Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen

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ISBN: 9780813166438; Hardcover
224 pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in, 32 b&w photos

Albert Capellani
Pioneer of the Silent Screen
by Christine Leteux

Foreword by Kevin Brownlow

In recent years, technology has given films of the silent era and their creators a second life as new processes have eased their restoration and distribution. Among the films benefitting from these developments are the works of director Albert Capellani (1874--1931), whose oeuvre was instrumental in the development of cinema in the early 1900s and whose contributions rival those of D. W. Griffith.

For the first time in English, Christine Leteux's essential biography of Capellani offers a detailed assessment of the groundbreaking director. Capellani began his career in France at what was, at the time, the biggest film company in the world: Pathé. There, he directed the first multireel version of Les Miserables in 1912 as well as his masterpiece, Germinal (1913). After immigrating to the United States, Capellani worked at a number of production houses, including Metro Pictures Corporation, where he produced his two best-known films, The House of Mirth (1918) and The Red Lantern (1919). He was well known for making stage actors into movie stars, and Mistinguett, Stacia Napierkowska, and Alla Nazimova all rose to prominence under his direction.

The ups and downs of Capellani's career paralleled the evolution of the film industry and demonstrated the fickle nature of success. His technical and aesthetic achievements, however, paved the way for future filmmakers. Featuring a foreword by Academy Award--winning film historian Kevin Brownlow, Leteux's intimate biography paints a fascinating portrait of one of the leading pioneers of early cinema and provides a new window into the origins of the moving picture.

Christine Leteux is the author of Albert Capellani: Cineaste du Romanesque. She has translated a number of works, including Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, Napoleon: Abel Gance's Classic Film, and How It Happened Here, and also worked as a researcher for the documentary Natan.

Book Reviews:

    " Albert Capellani is a formidably well researched work that includes not only original documents but also some telling personal testimony. The book pieces together the details of Capellani's early life and, in providing an account of the subsequent film career, sifts through the available evidence with impressive discernment. Leteux offers a great insight into Capellani's life and career, but also provides a fascinating account of the wider film milieu in which he operated in both France and America." -- Charles Drazin, author of The Faber Book of French Cinema

    "Christine Leteux's monograph/biography adds a considerable amount to the body of knowledge, mostly via an assiduous trawl through public records and trade papers. It carefully positions Capellani as one of a group of gifted French filmmakers who came to America and flourished until the movie business relocated to the West Coast, with an accompanying centralization to which few of them could adapt." -- Film Comment

    "Christine Leteux's Albert Capellani is a little gem of a biography. It's an excellent introduction to this long-ignored figure of French and American cinema." -- Journal of Popular Film and TV

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