Sub.: from the homonym novel of Pierre Sales. Int.: Charles Keppens (conte di St. Ermont), Henry Roussel (Montenervio), Maryse Dauvray (the countess di St. Ermont/her daughter Maïna), Renée Sylvaire (Léonide Barclay). Prod.: Éclair
35mm. L.: 703 m. D.: 34′ a 18 f/s. Bn.
In 1912, when he was hired at Éclair, Maurice Tourneur already had fifteen years of experience as a book illustrator, graphic designer, assistant to Auguste Rodin and Pierre Pavis de Chavannes, and theater director at the Odéon and Renaissance in Paris. He first began to direct films for the company’s series of literary adaptations and then took over supervising the series from Emile Chautard. The modern melodrama Le Corso rouge was his third adaptation of a Pierre Sales novel, after Mademoiselle Cent Millions and Le Puits mitoyen. As Tourner’s last pre-war French film, it was not released until 2 July 1914, nearly two months after he joined Émile Chautard, Ben Carré, and others in Fort Lee, as Éclair tried to rebuild its American studio after a disastrous fire. However, the war intervened; Lewis Selznick’s
World Pictures acquired Éclair’s liquidated facilities; and Tourneur quickly became the latter’s premier filmmaker. Le Corso rouge tells an intriguing dou- ble story of deception, betrayal, and re- venge, with the first half set on the Riviera in the early 1890s and the second, in the same area in the early 1910s. Former theater actors play the major roles.
Several distinctive stylistic features mark Tourneur’s film. The opening scene begins with a party in a ‘deep space’ set characteristic of French films at the time, but framed in a high-angle long shot. Mirrors serve not only to extend interior spaces, as in the scene where Montenervio startles Léonide, telling her the Count is married, but also to include off-screen characters at key moments, as when Maïna’s dressing room mirror shows Montenervio lurking in the corridor (before the second kidnapping) and later, after the latter is subdued, a large mirror singles out the old man in the background, an unsung ‘hero’ fading in importance. Finally, as if foreshadowing a similar scene in Marcel L’Herbier’s Eldorado (1921), on-location footage of a public cortege ‒ giving this film its title ‒ frames and is intercut with the Comtesse’s discovery of the Count’s affair, the first kidnapping, and the Count’s collapse.