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Figure 9.19

The Fine Art of Elegant Clowning

Les Débuts d’un patineur (Skater’s Debut / An Unskillful Skater)

Louis J. Gasnier, Pathé-Frères, France, 1907

One of the earliest films in which Linder has a major role, Les Débuts d’un patineur is essentially an extended gag: when an overconfident Max tries ice skating, a series of slapstick mishaps ensues, leaving him to bawl like a little boy at film’s end. As in many Linder films, the comedy results from Max’s frustration when a project—whether ice skating, securing a bride, or acting in a movie—engenders or encounters complications. In part, of course, the humor of Les Débuts d’un patineur derives from the incongruity between the activity and Max’s appearance: he is dressed in elegant evening clothes, and although he removes his topcoat, he retains the silk hat that will soon become his trademark; fittingly, it keeps falling off, and his efforts to retrieve it from the ice occasion a couple of prime pratfalls.

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