Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Born Today August 23: Albert Capellani


Silent era French director and screenwriter Albert Capellani was born on this day in Paris, France.  The penchant for getting involved in the brand new motion picture industry in the Capellani family was not just limited to Albert; he had two brothers that also got involved in various ways.  His son Roger was also a director and his younger brother was an actor and a sculptor.  He got into directing right away in the industry; he co-directed the fantasy short A Princess In Disguise in 1904 made for Pathé Frères.  He next film, The Strong Arm Of The Law (1906), was his first solo directorial outing.  As a director, he is best known for Aladdin and His Wonder Lamp (1906), featuring cinematography by the legendary Segundo de Chomón; and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1911), which featured an appearance by his brother Paul.  He added scenario writing to his list of accomplishments in 1907 with Harlequin's Story, which featured Max Linder in all three roles written for the script.  Drink, which came out the following year and based on the work of Zola, was a semi-major work from him in which he not only directed, but he also acted as cinematographer and was in charge of the art direction as well.  He added producer to his credits in 1910 with Veil Of Happiness, a film that he also directed.  He continued to have a in-house director's chair at the French Pathé throughout the period from 1906-1914, when he entered World War I.  He was quickly wounded and discharged from service (he also had serious health issues).  In 1915 Pathé moved him to their American Exchange studio, but he quickly found himself working for a variety of the earliest studios states-side.  The first American production that he is known to have directed was The Face In The Moonlight (1915) for the William A. Brady Picture Plays.  In 1918 he made a picture for Nazimova ProductionsEye For An Eye starring Alla Nazimova herself--a partnership that would prove fruitful, especially for Nazimova.  He had a hand, as a director, in making her one of the silent era's most recognizable faces (she also deserves credit for this in her innovation in the production field!).  By 1919, he had founded his own Albert Capellini Productions.  The first film made in his own production house was Oh Boy! (here he made his only "acting" appearance in a cameo as the orchestra leader...directors were doing this sort of thing long before Hitchcock!).  By 1920, he was confident enough to take on "presenting" one of his own works in The Fortune Teller; and by 1922 his was deemed important enough to include in Screen Snapshots, Series 3, No. 15.  Capellini, however, had no desire to relocate to the west coast to Hollywood, so far from the Atlantic where he could book passage easily enough back to this native France; so he chose, instead, to return home to Europe.  There, he expected it to be quite easy to start a production company and continue his directing career.  The reality proved otherwise; he was never able to revive his film career and the lost 1922 Marion Davis film The Young Diana would prove to be his last film.  His health also played a role in his inability to return to the industry.  A lifelong diabetic, the disorder got the best of him on the 26th September 1931 in Paris; he was 57 years of age.  I can find no information as to details of his burial.  In 2011 an Italian production came out with a look at his career from 1905 through 1911 in Un cinema di cinema grandeur 1905-1911.  

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