05 September 2011

Gabriel de Gravone

Gabriel de Gravone (1887 - 1972) was an actor of the French silent cinema. He is best known as Élie, the son of Sisif (Séverin-Mars) in Abel Gance’s La Roue (1920-1923).

Gabriel de Gravone
French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 224. Photo: G.L. Manuel Frères.

Capellani and Gance
Gabriel de Gravone was born Antoine Paul André Faggianelli in Ajaccio on the island Corsica, France, in 1887. He started his career as film actor in 1909. Probably his first film was Un clair de lune sous Richelieu/A Ray of Moonlight on Richelieu (1909, Albert Capellani), a period piece starring Paul Capellani. The film was scripted by Abel Gance, who would later call him back for his masterpiece La Roue. Capellani directed Gravone a few times, most notably in the four part episode film Les Misérables (1912, released 1913, Albert Capellani), in the role of Marius opposite Maria Fromet as Cosette. Between 1912 and 1914 Gravone was the partner of Aimée Campton in the Pathé comedy series with the character 'Maud' and of Cauroy in the 'Papillon' comedies by Gaston Roudès. During the First World War Gravone hardly acted in film but in 1919 Louis Mercanton directed him in the feature L’appel du sang/The Call of the Blood, based on the novel by Robert Hichens and co-starring Charles Le Bargy and Ivor Novello.

Gabriel de Gravone
French postcard by Cinémagazine, no. 71. Photo: Studio Rahma.

La Roue
It was the subsequent film, however, that gave Gabriel de Gravone lasting fame: the modern tragedy La Roue/The Wheel (1920-1923, Abel Gance). Gravone played Élie, the son of Sisif (Séverin-Mars) and a passionate violinist. Both men are in love with Sisif’s foster daughter Norma (Ivy Close), whom Sisif has once saved from a train wreck. His love for Norma turns Sisif violent and jealous, though, and when she leaves by train with Hersan (Pierre Magnier), an engineer from town, he almost wrecks the train. He is blinded by steam and is reduced to servicing a little funicular at the Mont-Blanc mountain, aided by his son Élie. When Norma returns with her now husband, love between Élie and Norma comes back. Hersan, jealous, fights Élie and both men are killed, falling down. Norma stays to help the old and blind Sisif until his death. After La Roue, Gravone became a very active in French silent cinema, until the mid-1920's. First in the Alphonse Daudet adaptation L’Arlésienne (1921, André Antoine), then L’ombre du péché/The Shadow of Sin (1922, Yakov Protazanov) with Diana Karenne, the Gaston Leroux adaptation Rouletabille chez les bohémiens (1922, Henri Fescourt) with Édith Jéhanne, Petit ange et son pantin/Small angel and his marionette (1923, Luitz Morat), Le mariage de minuit/The marriage at midnight (1923, Armand Du Plessy) with Rita Jolivet, the Abbé Prevost adaptation Les demi-vierges/The half-virgins (1924, Armand Du Plessy), the ghost story Le manoir de la peur/The manor house of fear (1924, released 1927, Alfred Machin, Henri Wulschleger) costarring Romuald Joubé, Mimi Pinson (1922-1924, Théo Bergerat) with Simone Vaudry, L’Ornière (1924, Edouard Chimot) with Gabriel Signoret, Michel Strogoff (1925, Victor Tourjansky 1925) starring Ivan Mozzhukhin, La cavalcata ardente/The ardent ride (1925, Carmine Gallone) starring Soava Gallone, and finally de Gravone played the Biblical Abel in Le berceau de dieu/The Cradle of God (1926, Fred Leroy-Granville). In 1926 he also directed himself the film Paris, Cabourg, le Caire… et l’amour/Paris, Cabourg, Cairo... and Love (1928, Gabriel de Gravone). After that he didn’t perform in films anymore. Gabriel de Gravone died in Marseille in 1972. He was 85.

Scene from La Roue/The Wheel (1920-1923). Source: MoreTen (YouTube).

Sources: James Travers (Films de France), Cinema Francais, and IMDb.

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