Abel Gance

About Abel Gance

Who is it?: Writer, Director, Actor
Birth Day: October 25, 1889
Birth Place:  Paris, France, France
Spouse(s): Mathilde Angèle Thizeau, Marguerite Danis (1894–1986), Sylvie Grenade (1902–1978)

Abel Gance

Abel Gance was born on October 25, 1889 in  Paris, France, France, is Writer, Director, Actor. Born an illegitimate son of a wealthy physician, Abel Flamant, and a working class mother, Francoise Perethon. He was raised by his mother and her boyfriend, who later became her husband, Adolphe Gance. Pressured by his parents, he began his working career as a lawyer's clerk in hopes of achieving a prosperous career in law. But his passion for the theatre lured him to the stage and at 19 he made his stage debut in Brussels. Within a year, after returning to Paris, he made his screen debut as an actor in Moliere (1909). He made other film appearances in minor roles as well as taking a crack at screen-writing.Living in poverty during this period in his life, he suffered from starvation and tuberculosis. But he regained strength enough to form a production company in 1911, and made his debut as a director that same year with La Digue (1911). However, like the rest of his early films, it was unsuccessful and as a consequence, he returned to the stage with a five-hour long play, Victoire de Samothrace, which he wrote himself. It was due to be a success with Sarah Bernhardt in the lead role, but the sudden outbreak of WWI canceled the premiere.Due to his ill health he was kept out of most of the war. During this time he managed to achieve a profitable status at the Film d'Arte company as a director. He turned out such successful films as Mater Dolorosa (1917) and La Dixieme Symphonie (1918), but he gained a reputation at Film d'Arte as a wild experimentalist - using such outlandish techniques for the time as close-ups and dolly shots. As a consequence, he was frequently at odds with the management. At the point of being one of the most well known film directors in France, he entered the tail end of WWI. He was discharged shortly after due to mustard gas poisoning. But he requested that he be redrafted so that he could shoot on-location battle scenes for his latest idea for a film J'Accuse/I Accuse (1919). The three-hour long, triangular melodrama about the "futility of war" became a box-office smash all over Europe. It was Europe's first fictional film to show authentic footage of the catastrophes of war. Being an experimentalist, he employed a rapid cutting technique that is said to have influenced such Russian filmmakers as Sergei Eisenstein and Pudovkin.During the making of his next film, La Roue (1922), he and his second wife, Ida Danis, fell ill with the flu. Although he recovered and worked on the film in stages, his wife did not - she died shortly before the film's release. Grieved by death of his wife and friend, actor Severin Mars, who starred in many of his films, he fled Europe and sailed to America. The trip turned out to be a nationwide promotion of I Accuse. He recalls that he did not like the Hollywood filmmaking system and refused an offer from MGM to direct for a hefty sum. The happiest moment was D.W. Griffith's praise of I Accuse at a screening in New York.Returning to France, Gance released the final cut of La Roue to much acclaim, especially for its montage sequence. His most important and outstanding film is Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (1927). Considered to be a dictionary of all the techniques of the silent film era and an introduction to some techniques to come. It was shot using a three-camera panoramic process that involves the use of three projectors and a curved windscreen to create a deep, vast panoramic look. A couple thousand extras were used to fill the shots. Being the experimentalist that he was, he shot scenes in color, more than a decade before Hollywood would make Phu Thuy Xu Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939) in color, and in 3-D. But he decided against incorporating them into the film in fear that they would jar the audience's attention. The film received a standing ovation the night of its premiere at the Paris Opera. It was then shown only in 8 European cities due to the expensive and technical apparatus and large size theatre needed to project the film. In the US, MGM purchased the distribution rights and elected not to show the film using the three projector windscreen equipment, claiming that it would interfere with the introduction of sound. Nonetheless, that doesn't explain why MGM decided to drastically cut the film and rearrange it. As a consequence, the general release in the US was a not a success, audiences laughed at the film and critics panned it. It was the last film of Gance's career that was to possess that magnitude of creativeness. His sound films were mainly done for studios, where he lacked the ability to be creative. He would return to Napoleon a couple times in his career. In 1934 he added stereophonic sound effects to the original film using a Pictographe. He had criticized film historians throughout the rest of his life for not giving his film Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (1927) the attention it deserves. Finally, British director Kevin Brownlow spent two decades doing the arduous task of putting the film back together in its original format. It was first screened in London using the three projector format with a score composed and conducted by Carl Davis in 1979. Francis Ford Coppola produced the screenings at the Radio City Hall in the US, in 1981 to much acclaim. His father Carmine Coppola, composed and conducted the score in the US. Finally, Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (1927) and its director received the respect they deserve.
Abel Gance is a member of Writer

Does Abel Gance Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Abel Gance has been died on 10 November 1981(1981-11-10) (aged 92)\nParis, France.

🎂 Abel Gance - Age, Bio, Faces and Birthday

When Abel Gance die, Abel Gance was 92 years old.

