Buster Keaton. The Marx Brothers. Laurel and Hardy. Charlie Chaplin. These are just some of the huge names who lit up cinemas worldwide in the early days of Hollywood. And they are all rightly remembered for the incalculable contributions they made to the movie business. But what if we told you that these revered idols are themselves indebted to the contributions of another mysterious figure? Well, that person was a Frenchman called Max Linder, and thanks to an unexpected discovery, we finally have an insight into his incredible legacy.
It’s actually quite hard to believe that Linder has been overlooked for so long. The talent was, after all, a real heavyweight of the burgeoning movie industry. Linder didn’t just act, either, he was also a writer, director and producer. He was profoundly prolific and had a whopping 500 flicks to his name, according to The New European. Yet only a fifth of these films have survived to the present day. This, in turn, may partly explain why he’s so obscure nowadays.
During his own tragically short lifetime, Linder was known for his comedy movies above all else. Most of us today are aware of Chaplin’s contributions to film, but what’s less known is how much of an inspiration Linder was to the British star. The latter idolized him, and according to The Guardian, he once penned a postcard to the performer, writing, “To Max the Professor, from his disciple, Charlie Chaplin.”
For his movies, Linder developed a well-dressed, bougie alter ego who shared his own first name. The films themselves would generally bear this moniker in the title – such as Max’s First Job, Max Takes A Bath and Max Foils the Police. And it was this character who audiences fell in love with in the earlier days of Linder’s career.
People couldn’t get enough of Linder, and this would ultimately have huge implications for the whole film industry. He even had something of a celebrity fanbase – with individuals as varied as Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and the Russian leader Tsar Nicholas II admiring his films. So, as we’ve seen, Linder was making movie history. But why have so few of us heard of him today?