Answer in two parts.
Producing movies in the silent era in France and Russia -- or anywhere
else -- was not unlike the making of movies or television shows today.
It was not unusual for a short one-reeler to be shot in a week.
Comedians such as France's Max Linder, who was an inspiration for
Charlie Chaplin, routinely made one film a week, very much as a
television show today will complete filming an episode in a week (post
production takes weeks more for television, however). It was also not
unusual for a major motion picture to take months to film and years to
complete, as in the case of Abel Gance's "Napoleon" (France, 1927),
the principal shooting for which was done in 1925, but the movie
itself was not completed and released until two years later. Then, as
today, innovative directors often had to create new technologies to
attain the effects that they envisioned, and this could delay
completion. Gance's triple screen projection system was one such
innovation. Then, as now, some directors commissioned musical scores
that would be played by a piano accompanist, or, in the case of some
epic films, by an orchestra during the showings of the motion picture.
Movies were shot both on location and on studio sets as necessary. The
two largest French studios of the period were Pathè and Gaumont.
FRENCH SILENT CINEMA 1920s
Max Linder was probably the most popular French actor/auteur of the
time. He made more than 500 movies in a career that lasted two decades
(1905-1925). Linder got his start in movies as a bit player at Pathè,
but soon progressed to starring vehicles, and in 1908 became the first
author/actor to receive an onscreen credit for a screenplay. Linder
succeeded his fellow Pathè comedian Andrè Deed, who had moved to
making Italian films, as the leading comic actor in France. At the
beginning of WWI, Linder, who suffered recurring health problems,
served briefly in the Army, before illness, exacerbated by exposure to
poison gas, invalided him out. Linder's popularity spread throughout
Europe, and he was invited to America in 1916 as a possible
replacement for Charlie Chaplin. Lung disease cut short the trip. He
was unable to complete his contract, and went home to France. After
the War, Linder resumed his career and returned to Hollywood to
complete three more pictures. Back in France, his successes continued
unabated. He opened his own theater, and in 1923 collaborated with the
great Abel Gance in a drama, "Au secours" (Help), the serious subject
of which Linder subsequently considered a threat to his comic
reputation. Linder, 42, committed suicide in 1925, after murdering his
Pioneer of all movie comedians
"Max Linder differs from comedians at that time because of his style.
Instead of surface burlesque he does act without overacted mimic and
launched the comic from the movement. Like many other comedians in
those days he also was a highly gifted artist who carried out his
stunts himself, e.g. his dance on telephone wires high up."
Abel Gance's reputation as a director of genius has endured since his
early silent movies. Appearing initially in minor roles as an actor,
he soon began also to work as a scriptwriter, and then formed his own
company to produce his work. "J'accuse!" (1919), a three hour-long
motion picture about the Great War, which included footage taken on
the battlefield, was the film that set him apart from his
contemporaries as an artist. Gance's masterwork is the epic
"Napoleon". With a running time of more than six hours, massive battle
scenes shot on location, aerial and panoramic shots, split-screen
action, and a complete orchestral score by Arthur Honegger, it was an
enormously daring production, one which had only limited box office
success, due to the daunting technological requirements of the
projection system and the film's length. In the sound era, Gance
remade both "J'accuse!" and "Napoleon."
THE WORLD'S ONLY ABEL GANCE HOME PAGE
"His parents encouraged him to begin a career as a lawyer, but from an
early age Gance was attracted to the theatre. He made his stage debut
as an actor in Brussels at the age of 19, and then took his first film
role, in the 1909 film MoliËre.
He continued acting and script-writing before forming his own
production company in 1911. That year, he made his first film, "La
Digue", which, like many of his early films, was not successful. His
five-hour play, "Victoire de Samothrace," in which he was to appear
with Sarah Bernhardt, was cancelled with the outset of World War I."
"In 1919, He achieved international recognition for his three hour
epic "J'Accuse", a powerful anti-war film which included location
filming of battles shot towards the end of World War I.
