Stéphanie Salmon (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux- Pathé) and Mariann Lewinsky
Opening credits revealing the names of performers made their first appearance in 1908 and remained rare and uninformative for many years. As our experience with early cinema deepens, we start to build up a visual catalogue of its nameless performers. We pursue friendships and enmities as with contemporary films; we enjoy a chance meeting with a special favourite or find a film marred by the presence of an actor who has disappointed before. That is when we start to wonder more and more about the figures on the screen. Last spring, preparing the Musidora strand, I read the interview Musidora and Henri Langlois conducted in March 1948 with Georges Hatot, and stopped short where the film pioneer and back-biter mentions in one answer both Ferdinand Zecca’s impotence and his wife: “Renée Doux, a dancing girl from the Olympia who worked at Pathé.” I googled the name. Several picture postcards appeared, showing my favourite Pathé actress, whose name I had tried to find out ever since I had first seen and liked her in La Confession and in Les Trois phases de la lune, in 2005. Independently, at the same time Stéphanie Salmon at the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé had identified her by working on the names of actors and actresses as indicated on the back of film stills. After discovering her identity we cruised genealogic sites and went through scores of films, film stills and the original Pathé catalogues to build up a filmography for Renée Doux. We have identified, at the moment of writing, 50 films from 1903 to 1910 featuring Doux, all of them Pathé productions. Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and the late Roland-François Lack have provided substantial help by sending us screeners and stills – we thank them.
A familiar face in Pathé films, Marie Doux (1878-1919) acted in cinema between 1903 and 1910. The daughter of a single-mother, she became an opera singer known as Renée Doux starting her career in the theatres on the Grands Boulevards, as well as alongside Suzanne Marty at Olympia, where her sister Rose, and future fellow screen actress Julienne Mathieu would also appear. In 1896, in Brazil, she gave birth to a daughter, Renée, who would act alongside her and who would take the name of her first husband, Louis Dauge (1906). During the Paris Exposition of 1900, the papers mentioned Renée Doux as part of the horticultural festival. She was known for her beauty but probably only played secondary roles. Even so, her first films prove her to be an accomplished actress across evocative, comic and dramatic roles. It is possible that Doux opted for cinema after she injured her leg in a car accident in 1904. After being widowed in 1908, she married Ferdinand Zecca, in February 1910, in Nice where she was filming. Charles Pathé, Pierre-Victor Continsouza and her friend Berthe de Faria were witnesses. The marriage contract mentions some enviable capital. Doux made her own way in the world, and part of her fortune was the personal wardrobe she wore on film – she even had diamonds! Hers was among the names of cinema actors, who began to be mentioned in the newspapers. She also used her influence to bring her family into the cinema, notably her sister Henriette, who married the cinematographer Jacques Bizeul. However, Renée’s film career was declining. In 1913 she left Zecca for the entrepreneur and future cinema operator Maurice Charles Maître. In 1914 she gave birth to a second daughter, Madeleine, while her eldest was due to appear in the series Odette, which Charles Decroix had decided to produce in Berlin. The war, however, put a halt to these careers. In 1919, Renée died of Spanish Flu in a hospital in Saint-Louis.
LES TROIS PHASES DE LA LUNE
SIDONIE BOIT NOTRE VIN
LA FILLE DE L’ARMATEUR
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Music composed and directed by Maud Nelissen, performed by The Sprockets:
Daphne Balvers (soprano saxophone), Frido ter Beek (alto saxophone), Peter Keijsers (trombone), Marco Ludemann (banjo, jazz guitar, mandolin), Alexander Vocking (contrabass), Rombout Stoffers (drums, effects, accordion) and Maud Nelissen (piano)