Lion, Roger

(1882-1934)
   Director, producer, and screenwriter. Born Roger Juda, Roger Lion went on to a career in cinema that lasted three decades. Lion began his career at Gaumont as a technical assistant. It was at Gaumont that he began working as a director with his film La Petite Bretonne (1914). However, he made the bulk of his silent films with Éclair, where he went in 1914. At Éclair, Lion made a number of films, including Agence cacahouète (1915), starring Raïmu, A qui la femme (1915), Français! N'oubliez jamais (1916), codirected with Robert Boudrioz, Les Deux giffles (1916), Quand Madelon (1917), Ma femme est folle (1917), Le Prince Plouf (1917), Ma femme est folle (1917), Pour faire plaisir (1918), La Flamme cachée (1918), codirected with Musidora, Dagobert, le fils à son père (1919), L'Éternel féminin (1921), and probably several films for which he is not credited. During the same period, he founded the Société des Auteurs de Films.
   Lion went to Portugal in 1922 and remained there until 1924. While in Portugal, he made the films A Seria de Pedra (1923), Os Ohlos de Alma (1923), and Aventuras de Agapito (1924), and produced films for other directors. He was instrumental in the development of Portuguese cinema, along with fellow Frenchmen Georges Pallu and Maurice Mariaud. Lion returned to France after two years and resumed his French film-directing career, making such films as LaFontaine des amours (1924), J'ai tué! (1924), as well as La Clé de voûte (1925), Les Fiançailles rouges (1926), Jim la houlette, roi des voleurs (1926), codirected with Pierre Colombier, Le Chasseur de chez Maxim's (1927), La Venenosa (1928), La Nuit est à nous (1929), Un soir au cocktail's bar (1929), and L'Appel de la chair (1929), codirected with Henry Roussel. Several of Lion's films feature the actor Jean Murat. In addition to directing, Lion also wrote or cowrote many of the screenplays for his films. In the 1930s, Lion made a number of successful feature films with sound. Some of his most interesting sound films, however, were not feature films, but documentaries. These included La Raïs (1930), MessaoudHabib (1930), Grégor et ses Grégoriens (1930), La Fille de Roland (1930), and Ghanili Dour (1932). All of these featured musical performances, a subject Lion had filmed during the silent era, but which he could obviously better treat in sound film. His other sound films include La Place est bonne! (1930), Le Lit conjugal (1931), Allô . . . Allô (1931), Y'en a pas deux comme Angélique (1931), Direct au coeur (1932), codirected with Antoine Arnaudy who also stars in the film, Le Couché de la mariée (1933), and Trois balles dans la peau (1933).
   Lion's filmmaking style was somewhat avant-garde. He had a tendency to play with genre, as with Jim la houlette, roi des voleurs, which mixes elements of film noir and romantic comedy. In addition, some of his films showed characteristics of later avant-garde movements. For example, Un soir au cocktail's bar is a snapshot of life in a bar, and although it is a narrative film, it is shot in documentary style, making it something of a precursor to both the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave and cinéma vérité. This documentary tendency is, of course, also present in Lion's musical films. There is another way in which documentary functions as a motif in Lion's films, as several of them feature the camera as voyeur. This is evident in Un soir au cocktail's bar, and other examples include Le Chasseur de chez Maxim's (1927), which reveals the secret nightlife of an average citizen, and L'Appel de la chair (1929), which centers on a secret passion a man has for his stepmother. Lion was virtually unknown until quite recently, as most of his films had been thought lost. Some of his films have recently been recovered, as a result of a collaborative effort by the French and the Portuguese, and he has received more attention as a result.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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