"J'Accuse" used experimental techniques which the innovative director
would develop further in his next monumental film, Napoleon, released
CONVERSATION WITH PASCALE HONEGGER ON ARTHUR HONEGGER AND HIS FILM
SCORE FOR "NAPOLEON"
Jacques Feyder, a Belgian with naturalized French citizenship, began
his film career at Gaumont before WWI. Feyder directed a number of
visually impressive films, mainly adaptations of well-known French
literary works by, among others, Prosper Merimee, Anatole France, and
Emile Zola, including "Carmen" "L'atlantide" (1920), "Crainquebille"
(1923), and "Thèrëse Raquin" (1928), which was his first widely
praised work. Feyder preferred to shoot on location as much as
possible. "L'atlantide", a science fiction/fantasy about two men
stranded in the desert who encounter the Queen of Lost Atlantis, was
filmed in the Sahara. After a film that satirized the French
Parliament embroiled him in controversy, Feyder went to America, where
he directed Greta Garbo's last silent film, "The Kiss" (1929). He
returned to France after three years, where he worked until the Nazi
occupation, after which he fled to Switzerland. Feyder married the
actress Françoise Rosay in 1917, and she collaborated with him on many
of his projects, later starring in several. (Feyder is usually
described as a "lyrical" or "poetic" realist, but it is apparent from
the subjects of his adaptations and the official reaction to some of
his films that this lyricism was used ironically to convey a fierce
"French Filmmaker Jacques Feyder is one of the founders of poetic
realism in French cinema."
"In films as an actor from 1913 and director from 1916. Feyder's
lyrical handling of realistic subject-matter created some of the
finest French films of the 1920s, including "Crainquebille" (1923),
"Visage d'enfants" (1924) and the celebrated Zola adaptation, "Therese
Biography for Stacia Napierkowska
"The director of "L'Atlantide", Jacques Feyder, wrote about her: "Miss
Napierkowska was an extraordinary dancer. I had seen her at a dance
festival where she, as slim as a flower stalk, had been
enthusiastically applauded by a crowd of Parisians admirers. A year
later, having to choose actors for "L'Atlantide", I proposed her for
the leading part of Antinea and the producer agreed; so, in a cold
december afternoon, she was in my office, all wrapped in a fur coat,
to sign the contract."
"The first costume rehearsal was an ugly surprise for me: during last
year she had gained a thirty pounds of weight at least."
In contrast to many of the more well regarded directors, such as Gance
and Feyder, who helped to develop the early reputation of French
cinema as high art, Louis Feuillade expressed the view that movies
should be regarded as mass entertainment. Like Linder, Feuillade came
from a family of vintners. After the failure of the family business,
he became a journalist, and in 1905 joined Gaumont as a screenwriter.
In 1907, he became Artistic Director for the company, thereby becoming
a powerful force in the creation of the market for films. In this
position, he himself directed as many as 80 movies a year, with a
prodigious filmography of 700-800 titles to his credit. Among such a
vast catalog were works of all types, but he is primarily remembered
for his cultivation of the serial mystery/thriller genre, making early
use of sequences, such as chases, that would become standard features
in the work of later directors. Like Linder, Louis Feuillade died in
cinema and subjectivity
"Feuillade's cinema was remarkably varied and included realist dramas,
such as "La Vie telle qu'elle est" (1911), and historical epics, such
as "Promèthèe" (1908) and "L'Agonie de Byzance" (1913). However, the
films with which is most closely associated, and the ones which
brought him greatest celebrity, were his crime serials, the forerunner
to the modern thriller."
Other notable figures of the era in France:
A friend and co-worker of Feuillade at Gaumont, Renè Clair also made
the transition from journalism to the movies, first as an actor and
then as writer/director, making an impact with such silents as the
Dadaesque "Entr'acte" and "Un Chapeau De Paille D'Italie" (The Italian
Straw Hat), the latter an adaptation of a 19th Century farce. Clair
had success in Hollywood, as well as in Europe between the World Wars.
"Renè Clair began as a journalist before he made his film debut as an
actor in "Le Lys de la vie" (20). He appeared in three more movies as
an actor - "Parisette" (21), "L'Orpheline" (21) and "Le sens de la
mort" (22). On the occasion he profited from the cooperation with
director Louis Feuillade and learnt a lot about the art of narration
of the cinema."
