Mystery Of the Almost Fatal Honeymoon
What Could Have Driven Max Linder and His
Lovely Young Parisian Bride to Take the Doses
of Poison That Nearly Killed Them Both?
Max Linder, the celebrated film comedian, whose honeymoon with his girl bride has just missed ending in a double tragedy
By Carl De Vidal Hunt
NOW that Monsieur Max Linder, Europe's celebrated film comedian, and his young bride, Ninette, are rapidly recovering from the effects of a poisonous drug said to have been taken with suicidal intent in the very midst of their honeymoon, the world at large is recalling the strange circumstances of their marriage in Paris last summer and at the same time wondering what it was that drove them so mysteriously to the brink of death.
Did the grim phantom of jealousy stalk in the wake of happiness and point the way to their deed?
Had the fact of their difference in age anything to do with it?
Was it an ordinary case of love madness, superinduced by the haunting fear of failure?
Or did the beautiful young heiress and spoiled society favorite suddenly quaver in the presence of the many different screen faces of the comedian, vaguely asking herself which one it was she had fallen in love with, and then, finding herself lost in a maze of perplexing confusion, urge her husband to give up his work and make only one kind of face, the one that expresses love and passionate longing, for domestic purposes only and exclusively?
These are some of the many puzzled questions the friends of Max and millions of film fans in Europe and America are asking today.
When Max disappeared from his usual haunts in Paris last summer speculation was rife as to his motives in leaving his handsome apartment in the Avenue Emile Deschanel without giving even to old Marie, his housekeeper, an inkling of where he was going. Inquiries were to no avail. Max did not even leave a forwarding address. But one thing was certain: Max Linder was not on his way to America to make another picture.
Two weeks passed and then some inquisitive newspaper person telegraphed from Monte Carlo that Max had been seen there in the company of a ravishing beauty, a young and distinguished looking girl whose very appearance in the salle de jeux at the Casino caused a flutter of excitement among the mixed crowd of gamblers, tourists and demimondaines from every corner of the globe.
About the same time another discovery was made in Paris. From one of the stately private villas in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, not far from the Arc de Triomphe, a beautiful girl of eighteen, daughter of a former Minister of France, had vanished quite as mysteriously and left no forwarding address with her widowed mother.
Promptly the Paris journalists put one and one together, describing the missing beauty minutely and enthusiastically and boldly hazarding the statement that "Max had gone off again on one of his episodic love escapades, but this time with a real femme du monde, a daughter of the highest French aristocracy." Of course, the name of the missing young lady was not given in any of the Paris papers, but her description tallied more or less with that of the ravishing beauty seen with Max at the roulette table.
That was enough for the gay Parisians. Between sips in the cafes on the grand boulevards they poked one another in the ribs and commented on the good luck of that "devil of a Max," wishing they were in his place to enjoy his phenomenal success with the fair sex.
Then all of a sudden their amorous speculations were given a jolt that was as unexpected as it was mystifying. The young patrician from the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne had eloped, it was true, but not with Max Linder. Instead, the young beauty had been carried off by a Russian prince and had telegraphed her mother that she was now a happy princess and enjoying the wonders of Venice.
Charming Ninette Linder; and (below) her husband in one of his happiest moods
The gay boulevardiers for once were baffled. Surely Max was not masquerading as a Russian prince! And if he were not in Venice, but in Monte Carlo, who in the wide world could this wonderful beauty be that had caused such a stir at his side in the Casino? Mystery, deep and impenetrable. When the reporters swooped down upon Monte Carlo, the pair had flown to parts unknown. More mystery, deeper and more impenetrable.
Poor Max, poor, honest and unsuspecting Max! This is what really happened to him. He had literally fallen head over heels in love with Ninette Peters, beautiful, accomplished, young and a determined hater of the movies.
Max had first met Ninette when she was eight years old. That was ten years ago, when Max was thirty and did not have the least intention of asking Ninette's hand in marriage. In the first place he did not believe in marriage outside the movie studio; and in the second he could not possibly marry a girl of his own age divided by four. But when the time came where Max was only twice the age of Ninette, matters took a different turn.
It happened at Chamounix, and the day was a perfect midwinter day. Snow sports were in full swing and the toboggan trails were in first-class condition. Max wore a white sweater and light gray knickers. He looked handsome against the background of snow-clad mountains. The scene reminded him at Baer Valley in the Sierras of California about Christmas time.
Before him at the top of the toboggan trail three French society girls were solidly installed on a big sled, ready to shoot down the slippery path of snow. Their backs were turned to Max, who was toying with a cigarette. Suddenly the leader of the toboggan, a young American, looked round and called out:
"Get on, Max, and hold her tight."
