Mathot, Léon

(1886-1968)
   Actor and director. Léon Mathot began his career at Pathé studios near the turn of the century. He started as an actor and quickly became a veritable star, something that was unusual at that time. Over the course of the silent era, Mathot appeared in more than forty films, including Georges Hatot and André Heuzé's La Course à la perruque (1906), Henri Andréani's La Légende des chevaliers d'Algabert (1912), Les Rivaux d'Arnheim (1912), and Le Pont fatal (1914), Alfred Machin's La Dramatique passion d'Algabert et d'Elisabeth de Rodembourg (1912) and Le Secret de l'acier (1912), Camille de Morlhon's Sous l'uniforme (1915), Abel Gance's Fioritures (1916), Les Gaz mortels (1916), La Zone de la mort (1917), Le Droit à la vie (1917), and Barberousse (1917), Maurice Mariaud's Nemrod et cie (1916), Henri Pouctal's Volonté (1917), his series Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1918), and his film Travail (1920), Charles Burguet's La Course du flambeau (1918), Gaston Ravel's La Maison d'argile (1918), Edouard-Émile Violet's Papillons (1920), René Hervil's L'Ami Fritz (1920), and René Leprince's L'Empereur des pauvres (1922), tre ou ne pas être (1922), Jean d'Aggrève (1922), and Mon oncle Benjamin (1923).
   Later in his silent career, Mathot moved from more mainstream film to avant-garde cinema. He starred in Jean Epstein's Coeur fidèle (1923) and L'Auberge rouge (1923), as well as in Germaine Dulac's Le Diable dans la ville (1924). Other late films include Henri Étiévant's La Nuit de la revanche (1924), Marco de Gastyne's La Blessure (1925), André Hugon's Yasmina (1926), and Henri Diamant-Berger's Rue de la paix (1926). He also appeared in a small number of sound films, including Henri Fescourt's La Maison de la flèche (1930) and Hervil and Louis Mercanton's Le Mystère de la villa rose (1930).
   In the late 1920s, Mathot began directing as well as acting. His first film was Celle qui domine (1927), codirected with Carmine Gallone, and it was a film in which Mathot also starred. Other Mathot films include Dans l'ombre du harem (1928), codirected with André Liabel; Le Refuge (1930); La Bande à Bouboule (1931); Embrassez-moi (1932); Bouboule 1er roi nègre (1933); Le Comte Obligado (1934); La Mascotte (1935), starring Lucien Baroux; Les Loups entre eux (1936), starring Jules Berry and Gina Manès; L'Ange du foyer (1936); L'Homme à abattre (1937), starring Berry and Viviane Romance; Chéri-Bibi (1937), starring Pierre Fresnay, Jean-Pierre Aumont, and Colette Darfeuil; Le Révolté (1938), starring Pierre Renoir and René Dary; Le Collier de chanvre (1940); Cartacalha, reine des gitans (1942), also starring Romance; Forte tête (1942), starring Dary; L'Homme sans nom (1943), starring Jean Galland; La Route du bagne (1945), also starring Romance; La Danseuse de Marrakech (1949); and Mon gosse de père (1953), his final film.
   In general, Mathot has been remembered more as an actor than as a director. His popularity and his range on the screen are one reason the films in which he acted are more memorable than those he directed. What is more, he was fortunate, as an actor, to work with some of the great directors of the silent era. As a director, Mathot tried his hand at comedy and drama and was able to work with some of the best actors of the day. His films were relatively successful during their release. However, with relatively few exceptions, they have been forgotten.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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