Rare, classic French films directed by Rene Clair
"UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS
Sous les Toits de Paris
In the crowded tenaments of Paris, a street singer, his best friend, a
gangster vie for the hand of a sensuous young woman. This witty
exploration of love and human foibles is noteworthy for capturing the
flamboyant atmosphere of the city, in a studio set no less!"
Silent French Comedy from La Cinèmathëque franåaise
"Among these pioneers, only the novelist-critic-Dadaist Renè Clair
forged a distinctive career as a commercial narrative filmmaker,
beginning with his first "experimental" feature "Paris qui dort" and
continuing into the 30s with early sound masterworks like "Sous les
toits de Paris" and "A Nous la libertè""
Maurice Chevalier, already famous in the musical theater, began in
films in 1908. After WWI, during which he was a POW, when he learned
English while interned, Chevalier built upon his previous popularity,
eventually going to Hollywood where he became an international star.
Charles Boyer, the celebrated romantic lead in many Hollywood movies
of the 1930s and 1940s, had a brief career in the silent era in
Gabriel Signoret, actor, with a long list of silent credits, including
"The Damnation of Faust."
Françoise Rosay, the wife of Feyder, first appeared in "Falstaff" in
1913, and had a string of successes, many, like "Crainquebille,"
directed by her husband.
Albert Prèjean, actor, starred in many films, beginning with "The
Three Musketeers" in 1921. He was a favorite performer for Renè Clair.
Jean Murat, actor, began his career in the middle 1920s silent films,
and continued acting during the sound era.
Clarification of Answer by
29 Oct 2003 15:26 PST
EARLY SOVIET CINEMA 1920s
In the Soviet Union, movies were a state-controlled industry. During
the brief period after the War Communism (1921) and before the first
Five Year Plan (1928), film was regarded by Lenin as the most
persuasive and important of the arts, and was relatively free and
expressive. A troika of great directors emerged from the era of
creative freedom that existed for those who had a message that
reinforced the communist doctrines. (A paradoxical freedom, to be
sure.) Lev Kuleshov, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Sergei Eisenstein helped
to set the theoretical foundations for modern film making.
Early Soviet Cinema
"Our view of early Soviet cinema is now dominated by the films and
theories of Sergei Eisenstein, in particular his theories on montage
which informed his method of film-making."
"Eisenstein was building on theories of film-making developed by Lev
Kuleshov and Dziga Vertov. These pioneers of Soviet cinema, working
under economic constraints, re-edited existing film-stock to develop
their ideas of film grammar. Kuleshov experimented with how shots
before and after an image affected its interpretation. He realized he
could modify an audience's reaction to a shot by changed the images
either side of it in a montage sequence. Vertov developed an
influential theory called Kino-Pravda (film truth) and stressed the
importance of rhythm in editing, for example, speeding up a montage
sequence towards its climax."
Classics of Early Soviet Cinema
Russian and Soviet Cinema from the Beginnings to World War Two
Kuleshov literally wrote the book on modern movies, "Fundamentals of
Film Direction". His essays on the uses of the montage and on
cinematography in general influenced not only his contemporaries in
the UUSR but are still studied today around the world. Kuleshov taught
Eisenstein and Pudovkin the basics of editing, which they went on to
use effectively in their own works. Kuleshov earned his reputation
early with essays advocating an approach to film similar to that of
the German Expressionist movement. He came to the attention of the
revolutionaries, who sent him to film battlefield footage. Following
the wars, he was appointed to the faculty of the First State Film
School, where he gave lectures on film. This was during a period when
directors were idle because of a dearth of film itself. Kuleshov was
influenced heavily by the styles of Western directors, David Wark
Griffith in particular. "On the Red Front" (1920), "The Extraordianary
Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks" (1924), and "By
the Law" (1926, based on a short story, The Unexpected, by Jack
London) are three of his better known films. Kuleshov came under
suspicion during the early Stalinist years.
Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and
Vol 1, No 20
8 November 1999
Kinoeye: Film in Central and Eastern Europe K I N O E Y E:
"Your heart is beating too loudly"
Levels of narrative and meaning in Kuleshov's "Velikii uteshitel'"
"In the introduction to Lev Kuleshov's first collection of essays on
cinematic theory, a group of his former students, which included such
distinguished names as Vsevolod Pudovkin, declared "We make films,
Kuleshov made cinematography.""
"Kuleshov entered film through the studios of Alexandr Khazonkov,
where he started as a set designer for the director, Evgeni Bauer, and
he later played a role in one of Bauer's films, "Za schast'em" (In
Pursuit of Happiness, 1917). Although Kuleshov later repudiated "the
Bauer method," he learnt much from Bauer's approach, which demanded
that the director have total control over all aspects of the film,
such as sets, lighting and costume."
"Another major influence on him was American cinema. He believed that
the films of America embodied the true essence of cinema. In a
celebrated article of 1922 entitled "Americanism," Kuleshov argued the
need for an "organic link with contemporary life," "the maximum amount
of movement," shorter scenes and therefore more rapid cutting,
close-ups and attention to how individual shots worked when combined
together - montage."
Cinema and Subjectivity
"Undeservedly overlooked by film historians, Lev Kuleshov was the
first theorist of Soviet cinema whose experiments with juxtaposing the
face of an actor and various other images revealed the impact of
montage. Pudovkin and Eisenstein <eisen.html> have often been credited
with this discovery, although their own testimony shows they credited
Kuleshov, who was their teacher."
BY THE LAW/CHESS FEVER
"Lev Kuleshov, who is credited by Eisenstein and Pudovkin [who earlier
had adapted London's "A Piece of Meat"] with having taught them the
elements of montage, might have been influenced by the latter in his
choice of this material, which was a grim Jack London short story
Undoubtedly, the greatest Soviet film maker was Sergei Eisenstein, a
devoted communist, whose works glorified the proletarian struggle.
Eisenstein, a Latvian who trained originally as an architect, is
generally considered among the most influential directors and
theorists during the formative years of motion picture history, and
one of the seminal figures in the development of movies as an art.
After using his architectural training in practical defensive
fortifications around Petersburg during the wars, he became a member
of the People's Theater in Moscow, where he was a stage designer. From
there, he went on to movies. Eisenstein is credited with the
introduction in "Strike" (1924) of the impressionistic montage, which
he translated from the theory of Kuleshov into a series of vivid,
though sometimes discordant, images that created an emotional response
in his viewers. His "Potemkin" (1925), made to commemorate the 20th
anniversary of the anti-Tsarist rebellion of 1905, has been the
subject of analysis and praise since its release, and it routinely
appears on the lists of the great achievements in motion pictures.
"October" (or Ten Days that Shook the World, 1927) is a two hour-long
historical film about the Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the
Provisional Government. Like "Potemkin", it was filmed on location and
with historical footage.
Russian Archives Online > Gallery > Sergei Eisenstein
"Eisenstein's first film, the revolutionary "Strike," was produced in
1924, following the publishing of his first article on theories of
editing in the review Lef, edited by the great poet, Mayakovsky. He
proposed a new editing form, the "montage of attractions" -- in which
arbitrarily chosen images, independent from the action, would be
presented not in chronological sequence but in whatever way would
create the maximum psychological impact."
By Marty Jonas
"Sergei Eisenstein was born on January 23, 1898, to assimilated and
baptized Jewish parents in Riga, Tsarist Russia. His father was a
conservative, an architect and civil engineer for the city of Riga.
His parents separated in 1905, and Eisenstein spent his childhood in
both Riga and St. Petersburg."
"The Civil War was the school for many of the great figures of Soviet
film. Eisenstein, Tisse, Dziga Vertov, and Pudovkin all were with the
Agit trains or shot newsreels at the front. Both the Agit trains,
which traveled to critical areas to agitate and educate among troops,
workers, and peasants; and the newsreels, filmed by Bolsheviks with a
camera in one hand and a gun in the other, elevated art to a new
level--that of a weapon."
