[I’m reusing some copy two years ago, The Invention of Modern Comedy. As I noted before, he is probably someone you’ve never heard of. Yet he is one of the titans of film comedy. So now you can bring him up at cocktail parties. -FM]
On this day in 1883, Max Linder who was born. If you like comedic movies, then you should really care about Max Linder. Before him, silent film comedy was of the style of Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops kind of humor — outrageous pratfalls and general silliness. What they didn’t have where actual characters who the audience cared about. That’s what Max Linder brought to the movies. He created the character of “Max,” rich man-about-town who got into adventures. The films stand today as satire of the well to do buffoon. His later films are better, but below is an early one (1907!), The Skater’s Debut where you can see what will become of screen comedy and not really change, right through the Marx Brothers and on to Jim Carrey. Note also, Charlie Chaplin was a huge fan and eventually a friend of Linder. On Linder’s death, Chaplin dedicated a film to him, “For the unique Max, the great master —his disciple Charles Chaplin.”
I suppose I should tell you something else about Linder: he suffered greatly from depression and anxiety. He and his young wife made a suicide pact, and the two killed themselves (their second attempt), leaving behind an infant daughter who went on to package Linder’s work for later generations. It’s very sad.