The Assault on Propriety

  The international popularity and commercial success of silent clowns and silent types—not only in France, but in Italy, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States—should probably come as no surprise: funny business, by and large, is funny business no matter where it’s transacted. But the appeal of the first silent clowns to audiences seated in cramped darkened rooms everywhere from San Francisco to St. Petersburg undoubtedly derives from some substantive form of identification. Many of these comedians, observes Italian film historian Aldo Bernardini, specialized in adapting eccentic personae to onscreen characters who were, ironically, a lot like the people in their audiences—waiters, mechanics, paperhangers, shop clerks, and, perhaps a little higher up the occupational ladder, bank clerks, dancing teachers, firemen, detectives.


   André Deed, Cretinetti and the Brazilian

       Riding Boots, Itala Film, Italy, 1916

Interestingly, adds Bernardini, their onscreen antics often reflected professional backgrounds demanding some kind of physical prowess—boxing, acrobatics and circus tumbling, tightrope walking. As a result, they frequently relied on a mode of physical comedy that encouraged “grossness and vulgar attitudes (the paunch and behind of a corpulent person . . . were always effective instruments for attack or defense).” At the same time, however, such antics

are demonstrations of human liberty and spontaneity of invention, which permit the comics to beat and to pillory certain values of bourgeois complancency. . . . [T]he comedy of many situations comes precisely from the fact that the protagonist breaks the formal rules prevailing in salons, in dentists’ waiting rooms, in smart restaurants, or at official dinners.[1]

Bernardini goes on to speculate that the comedy of the period underscores a conflict in the messages that the contemporary cinema sought to send its audiences:

Sometimes one has the impression that this genre provides a sort of free zone, emancipated from the bourgeois frustrations which are, conversely, punctiliously respected in the historical or dramatic films of the period, dominated as they are by moralism, the cult of patriotism, fine sentiments, [and] respectability.[2]

As we saw in Chapter 9.1, the French dramatic films of the period were primarily melodramas adapted from theater conventions in which an original state of harmony—usually that of a family—is disrupted and restored. The values which demand that restoration—the sacred space of the home and its patriarchal stability—are values associated with the comfortable, conformist, capitalist class that the French call the bourgeoisie. As producers increasingly targeted this affluent class as a desirable audience, it’s not surprising that certain types of films—particularly those which, like dramatic films, derived from such bourgeois venues as the theater—extolled the values of that class.


  Little Moritz demande Rosalie en mariage,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1911

Meanwhile, the early comedians catered to a working class whose preferred entertainments originated in such venues as the music hall and circus, and it’s no less surprising that early comic films reveled in sendups of bourgeois values. Typical is Pathé-Frères’ Little Moritz series (1911-1912), which cast Maurice Schwartz, a spry music-hall acrobat, and Sarah Duhamel (1873-1926), a stout comedienne, as a pair of unlikely lovers whose romance is thwarted by the class-conscious fastidiousness of her bourgeois father. In this series, the assault on bourgeois proprieties is often decidedly literal. In Little Moritz aime Rosalie (Little Moritz Loves Rosalie, 1911), they first meet at her father’s genteel party, where they punctuate a dance routine with interludes of acrobatic violence (he lifts her by her hair, she picks him up by his legs, whirls him around, and pitches him into a corner). Her father then throws Little Moritz out like a suitcase, sending him on a long roll down a staircase and into the cellar. In the follow-up movie, Little Moritz demande Rosalie en mariage (Little Moritz Asks for Rosalie’s Hand in Marriage, 1911), after Little Moritz makes an extended pantomime plea for Rosalie’s hand, her father demands that he prove himself a man. Our hero takes up boxing, pummels his opponent and (in a paroxysm of pugilistic energy) everyone else in the gym, and returns to report his triumph to the father, who demands proof by way of a repeat performance. Little Moritz then proceeds to demolish one well-appointed bourgeois interior after another.[3]


     Max Reprises His Career: Mari jaloux,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1914

See the moving picture

The Ambivalence of the Boulevard Comedian

  By contrast, the immense success of Max Linder, who is discussed in some detail in Chapter 9.2 and Biographical Sketch 9.1, was due in no small part to his appeal among bourgeois audiences. Film historian Ginette Vincendeau argues that Linder’s unique comedic-critical stance towards the bourgeoisie resulted from the fact that it was assumed “from inside that class.” Linder, she points out, was himself a member of the bourgeoisie by both birth and temperament. His comic critique of bourgeois attitudes and behavior, however, was largely a product of his training and experience as a theatrical performer, particularly of his stint in “the vaudeville theatre tradition.”[4] By French “vaudeville,” Vincendeau doesn’t mean the same thing that we meant by American “vaudeville” in Chapter 7.1: whereas the latter refers to a form of theatrical entertainment featuring diversified, continuously programmed acts, the French variation, also known as boulevard theater, refers to scripted stage plays, usually in the form of the farce—a comedy featuring absurd situations in which crudely drawn characters engage in slapstick and other broad comic practices.[5]

