Many of you have seen it, a lot of you probably love it, and I think it’s safe to say that some of you find it…unsettling. Oh yes, it’s one of the most viral bits of Edwardian film footage in existence–the split-reel oddity Le Cochon Danseur (1907) that many of us simply know as The Dancing Pig.
First bursting into the Internet in the 2000s, it’s become a go-to all-purpose “check out this creepy old film” film. YouTube alone has dozens (and dozens) of copies of it, and GIFs of it float about generously on social media. There are memes. There’s fan art. There’s even Creepypastas. But aside from all this 21st century hullabaloo, it’s also been a film festival mainstay since the ’80s, when the late, great historian David Shepard had a copy of it struck from an original negative.
If you love film history, you’ve probably heard that the dapper French comedian Max Linder is credited as being the first “name on all the posters” screen star. No less a celebrity than Charlie Chaplin would refer to Linder as “the professor.” But aside from that, many folks’ exposure to Linder is likely confined to viewing a couple short comedies, seeing a few portraits and stills, and hearing that the man’s life ended in some kind of tragedy.
Surprisingly for such a seminal figure, Linder’s been the subject of very few books…but that’s starting to change. Recently released from BearManor Media, Lisa Stein Haven’s The Rise & Fall of Max Linder is helping to fill a noticeable gap in silent comedy fans’ book collections.
At first glance, he appears to be an actor from society dramas. He had perfectly creased trousers, well-shined shoes, a coat and tie, white gloves, and, most impressively of all, a high silk top hat brushed to a fine sheen. But then there’s those big, practically bulging eyes–eyes that could only belong to a comedian.
These are the eyes of Max Linder, a film comedy pioneer that paved the way for all the great comedians of the silent era and beyond. If there’s a comedy routine you like, chances are Linder got there first. While he isn’t as well-known today as folks like Buster Keaton or Mabel Normand, Linder shares their aura of timelessness. All he needs is to be introduced to new audiences–for who today in this era of steampunk and all things vintage can resist comedies starring a dapper Edwardian gentleman with a tidy mustache and a top hat? Continue reading →