Salt Lake City Weekly [Article about Eisenstein's ill-starred attempt
to make a movie in Mexico for Upton Sinclair]
Arts & Entertainment ? March 7, 2002
Rebecca Vernon <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vsevolod Pudovkin, like Kuleshov and Eisenstein, had a solid
theoretical basis for his art, and published two books of essays,
"Film Director and Film Material" and "Film Scenario and Its Theory"
(both 1926). Pudovkin, who with Eisenstein studied under Kuleshov, is
regarded as the more refined of the master's two prominent students.
That judgment is sometimes justified through a comparison of
Pudovkin's "The End of St. Petersburg" (1927) with Eisenstein's
"October", both of which were made with government money to
commemorate the October Revolution. While Eisenstein chose to tell his
story objectively. Pudovkin selected a personal point of view,
focusing on the story of a small boy as witness to the Revolution.
Perhaps his most celebrated film is "Mother" (1926), starring Vera
Baranovskaya as the mother of young man who leads an illegal strike.
Pudovkin was married to actress Anna Zemstova.
(Vsevolod Illarianovich Pudovkin)
Classic Russian films on video Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin
Another Soviet director with an influential body of work from the era
was Dziga Vertov. Vertov's work ranged from the documentary to the
experimental, although even his documentary work employed inventive
camera techniques and cinematic effects. Vertov likened the camera to
the human presence in his films, using it almost as one of the actors.
"Man with a Movie Camera" (1928) exemplifies his technique.
Cinema and Subjectivity
Resources on Dziga Vertov
Available at UC Berkeley
Alexander Dovzhenko (Dovshenko), of Ukrainian peasant family,
experienced great hardship in his childhood and early manhood, nearly
being executed in 1920 during the civil war when he and a companion
were taken up by Polish soldiers. Dovzhenko tends to focus on the
suffering of his characters, allowing the images to speak for
themselves of the stark reality that they face. "Arsenal" (1928) tells
the grim stories of the casualties of the Great War on both sides, but
ends in a metaphysical triumph of the will over death. Dovzhenko
produced other films of equal critical stature, including "Zvenigora"
(1927) and the sound film "Earth." He was married to the actress Yulia
Solntseva, star of director Yakov Protazanov's "Aelita".
"Along with Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov, Ukrainian filmmaker
Alexander Dovzhenko (1894-1956) is one of Soviet-era cinema's
undisputed masters. This retrospective, featuring new 35mm prints,
includes his lyrical classics as well as rarely seen documentaries
made at the height of the U.S.S.R.'s war against Nazism."
Death, Birth Order and Alexander Dovzhenko's Cinematic Visions
Three Parts, due to length...
Clarification of Answer by
29 Oct 2003 15:27 PST
Yakov Protazanov had a career that spanned the Tsarist and the Soviet
eras, as well as Russian and French cinema. Protazanov visited Paris
and Pathè during a trip to France in his youth. He directed his first
film in 1911, and had a list of 73 movies to his credit before the
Revolution. Some of his more successful pictures starred the matinee
idol Ivan Mosjoukin, a John Barrymore type, who with his wife Natalia
Lisenko (Nathalia Lissenko) formed a romantic screen team. Typical of
their work is "Satan Triumphs" (SATAN LIKUYUSCHCII, 1917) After the
Revolution, Protazanov and Mosjoukin, with Lizsenko and several
others, left Russia and settled in Paris. Protazanov gave the
Frenchman Renè Clair his break in the business. After a few years,
Protazanov returned to Russia, where he continued working. He is
remembered best, perhaps, for directing the first Soviet science
fiction movie, "Aelita" (1924).
"Father Sergius" a.ka. "Otets Sergii"
"The overthrow of the Czar led to a complete separation of church and
state in the fall of 1917, and in January of 1918 the Bolsheviks began
filming anti-clerical films directed particularly towards the younger
people. A film crew and cast were stoned while filming a satirical
version of a religious procession in Kostroma. It was the last and
most important film made between the February Revolution and the
October Revolution. A faithful interpretation of Leo Tolstoy's novel
containing all of the intimations about the private life of Nikolai I
and its revelations of corruption and ordinary human weakness in the
priesthood made the novel a literary scandal at its time.
Protazanov had considered filming it before 1917, but a film of this
highly censurable material was an invitation to trouble and probably
exile to some remote corner of Siberia."
