11 September 2017

René Poyen

René Poyen (1908-1968) was a talented child star of the silent French cinema. He started at the age of four as the popular character Bout-de-Zan (Tiny Tim) in a popular series based on the adventures of little rascals in cute hats. Most of these burlesque comedies were filmed between 1912 and 1916 by Louis Feuillade for the Gaumont company.

René Poyen
French postcard by Cinémagazine, no. 172. Photo: Ajax.

Rascal Kid Actor

René-Georges Poyen was born in Paris, France, in 1908.

In 1912, he started his film career at Gaumont as Bout-de-Zan, the younger brother of rascal kid actor Bébé (René Dary), in the film comedy Bébé adopte un petit frère/Baby takes a little brother (Louis Feuillade, 1912).

Quite soon he replaced Dary and his character, becoming the child star of Gaumont in the subsequent years. Urbanora writes at The Bioscope: "Greater comic emphasis was placed on Bout-de-Zan being an ‘adult’ figure, as he dressed like an adult, aped adult mannerisms, and was generally an earthier character than Bébé. He would also often giving knowing looks to the camera, making the audience complicit in his trickery. "

Already in 1913 Poyen made 24 one-reelers with his popular mischievous alter ego; 16 in 1914; and 18 in 1915. That year he also played a small role in Louis Feuillade's famous crime serial Les Vampires/The Vampires (1915) starring Musidora as the mysterious Irma Vep, dressed in a black tights.

In 1917 he played 'The Licorice Kid' in another popular Feuillade serial Judex, featuring René Cresté as a caped superhero. He also appeared in the crime parody Le pied qui étreint (Jacques Feyder, 1917), and a handful of Bout-de-Zan shorts.

By then the era of the short Bout-de-Zan comedies was over, but Poyen continued to play in crime serials like La nouvelle mission de Judex (Louis Feuillade, 1917).

Bébé (René Dary). French postcard. Photo Eclectic Films.

René Cresté as Judex
René Cresté. French postcard by Coquemer Gravures. Photo: Gaumont. Still for La nouvelle mission de Judex (Louis Feuillade, 1917-1918).


René Poyen appeared for Feuillade in the serial Les deux gamines/The Two Girls (Louis Feuillade, 1920), and the series films L'orphelin de Paris/The Orphan of Paris (Louis Feuillade, 1924).

He also performed in the features La proie (Marcel Dumont, 1921), La fille bien gardée (Louis Feuillade, 1923-1924), Romanetti/Le roi du maquis (Gennaro Dini, 1924), and Les murailles du silence (Louis de Carbonnat, 1925).

In the early 1920s, he was often paired with girl actress Bouboule, as in Le gamin de Paris/Paris Urchin (Louis Feuillade, 1923), La gosseline (Louis Feuillade, 1923), Pierrot, Pierrette (Louis Feuillade, 1924), and Lucette (Louis Feuillade, Maurice Champreux, 1924).

In the sound era, Poyen returned only twice more in films, in an uncredited role in Clochard/Tramp (Robert Péguy, 1932) and a last time as Bout-de-Zan in the comedy Le Bidon d'or/The Golden Canister (Christian Jaque, 1932).

René Poyen died in his hometown Paris in 1968.

Bout-de-Zan vole un éléphant/Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant (Louis Feuillade, 1913). Source: Tonytony 9292 (YouTube).

Bout-de-Zan Et L'Embusqué/Bout de Zan and the Shirker (Louis Feuillade, 1916). Source: Mau M (YouTube).

Sources: Urbanora (The Bioscope), Turner Classic Movies, IMDb and Wikipedia (French).

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