Translation of: Max Linder muore alla guerra, La Tribuna, 1. Oct. 1914

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Max Linder died in the war

 

 

    It is not the title of his new film to be projected tonight. It is the tragic and heroic epilogue of his short joyous day.

 

M. Max Linder

 

    I can see him, Max Linder, when we saw him one evening in the beginning of summer, a few days before the war, with his eternal "tight", with his hair in eternal bushel, with his eternal smile, a donkey tethered to a train riding through the white snowy landscapes of the Upper Engadine, figurine of the shadow theatre, vision of the magic lantern, black "silhouette" cropped on the white background of the alpine landscape. He found the absurd and impossible situations and he found that what went beyond the usual comedy of funny film actors, the Tartufini, the Cretinetti, the Beoncelli. His comedy was humorous, was full of wit, cool, composed, prim, that of a "pince sans rire" that drew the most comical contrast from his proper seal of "gentleman," the naturalness of his realistic play and precise scenery in the craziest adventures, in the most absurd and grotesque situations. Thus his success had been more than a success of the theatre or the cinema. His art had been successful. There was talk of Max Linder, not only in the general public, but also in the public of more refined tastes and habits, as a great comedian, as a true artist of laughter. No one had ever heard him reciting .... But he had a style, had created a genre made fashion, multiplied his imitators. Playwright and actor together, composed by himself his "films" and interpreted by himself in them. So subject and performer were always beautifully attuned since coming off the same concave mirror or convex humorous observation of men and of life, from which life and men come out together faithfully reproduced and grotesquely deformed.

    His fortune was swift. In a few years the battle name of Max Linder had become famous throughout the world as the whole world laughed to see him very seriously, composed, elegant, proper and measured, suffer the most adventurous and imaginative ordeal with a stupid smile and artful set that disclosed a double row of white teeth and the extreme physiognomy and extraordinary expression gave something of a mischievous and cunning "bon enfant", an air of serious and well-mannered brat that was more serious and made you laugh, was more educated and was more impertinent. His name and surname having a Germanic air had led to believe some of the audience, he was German. Instead, he was French and utterly French, typical speck, indeed, characteristic "silhouette", figurine Representative. Was basically Parisian, pariginissimo, Parisian from the "boulevard" and the sidewalks, hero of the road, film reincarnation of Parisian brat, who became great: he was Gavroche in tailcoat and white tie. "The bons mots' of Gavroche were the gestures of Max Linder. On the lips of both, the type of Victor Hugo's classic and popular actor of Pathé, the smile was the same: to look very special, a very special way to make fun of people. And because people love, without realizing it, to be taken for a ride, the smile of Max Linder drew on every fortnight, with a new film, around the world.

    Mediocre actor in the secondary roles of secondary Parisian theatres had tried in the cinema to round up the digits of his meagre salary. And the cinema was a revelation. Within a few years he's now earning, they say, a hundred, two hundred thousand lire a year. The irresistible humour of his "movies" was popular, waited for, sought everywhere. Even very serious people, very serious and very decent who do not attend cinemas, went there one evening when the thin  "silhouette" of Max Linder loomed on the poster. He had to provide two "films" per month and his comic fantasy was never tired. He reached in a certain classical perfection in a classic simplicity. He knew to make something from nothing. He knew with a turn of the eye to be understood better than a hundred words. He knew asking for and giving to the cinema, nothing more, nothing less, all that the cinema can give and get.

    And he went, like any good French to war, desperate and heroic war of his great country. And they certainly must have gone smiling like the "répétition" of a new film, with its eternal 'tight', with his hair in eternal bushel, with his eternal smile. And today a brief news from Berlin announces that Max Linder died on the battlefield. Pei reported from Berlin there is no difference: destroy the Cathedral of Reims or kill Max Linder are similar actions of which the Berlin news shall boast about: Cathedral or comedian, it does not matter: the essential thing is always to take away something from France, something that the others don't have: either one of its great beauties or one of its little smiles.

   Small smile that we'll never find anymore. Or rather, as the art of film actors is stored at least for a few years from that oblivion, which condemns the art of theatre artists, when the artist has disappeared from the boards of his triumphs, that smile we find ourselves, in a few evenings when the news of his death will advise you to call in screening old films of Max Linder. And you end up with a shiver of excitement thinking that smile met with death. Since even the death Max Linder must have gone meeting smiling. He believed sure, the good guy, that the benign fate would have it, after so many comic films, allowed to complete even his heroic film.

    In modern warfare, in this horrible anonymous carnage, a soldier doesn't see the killing of another soldier lest he sees and the bullet that you do not even know whence it cometh it does not know where it goes. But if it were possible, in the evening, once the battle ceased, finding there, in the enemy trenches, their targets, and if the German soldier, who killed Max Linder, without knowing it, could find down there, elegant, fair, smiling even in death, his victim, I am sure that soldier would regret, not to have fired a cartridge less that day. Maybe the night before, under the tent, exhausted from the battle, prepared to start what he had to, in the horror of war and death, the anonymous Uhlan, who killed Max Linder, will regret with nostalgia, the quiet evenings alone, when, next to his Carlotta or to his Gretchen, in a village in Silesia and Brandenburg, in the warm room of a cinema, he saw Max Linder, with his eternal "tight" with his eternal hat bushel, with his eternal smile, going on a donkey behind a moving train in the snow, figurine of the shadow theatre, vision of the magic lantern, black "silhouette" cropped on the white background of the alpine landscape.

    And so perhaps there would be a German, capable of regret, of having killed a Frenchman ... LUCIO D'AMBRA. (La Tribuna, Oct. 1, 1914)