Aelita - Queen of Mars
"A Soviet sensation upon its heavily publicized release in 1924,
Aelita, the Queen of Mars... Despite a cool reaction from critics, the
film was such a hit with the Soviet public that many Russian babies
born in '24 were named Aelita, and the Cubist designs of the Martian
sets--heavily influenced by the avant-garde "constructivist"
style--would in turn influence science fiction films in the years to
follow (most notably the Flash Gordon serials)."
The Missing Link Classic Horror Movies S
"Solntseva began her film career as an actress in Yakov Protazanov's
1924 film Aelita. She continued acting until she married Aleksandr
Dovzhenko in 1929."
The husband-wife team Mosjoukin[e] and Lisenko were the top box-office
stars of the Russian cinema prior to the Revolution. Mosjoukin was the
suave, romantic leading man in a long string of successful movies, and
he became an international celebrity after emigration. He acted in
French and German films, always the lover (Cassanov being his type),
and even attempted to make some films in America. Sound put an abrupt
end to his career, however, as his accent was an impediment. He died
in obscurity in 1939.
"Russian actor Ivan Mozhukhin was one of the most popular actors in
French silent cinema where he was known as Ivan Mosjoukine. Born in
Penza, Russia, to wealthy landowners, Mozhukhin was training to be a
lawyer in Moscow... Four years after leaving law school, he became the
biggest star in Russian films. During the Bolshevik Revolution, he
fled Russia with a group of filmmakers and performers led by Yakov
Protazanov and moved to Turkey. Accompanying Mozhukhin was his co-star
and future first wife, Nathalia Lissenko."
Not surprisingly, American movies were enormously popular in both
France and the USSR. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, for
instance, visited the USSR in 1926, and newsreel footage of their
travels was later cut and edited into a comedy, "The Kiss of Mary
Pickford," by Sergei Komarov. It is interesting that Sergei Eisenstein
was able to leave the USSR to seek work in America.
Note, information on the wages paid to ordinary production workers on
movie sets of the period has been impossible to find. The situation in
the USSR was complicated by the fact that in many cases people were
paid in credits for meals and rooms -- ration coupons -- which were
counted against a day's work.
"Shortly after the October Revolution a number of measures were
adopted with the aim of reducing the social differences between
specific groups. In order to preclude privileges for the
functionaries, a so-called party maximum was introduced, i.e., an
upper limit for the incomes of party officials. In the 1920s, for
example, the following was standard practice: a factory director who
was a party member received 300 rubles for his work. The director of a
similar factory who was not a party member could expect an income of
"The wife of the well-known Soviet poet Ossip Mandelstam, Nadezhda
Mandelstam, wrote in her memoirs: "With us it was often the case that
even a piece of bread was reckoned as a privilege.""
Platform of the Joint Opposition 1927
The Situation of the Working Class and the Trade Unions
"Our period of restoration gave a sufficiently rapid increase of wages
up to the autumn of 1925. But the considerable decrease of real wages
which began in 1926 was overcome only at the beginning of 1927.
Monthly wages in the first two quarters of the fiscal year 1926-1927
amounted on the average in large-scale industry,in Moscow rubles, to
30 rubles 67 kopeks, and 30 rubles 33 kopeks?as against 29 rubles 68
kopeks in the autumn of 1925. In the third quarter?according to
preliminary calculations?the wages amounted to 31 rubles 62 kopeks.
Thus real wages for the present year have stood still, approximately
at the level of the autumn of 1925."
HI 2450 European Economic History
Transforming traditional Russia: From tsarist economy to the New
Economic Policy, 1918-192
Some articles by Welsh journalist Garteh Jones on the economic
situation in Stalinist Russia.
WHY THERE IS UNEMPLOYMENT IN RUSSIA
THE REAL RUSSIA
THE PEASANT ON THE FARM
THE OUTLOOK FOR THE PLAN
II. FROM THE FARM TO THE FACTORY
The Soviet Economy under Stalin
ADDITIONAL GENERAL RESOURCES
A Brief History of Cinema
Film History of the 1920s
European Silent Cinema Project
Classic silent Russian films on video
Gio's Movie files: STUDIOS