Morlhon, Camille de


Morlhon, Camille de
(1869-1952)
   Director, film pioneer, and producer. Born Louis Camille de la Valette de Morlhon to an aristocratic family, Camille de Morlhon began his career as a playwright. He had a fair degree of success in the theater, writing largely comedies. He met Léon Gaumont through their mutual interest in automobiles, and it was Gaumont who encouraged Morlhon to consider the cinema. Morlhon wrote and directed the film Sous l'uniforme for Gaumont Studios in 1908. However, the studio found the film too politically charged since it seemed to evoke the Dreyfus Affair, and Morlhon left and went to Pathé. Originally, Pathé hired Morlhon to do literary adaptations. However, he soon developed a film d'art style of directing, and his subjects moved beyond simple literary adaptation to classically influenced historical films and orientalist dramas. He also did the typical farcical comic films that were popular at the time. Morlhon went on to make more than 150 silent films, and he was one of the most significant of the early film directors. Many of his silent films were later remade by other directors during the sound era. While at Pathé, Morlhon made such films as Quand l'amour veut (1908), Un tic gênant (1908), Benvenuto Cellini (1908), Le Roman de l'écuyère (1909), Conscience de miséreux (1909), La Récompense d'une bonne action (1909), Le Fer à cheval (1909), Cœur de Gavroche (1909), Mater Dolorosa (1909), La Belle Niçoise (1909), Mademoiselle Faust (1909), Olivier Cromwell (1909), La Gueuse (1909), L'Affaire du collier de la reine (1910), Le Spectre du passé (1910), Une aventure secrète de Marie-Antoinette (1910), Cagliostro (1910), codirected with Gaston Velle, Le Tyran de Jérusalem (1910), Une intrigue à la cour d'Henri VIII (1911), Une conspiration sous Henri III (1911), Britannicus (1912), Vengeance Kabyle (1912), La Haine de Fatimeh (1912), Un mariage sous Louix XV (1912), and Le Fils prodigue (1912).
   Morlhon left Pathé in 1912 to found his own production company, Valetta films. He went on to direct such films as La Calomnie (1913), Don Quichotte (1913), L'Usurier (1913), Le Faux père (1915), Sous l'uniforme (1915), La Marchande de fleurs (1915), Cœur de Gavroche (1916), Le Secret de Geneviève (1916), Fille d'artiste (1916), Marise (1917), Miséricorde (1917), Expiation (1918), Simone (1918), L'Ibis bleu (1919), Une fleur dans les ronces (1921), and Tote (1923). Although produced independently, these later films were still distributed by Pathé.
   The war put a virtual end to Morlhon's film production. When he resumed directing, it was after the arrival of sound. He did not, however, have much success with sound film and made only one film, Roumanie, terre d'amour (1930). At that point, he gave up the cinema and went into radio, writing and producing radio plays, seeming to do better with sound but no image than with sound and image.
   In addition to directing, Morlhon wrote the screenplays for nearly all of his films. In his capacity as a screenwriter, he had a significant impact on the film industry. He actively lobbied for author's rights to films, and in 1917, he founded La Société des Auteurs de Films to help screenwriters obtain the rights to their work.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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