's not have another mistake.
—I assure you, it will have the success it deserves.
—Those are the troubles I've had on my arrival in Spain, of which I spoke at the beginning of our conversation. Also, I have been assured that there is a certain mood against me in Madrid.
—I've been told.
—You'll see that it is not true.
—So much so, that I have proposed to the empresario to terminate my contract, pay the expenses of my colleagues and myself and leave.
—Do not do such a thing. Now you did verify the date of the debut.
—Yes, now I'm convinced of the contrary, and I am anxious to appear before the public.
—You have fought in Barcelona?
—Yes, at a fiesta for amateurs. I had gone twice and seen the bull fights of Gallito. I have no facility to imitate singers, but instead, many things done with the body and the hands, I copy especially faithful. When I went out to the square to kill my torete someone suggested to imitate Gallito, and so successfully, that people insisted, I had been given lessons by Gallo ... Can you see that doing like that?
—And with that, Max Linder rises from the chair he occupies, and planting himself in the middle of the room begins to [revolares] and [faroles], like a genuine bullfighter.
—Well, when I saw him do all that, I thought I was in the Plaza de Barcelona.
—Tremendous. Of course, I took the advantage and have my cameraman makes some films, and with this and other he has to do in Spain, I have another question.
—Even chatted more, because the kindness and amenity of Max Linder is very great. No exaggeration, as entertaining as the movies is talking. His sympathy is attractive.
—My impression on his debut? ... That it will be a great success. Let's not forget that we owe him all the applause that made the rendering in mind of his very entertaining work in films, that have delighted us so very much.
A. R. BONNAT
(La Correspondencia de España, 4.10.1912)