09 September 2012

Maurice Schutz

French stage and screen actor Maurice Schutz (1866 - 1955) peaked in the French silent cinema of the 1920's. He can be seen in films by Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein, Julien Duvivier, and Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Maurice Schutz
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 423. Photo: Cliché Sartony.

Naturalist Countryside Drama
Maurice Schutz was born as Paul Maurice Schutzenberger in Paris in 1866. He started a career as stage actor from the 1890's, and appeared in plays like Lysistrata (1892), Madame Sans-Gene (1893), L’Aiglon (1900) and Théroigne de Méricourt (1902), the latter two at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt. During the 1910's, he already played occasionally in the cinema. He played Grandcoeur in the French revolution drama Quatre-vingt treize (1914, Albert Capellani, André Antoine) but this film was only released in France in 1921. Schutz’s film career only really took off after the First World War, with films like Sa gosse/His kid (1919, Henri Desfontaines) with Elmire Vautier, Irene (1920, Marcel Dumont) with Marcel Vibert, Au-delà des lois des hommes/Beyond the laws of men (1920, Marcel Dumont, Gaston Roudès) with Rachel Devirys, Maître Évora/Master Évora (1920, Gaston Roudès) with Regina Badet, the Alphonse Daudet adaptation Fromont jeune et Risler ainé/Fromont Jr. and Risler Sr. (1921, Henry Krauss) with Maurice Escande, La douloureuse comédie/The painful comedy (1921, Théo Bergerat) with Stacia Napierkowska, and Lily Vertu (1921, Daniel Bompard) with Huguette Duflos. Schutz played the industrialist Marcel Anavan, father of protagonist Marc (Léon Mathot) in the serial L’Empereur des pauvres/The emperor of the poor (1921, René Leprince), as well as the father of the title character in Prisca (1922, Gaston Roudès) and the grandfather of the family Larade in the naturalist countryside drama L’âtre/Tillers of the Soil (1922, Robert Boudrioz), which co-starred Charles Vanel and Charles de Féraudy. In 1922 he played the Duke of Alva in the period piece Les Opprimés/Flanders under Philip II (1922, Henry Roussel). He was Dr. Artez in the Jules Claretie adaptation Le petit Jacques/Little Jack (1923, Georges Lannes, Georges Raulet) and in the next year he acted in the Spanish drama Para toda la vida/Pour toute la vie/For life (1924, Benito Perojo) with Rachel Devirys and Simone Vaudry.

Maurice Schutz in Verdun, visions d'histoire
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 555. Photo: publicity still of Maurice Schutz as the old marshall in Léon Poirier's late silent film Verdun, visions d'histoire (1928).

Maurice Schutz
French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 592. Photo: Paramount.

In the early 1920's, Maurice Schutz had had a very active film career, always playing the older man he by then had become himself. By the mid-1920's his parts became bigger. He had the male lead in Germaine Dulac’s Gossette (1925), with Régine Bouet in the title role. He himself played the title role in Luitz Morat’s period piece Jean Chouan (1925), which co-starred René Navarre. He had another male lead role – even a double role - in Jean Epstein’s adaptation of George Sand’s Mauprat (1926), which co-starred Sandra Milovanoff and Nino Costantini, while he had a major supporting part in Luitz-Morat’s Le Juif errant/The Wandering Jew (1926), based on the novel of Eugène Sue. After parts in Le Bonheur du jour/Happiness of the day (1927, Gaston Ravel) with Pierre Batcheff and Elmire Vautier, and Abel Gance’s mega-production Napoléon (1927), Schutz starred in Julien Duvivier’s L’agonie de Jérusalem/The agony of Jerusalem (1927) as a retired professor living in Jerusalem who discovers his son is involved in a network of anarchists in Paris. Schutz then played two memorable parts, first as one of the clerical judges in Carl Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc/The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), starring Renée Falconetti and Sylvain, then as the old marshall of the Empire in the First World War drama Verdun, visions d’histoire/Verdun, visions of history (1928, Léon Poirier), with Thomy Bourdelle. Schutz made a smooth passage to the French sound cinema, acting in early French sound films like L’Arlésienne (1930, Jacques de Baroncelli) and the Lord of the Manor in Dreyer’s Vampyr/Vampire (1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer), although the latter was rather a silent film with sound effects. While Schutz played opposite Blanche Montel in the former, he acted with Julian West aka Nicolas, Baron de Gunzburg, in the latter. In the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's Schutz continued to act in many French films but most of his parts were small by now and some even uncredited. He had major parts in Fantômas (1932, Pàl Fejos) with Bourdelle as Inspector Juve, Goupi mains rouges/It Happened at the Inn (1943, Jacques Becker), and Danger de mort/Danger of death (1947, Gilles Grangier). His last part was in Marc Allégret’s La demoiselle et son revenant/The lady and her back (1952), while his last contribution to the film world was lending his voice to the French animation film La bergère et le ramoneur/The Sheperdess and the Chimney Sweep (1952, Paul Grimault). At the age of 88, Maurice Schutz died in 1955 in Clichy-la-Garenne, near Paris. He had played in almost 100 films.

Clip from La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc/The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). Source: Christoph Mahler (YouTube).

Trailer of Vampyr/Vampire (1932). Source: The Unexplained Channel (YouTube).

Sources: Ciné-Artistes, Ciné-Ressources (French), Wikipedia (French) and IMDb.

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