Not at all confused because he had been recognized, Max first cast an uneasy glance down the snowy ravine and then a more assured one at the dark blond hair and the perfect figure of the last girl on the toboggan, the one he was supposed to "hold tight." Unable to see her face* he wondered if she were pretty.
The next moment Max sat on the toboggan and before he had time to say boo the narrow sled and its human cargo were shooting down the trail at the rate of sixty-five miles an hour. All went beautifully until they reached the foot of the trail. There something unexpected happened.
The toboggan swerved, and all its screaming occupants went rolling in the deep snow. Max was hanging on for dear life to the girl in front of him. Over and over they rolled. Just before they came to a stop the girl threw her arms around Max's neck. Then came the climax.
For a moment the two lay in the snow, panting and wondering if they had broken anything. Then the girl looked at Max.
"M. Max," she cried, jumping to her feet. "Don't you remember Ninette?"
In the process of rolling off the toboggan Max had shut both his eyes. They were still shut when the sweet voice above him reminded him that he was not dead. He quickly got up, stared into the blue eyes that were simply burning into him, and then said, vaguely reminiscent:
"You don't mean little Ninette, so high, and...?"
He said it with a foolish grin, showing his white teeth and looking genuinely idiotic for once. But Ninette helped him over his confusion and led him back to the hotel, where her mother was even more surprised than she.
Explanations followed and Max was quick to discover that the little Ninette of ten years ago had grown into a most superb Ninette of eighteen. That same day in his own room Max took his mirror for a witness that he did not look a day older than thirty. That pleased him. He did not feel older than twenty-two, anyway, so why should he not pay court to Ninette?
One of the many strange expressions which Mr. Linder's versatile face can assume and which it is thought his bride found unendurably different from the look she fell in love with
Three days later Max told Ninette that he loved her madly.
"It is the first time I really love," he murmured close to her little pink ear. "Yes, I love you, Ninette, with the deep passion of a man of the world who has played all his life and suddenly discovered that all this time has been wasted. Will you be my wife?"
Ninette said she was quite willing. More than that, she admitted that she had never seen any of his motion pictures because she hated movies in the first place and also because she did not want to spoil the impression she had always carried in her heart.
"I have loved you almost as long as I can remember," she confessed with a blush, "but I am afraid my mother will never consent to our marriage."
An hour later Max learned to his profound chagrin that Ninette was right. Her mother did not want Ninette to be the wife of a movie comedian. He left Chamonix by the evening express for Paris and that was all the world knew of the affair until nearly two months later, when Max was seen at the Monte Carlo gambling casino with the ravishing girl of mystery.
Subsequent developments show that Mme. Peters, Ninette's mother, had stubbornly refused to give her daughter's hand to the noted comedian. Max was grieving as only a comedian can when hit by a tragic turn in his life.
Strange to say, Ninette appeared at the resort a week laterówithout her mother. She took a suite of rooms not far from Max's hotel and for a whole fortnight saw him every day, motoring with him to Mentone or Monte Carlo, but always bidding him a roguish and somehow tantalizing good night when he left her on the broad marble steps leading to her apartments.
Max loved Ninette all the more for it. But he also noticed that the southern climate had no tangible effect upon his avoirdupois. On the contrary, he was still losing flesh. He was contemplating the purchase of more raiment when suddenly Mme. Peters appeared upon the scene. Ninette was hustled back to Paris before she had time to realize what was happening.
"You have compromised yourself," the mother cried in a temper; "and the only thing to do now is to marry Max."
Ninette looked deeply penitent, but her heart jumped with joy. In three months, according to the motherly pronunciamento, she was to become Mme. Max Linder. But in the meantime she was not to see Max under any pretext.
Max declared himself satisfied. He put on two pounds a week by taking cod liver oil every morning, noon and night, and when the day of the marriage ceremony in Notre Dame de la Lorette came, Max and Ninette were indeed the handsomest pair that had entered the portals of the old church in many a year.
Max and Ninette went into seclusion for a month. They lived in perfect bliss in a small villa in Boulogne, where only their most intimate friends were admitted.
Then Max was called to Vienna to appear as a screen comedian. Ninette went went him, of course, and watched him at work. She saw him twist his face and roll his eyes, she was with him when he made love to the movie queen, and she did not like it.
As to what happened when Max and Ninette talked over the subject of movies on reaching their rooms at the Bristol, there are endless speculations. Some say there were scenes of jealousy. Others are sure Max and Ninette did not talk for days.
Then came the news that the couple had been found suffering from the effects of a drug. They were taken to a hospital and for nearly two weeks their lives hung in the balance. The world was shocked to hear of what was so nearly a tragedy.
No one except Max himself and his little Ninette will ever be able to say what dreadful pall it was that suddenly veiled their vision and drove them to the edge of oblivion, nor how it happens that, now they are well again, they seem perfectly happy.
(The Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 20, 1924)