Biography of Marcel L’Herbier (1888-1979)

French filmmaker born in Paris on April 23, 1888 and died on November 26, 1979, in the same city.


L'herbier was a versatile artist: lawyer, playwright, poet and essayist, is finally opted for the cinematographic expression to which had the opportunity to apply their knowledge. During the first world war he took contact with the seventh art in a very practical way, when he was assigned to the French army cinematographic service. In the 1920s it was already introduced in the world of cinema with full knowledge and became an important figure within the French avant-garde. Some titles, such as l'homme du large (1920), Eldorado (1921) or L'inhumaine (1924), also had an own script. L' inhumaine was a mere excuse to show and defend the modern decorative arts (won't be the first time that L'herbier make a film a manifesto).

Since L'homme du large, L'herbier will occasionally be screenwriter of his films, but their main thematic source will be literary works. For years the deceased Matías Pascal (1925), based on the novel by Pirandello, was incomplete until the French Cinematheque restored it in 1990. The history of Matías Pascal, a man sobered, repressed by his family, which gives you dead, and who decides to take advantage of this circumstance to start a new life, was starring the legendary Ivan Mosjukine, one of the first actors in the styling a difficult reputation. Also attended the literature to set up his next work: Le Vertige (1926), centered in the Russian revolution of 1917, but from the point of view of the nobility. The work of Charles Mate posed an intrigue with a political and historical background frame, but not deepened in the events.

Another of its most interesting adaptations is the perfume of the mourning Lady (1931). The Gaston Leroux novel provided a framework of mystery and some traits of terror; greater cinematic curiosity of this work was the treatment of receivable, which were narrated by a mysterious voice, something already had precedent in an American film titled the terror (1928). A little before the perfume of the Lady of mourning, L'herbier had led the son of love (1930) on a topic that would charge a large presence in the history of cinema through further films: the illegitimate son who later turns against his father, not knowing the relationship that unites them. This romantic melodrama paved the way for the adaptation of two other works of Gaston Leroux, including the mystery of the yellow room (1931), criticized for being too faithful to the literary text. Again a work of theatre, this time by Henry Bernstein, served as the basis for a film by L'herbier. Le bonheur mixed the ideological dangers with the thriller and romance, and was one of the first public recognitions for the director, who presented the film at the Venice Festival in 1935 supported by the presence in display of Charles Boyer. This recognition would be reinforced a year later, when the actress Anabella won the Volpi Cup for eve of battle (1935).

The novel by Charles Spaak gave rise to La porte du large (1936) - filmed at the Naval school in Brest - and that, in the shelter of the claustrophobia of the stories that take place in boats, he played again with the intrigue and romance. As had been the case with Le vertige, historical events became an ornamental framework for the city of silence (1937), a film that would have gone completely unnoticed if not for the marriage between actress Anabella and Tyrone Powerin the United States. It will star again to L'Herbier Sacrifice d'honneur (1938), a drama with a military backdrop had mostly flashbacks. One of its more manicured films aesthetically was Adrienne Lecouvreur (1938), set in 18th-century France and starring Pierre Fresnay- Yvonne Printemps marriage. Diplomacy as art was the central theme of Entente cordiale (1939), adapted from the novel by André Maurois Edward VII and his Times. The diplomatic intent lay not only in the subject of the film; It was premiered at a time when England and France held talks to form a common front against the nazi invasion in Europe. The issue - although not the environment - was treated that same year in Juarez, by William Dieterle.

1939 was a prolific year for L'herbier. In Rasputin, based on the novel by Alfred Neumann, he endeavored to portray the historical character as objectively as possible. Harry Baur gave life to the character the same year who also played Czar Pablo I in the Patriot. Again came the director the classics to lead The Living Corpse (1940), based on a novel by Tolstoy , who chronicled the sacrifice of a man willing to die for leaving his wife free to stay with the man who really loves. The experience with this title caused him to return to the subject in Histoire de Rire (1941), which chronicled a double experiment involving cross-couples and that already had premiered on the stage with the title Foolish Husbands, of Armand Salacion, with better results than the film (although it was the same author who adapted the text to the screen).

