Early Life

Louis Feuillade (1873-1925) was born in Lunel (Hérault, France) into a modest family. Before becoming the famous filmmaker of the Fantomas series (1913), he wrote plays and poetry, some of which was published in the local press. In 1898 he moved to Paris to pursue a career in literature but was forced to work as a journalist to support his family.

Feuillade as a Filmmaker

Feuillade began his career in cinema in 1905, selling screenplays to the famous French film producer Leon Ernest Gaumont (1864-1946). Three years later he reached the top of Gaumont’s production house, becoming its Artistic Director after Alice Guy (1873-1968) departed for the United States. Feuillade worked for Gaumont until 1918, simultaneously continuing to make his own films. During the war he produced several serials, including Les Vampires (1915) and Judex (1917), which were very popular, in part because each episode ended with a cliffhanger, forcing the public, which was looking for a diversion from the war, to return to see the rest of the series the next week. He also produced patriotic dramas such as Le Noël du poilu (1917), in which he portrays the action of "war godmothers" and the suffering and loneliness of the soldiers; and Vendémiaire (1918), which was shot in a realistic style in natural settings and was at the frontier of the documentary genre. The film is representative of the germanophobia prevalent during the period; its Manichean composition, depicting the ugly German intent on conquering France and destroying its culture, marked an evolution towards a radicalization in the representation of the enemy.

Manon Billaut, University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle and Bibliothèque nationale de France

Section Editor: Emmanuelle Cronier