Popular As Abel Gance
Occupation Writer
Age 92 years old
Zodiac Sign Scorpio
Born October 25, 1889 ( Paris, France, France)
Birthday October 25
Town/City  Paris, France, France
Nationality France

🌙 Zodiac

Abel Gance’s zodiac sign is Scorpio. According to astrologers, Scorpio-born are passionate and assertive people. They are determined and decisive, and will research until they find out the truth. Scorpio is a great leader, always aware of the situation and also features prominently in resourcefulness. Scorpio is a Water sign and lives to experience and express emotions. Although emotions are very important for Scorpio, they manifest them differently than other water signs. In any case, you can be sure that the Scorpio will keep your secrets, whatever they may be.

🌙 Chinese Zodiac Signs

Abel Gance was born in the Year of the Ox. Another of the powerful Chinese Zodiac signs, the Ox is steadfast, solid, a goal-oriented leader, detail-oriented, hard-working, stubborn, serious and introverted but can feel lonely and insecure. Takes comfort in friends and family and is a reliable, protective and strong companion. Compatible with Snake or Rooster.

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Born in Paris in 1889, Abel Gance was the illegitimate son of a prosperous Doctor, Abel Flamant, and a working class mother, Françoise Péréthon (or Perthon). Initially taking his mother's name, he was brought up until the age of eight by his maternal grandparents in the coal mining town of Commentry in central France. He then returned to Paris to rejoin his mother who had by then married Adolphe Gance, a chauffeur and mechanic, whose name Abel then adopted.


While in Brussels, Gance wrote his first film scenarios, which he sold to Léonce Perret. Back in Paris in 1909, he acted in his first film, Perret's Molière. At that stage he regarded the cinema as "infantile and stupid" and was only drawn into film jobs by his poverty, but he nevertheless continued to write scenarios, and often sold them to Gaumont. During this period he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, often fatal at that time, but after a period of retreat in Vittel he recovered. With some friends he established a production company, Le Film Français, and began directing his own films in 1911 with La Digue (ou Pour sauver la Hollande), a historical film which featured the first screen appearance of Pierre Renoir. Gance tried to maintain a connection with the theatre and he finished writing a monumental tragedy entitled Victoire de Samothrace, in which he hoped that Sarah Bernhardt would star. Its five-hour length, and Gance's refusal to cut it, proved to be a stumbling block.


Abel Gance married three times: in 1912 to Mathilde Thizeau; in 1922 to Marguerite Danis (sister of Ida); and in 1933 to Marie-Odette Vérité (Sylvie Grenade), who died in 1978. Gance died of tuberculosis in Paris in 1981 at the age of 92. Abel Gance was interred in the Cimetière d'Auteuil in Paris.


With the outbreak of World War I, Gance was rejected by the army on medical grounds and in 1915 he started writing and directing for a new film company, Film d'Art. He soon caused controversy with La Folie du docteur Tube, a comic fantasy in which he and his cameraman Léonce-Henri Burel created some arresting visual effects with distorting mirrors. The producers were outraged and refused to show the film. Gance nevertheless continued working for Film d'Art until 1918, making over a dozen commercially successful films. His experiments included tracking shots, extreme close-ups, low-angle shots, and split-screen images. His subjects moved steadily away from simple action films towards psychological melodramas, such as Mater dolorosa (1917) starring Emmy Lynn as a neglected wife who has an affair with her husband's brother. The film was a great commercial success, and it was followed by La Dixième Symphonie, another marital drama featuring Emmy Lynn. Here Gance's mastery of lighting, composition and editing was accompanied by a range of literary and artistic references which some critics found pretentious and alienating.


In 1917, Gance was finally drafted into the army, in its Service Cinématographique, an episode which proved futile and short-lived, but it deepened his preoccupation with the impact of the war and the depression which was caused by the deaths of many of his friends. When he parted company with Film d'Art over a shortage of funds, Charles Pathé stepped in to underwrite his next film, J'accuse (1919), in which Gance confronted the waste and suffering which the war had brought. He re-enlisted in the Service Cinématographique in order to be able to film some scenes on a real battlefield at the front. The film made a powerful impact and went on to have international distribution.


Another aspect of Gance's work which has drawn comment from critics is the political stance and implication of his life and films, particularly his identification with strong military Leaders. Whereas J'accuse in 1919 suggested Gance's pacifist and anti-establishment attitude, the reactions to Napoléon in 1927 saw greater ambivalence, and some commentators even judged it to be an apologia for dictatorship. This strand of criticism of Gance's reactionary politics has continued through later assessments of him; it has also noted his ardent support for Pétain in the early years of World War II, and subsequently for Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. Others have regarded these political interpretations as secondary to Gance's mastery of exuberant spectacle, which frequently had a nationalistic focus. As one obituary concluded, "Abel Gance was perhaps the greatest Romantic of the screen".