In 1942 L'Herbier directed two titles: L'honorable Catherine and La vie de Bohème. The first, which took five years to release in North America, failed to remove the tangle of alcove outside French borders. The second, a more dramatic romance, was based on the play by Henri Murger had written for the opera of Puccini La Bohème, which followed more than text to music, which was in the film as a background ornament. The title did not reach the quality that had made it famous en1926 version starring Lillian Gish and John Gilbert. In 1945 L'Herbier directed one of French films more expensive post-war years: L'affaire du collier de la Reine, centered on the Court of Luis XVI and had already met another version before the war. The film was made to showcase the actress Vivian Romance and, although officially included in the Filmography of the director, the fact is that this had to stop filming by disease.

L'herbier did not abandon the theme of love triangles until near the end of his career. Rabiosilla (1945) launched to Danielle Darrieux in an adaptation of the play by Marc Gilbert Sauvajon. Savage brigade (1948), set in Russia during the first world war, was also a fresco on the strength of the honor that is prepended to friendship and to the circumstances, to the war within the peace. La nuit fantastique (1942), hiding surprises under the guise of an innocent romance can be cited as an example of the reality that surpasses fiction. Filmed during the nazi occupation, the invaders never learned about activities the main actor, Fernand Gravet, played when he was not shooting. Later they would come to light their activities in support of the resistance, which would give an aura of special interest to the film. Marcel L'herbier, who had joined the cinema under the auspices of French impressionism, invested all their effort in which cinematography acquired cultural reputation it deserved. Of the European avant-garde -Man Ray, René Claire and Robert Wiene-, L'herbier would inherit not only the taste for experimentation, but also for the fantastic themes.


Short films: 1917: Phantasmes.1938: Children's corner (Co-Director). 1939: La mode revee.1978: Le féerie des fantasmes (documentary).

Feature films: (L'herbier is almost all suspeliculas screenwriter) 1918: Rose France.1919: Le carnaval des vérités; Le bercail.1920: l'homme du large.1921: Villa destin; Banquier Promehee; Eldorado.1922: Don Juan et Faust.1923: Ressurrection.1924: L'Inhumaine. 1925: the late Matías Pascal.1926: Le vertige.1928: ex-voto: Dinero.1929: Nuits de prince.1930: the son of love; The Lady of a noche.1931: the perfume of the Lady in mourning; The mystery of the fourth amarillo.1933: the gavilan.1934: L'aventurier. 1935: Le bonheur; Le scandale; Path of heroes; Halloween combate.1936: Les hommes nouveaux; The route without fin.1937: Rasputin; Nights of fire; The mark of the fire; The city of the silencio.1938: Terra de feu; Sacrifice d'honneur; Adrienne Lecouvreur.1939: La mode rêvée; Entente cordiale; Brigade salvaje.1940: the felicidad.1941 comedy: Histoire de rire.1942: the honorable catalina.1943: love also is muere.1945: Rabiosilla; L'Affaire du collier of the reine.1947: the revoltee.1948: the last days of Pompeii (Co-Director). 1949: night fantastica.1953: Pere de mademoiselle.1963: Hommage a Debussy.1967: Le Cinéma du diable.

Other works: 1917: Buclette (argument, screenplay and actor); Le torrent (plot and screenplay). 1923: Le marchand de plaisir (production and artistic direction). 1924: the barrack of the monsters (production and art direction); L'inondation (idem); Fait-Divers (idem). 1928: Autour de "L'argent" (producer). 1923: Le martyre de l'Obese (supervision). 1933: the battle (supervision). 1936: Zuyderzée (producer). 1937: Explosion (producer); MIDI (producer). 1943: Wolf Malveneur (monitoring). 1947: Une grande fille toute simple (monitoring).