Gance wanted himself to be seen as "the Victor Hugo of the screen", and many assessments have recognised the ambition, the ingenuity and the sweeping Romanticism of his films. Some, such as Léon Moussinac in the 1920s, have pointed to the contradictions in his work between creativity and cliché, the "abundance of original treasures and of banal mediocrity and of poor taste".


In 1921, Gance visited America to promote J'accuse. During his five-month stay he met D. W. Griffith, whom he had long admired. He was also offered a contract with MGM to work in Hollywood, but he turned it down.


After a brief change of pace for Au Secours! (1924), a comic film with Max Linder, Gance embarked on his greatest project, a six-part life of Napoléon. Only the first part was completed, tracing Bonaparte's early life, through the Revolution, and up to the invasion of Italy, but even this occupied a vast canvas with meticulously recreated historical scenes and scores of characters. The film was full of experimental techniques, combining rapid cutting, hand-held cameras, superimposition of images, and, in wide-screen sequences, shot using a system he called Polyvision needing triple cameras (and projectors), achieved a Spectacular panoramic effect, including a finale in which the outer two film panels were tinted blue and red, creating a widescreen image of a French flag. The original version of the film ran for around 6 hours. A shortened version received a triumphant première at the Paris Opéra in April 1927 before a distinguished audience that included the Future General de Gaulle. The length was reduced still further for French and European distribution, and it became even shorter when it was shown in America. This was not the end of the film's career however. Gance re-used material from it in later films, and the restoration of the silent film at the beginning of the 1980s confirmed it as his best known work.


Throughout his life Gance kept returning to Napoléon, often editing his own footage into shorter versions, adding a Soundtrack, sometimes filming new material, and as a result the original 1927 film was lost from view for decades. After various attempts at reconstruction, the dedicated work of the film Historian Kevin Brownlow produced a five-hour version of the film, still incomplete but fuller than anyone had seen since the 1920s. This version was presented at the Telluride Film Festival in August 1979, with the frail 89-year-old Director in attendance. The occasion brought a belated triumph to Gance's career, and subsequent performances and further restoration made his name known to a worldwide audience.


Gance continued to be a busy film-maker throughout the 1930s, but he characterised most of the films made during this period as ones that he did "not in order to live, but in order not to die". In 1932 he tried to demonstrate his credentials as a reliable and efficient Director by filming a remake of Mater dolorosa which he completed within 18 days and within budget. Among the other 'commercial' works that followed were Lucrezia Borgia (1935), with Edwige Feuillère, and Un Grand Amour de Beethoven (1937), with Harry Baur. One of the more personal projects that he was able to undertake was a new version of J'accuse! (1938), not so much a remake of his 1919 film as a continuation of it, and conceived as a warning against the new war that he saw impending.


Gance embraced the arrival of sound with enthusiasm and his first production was La Fin du monde (1931), an expensive science-fiction film (first planned in 1913/14) about the imminent collision of a comet with the Earth. Gance himself played the leading role. The film was a critical and commercial disaster, and thereafter the creative independence which Gance had enjoyed in the previous decade was seriously curtailed.


Abel Gance was a member of the jury for Miss France 1938.


After the invasion of France in 1940, Gance filmed a popular melodrama called Vénus aveugle, which he saw as an allegory of the current state of France and a message of hope directed to the ordinary French people in their time of misfortune. At this period Gance was among those who saw Philippe Pétain as the means of the country's salvation, and in September 1941 Vénus aveugle had its first screening in Vichy, preceded by a speech in which Gance paid tribute to Pétain.


After completing one more film, Le Capitaine Fracasse, Gance went to Spain in August 1943, citing growing hostility from the German authorities in France, and he remained there until October 1945.


He was also a member of the jury for the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, with Jean Cocteau as President.


After the war, his difficulties in getting support for his projects increased and he made few films. The historical melodrama La Tour de Nesle (1954) was his first film in colour, and it provoked some revival of interest in his work, with critics such as François Truffaut making the case for Gance as a neglected auteur of genius.


Gance returned to Napoleonic spectacle with Austerlitz (1960), and made a further historical pageant in Cyrano et d'Artagnan (1963), before moving into television for his final works, also on historical subjects.


One thing that has always been acknowledged is Gance's innovations in the techniques of the cinema. As well as his multiscreen ventures with Polyvision, he explored the use of superimposition of images, extreme close-ups, and fast rhythmic editing, and he made the camera mobile in unorthodox ways – hand-held, mounted on wires or a pendulum, or even strapped to a horse. He also made early experiments with the addition of sound to film, and with filming in colour and in 3-D. There were few aspects of film technique that he did not seek to incorporate in his work, and his influence was acknowledged by contemporaries such as Jean Epstein and later by the French New Wave film-makers. In the assessment of Kevin Brownlow, "...with his silent productions, J'accuse, La Roue, and Napoléon, [Abel Gance] made a fuller use of the medium than anyone before or since".

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