The plays of the French vaudeville or boulevard theater, explains Vincendeau, were “solidly structured, middlebrow pieces of comic entertainment with middle-class settings and themes.” Unfortunately, she observes, they have gained a “reputation for superficiality,” but she hastens to add that they can claim at least a modicum of thematic substance in the mockery of “institutions such as the army or educational establishments, and any form of pomposity generally.”[6] For “middlebrow” and “middle-class,” we can read bourgeois, and Vincendeau cites French critic Daniel Lindenberg’s characterization of the central irony of boulevard theater as “a ‘satire of the philistine bourgeoisie for a bourgeois audience.’ . . . [I]t was,” she argues, “a cerebral [and] refined kind of comedy,” and among Max Linder’s major contributions to French film comedy was the introduction of the cerebral—or at least refined—variation derived from the boulevard theater:

In contrast with those working-class comics who originated in, and built on, the circus and the music hall, such as Boireau and Onésime, Linder’s comedy was theatrical and middle class. This pertained to his own origins and training and was visually signalled by the milieu in which his stories take place, their locations and decors, and Linder’s bourgeois attire. . . . Linder’s characters are transpositions of vaudeville heroes: dashing bourgeois figures devoted to the pursuit of women, money and pleasure, who get into implausible yet unavoidable situations.[7]

The Bourgeois Performance

  If one were to judge from Max Linder’s films alone, one would no doubt conclude that the behavior of the social class known as the bourgeoisie revolved around trivial schemes concocted by infantile dandies, but it’s precisely this putative pattern of behavior which makes Max’s character both the vehicle and the object of Linder’s satiric jibes: after all, the point of the satire is to represent the bourgeoisie to itself in a comic light, and the point would obviously be lost if the bourgeoisie were not embodied in a persona that it could recognize. “Max” on screen is thus a variably unstable image of Max Linder: he is a bourgeois comedian denoted by his attire making fun of a bourgeois persona denoted by the same attire, especially his symbolic top hat.


        Max Linder, Max et la doctoresse,

               Pathé-Frères, France, 1912

See the moving picture

In Max et la doctoresse, for example, Max prepares to visit a female doctor, and before entering the office, he checks his appearance not in a mirror but in his own top hat, which has, as always, been brushed to a reflective sheen (see Figure R9.8).[8] Not only is the narcissism inherent in the gesture in character for Max the bourgeois dandy, but it also distills the character’s relationship to the class from which his impersonator has come and to which, his profession notwithstanding, the impersonator still belongs: we need imagine very little difference between the bourgeois persona’s examination of his appearance before presenting himself to a lady and that of the bourgeois impersonator before presenting himself to his audience.

The Performance as Self-Conscious Spectacle: Be My Wife  The bourgeois persona, in other words, is a particularly apt target of the comic performer’s satire because he is—especially to those who are critical of his social and moral character—inherently an actor. This conceit finds clever expression in Be My Wife, which Linder made in America in 1921. Max is once again in love, and his efforts to win the girl embroil him in even more extravagant stratagems than usual—which is why her aunt prefers a more stable (that is, even more bourgeois) suitor. Max’s last resort calls for him to demonstrate the newfound virtue of reliability by dispatching a burglar who’s broken into the aunt's house. Plunging through the curtain behind which the housebreaker is hiding, Max performs a virtuouso feat of manly competence by besting his foe in a raucous brawl. The audience, however, discovers that there is no burglar, and the spectacle behind the curtain consists of Max exchanging blows with himself (see Biographical Sketch 9.1/Figure B9.6).[9]


                  Max Linder, Be My Wife,

        Max Linder Productions, USA, 1921

Within the fictional space of the bourgeois house, of course, the performance has no audience but Max himself, who is the only witness to his own demonstration of bourgeois virtue. In having designated the outcome of the ruse as a shibboleth of bourgeois virtue, he is also the sole judge not only of that virtue but of the moral worthiness of which it is a sign. At the same time, however, there is an audience for the entire project: we watch the scheme unfold from inception to consummation and are entertained by Max’s appropriation and devaluation of the bourgeois moral canon. We are invited to apprehend Max’s scheme for demonstrating his virtue as fraudulent, but we can’t help but appreciate its success in terms of a conventional comic dénouement—Max wins his bride. In both cases—in the scheme for deceiving the other bourgeois characters and in the scheme for entertaining the bourgeois audience—it is the misrepresented performance which is judged to be of both virtue and value.

Fashions in Virtue

  According to the classic formulation of his character, the bourgeois is concerned, economically, with capital wealth (both property and consumer goods) and, ideologically, with propriety and respectability. We are mainly interested here with the latter pair of fixations, which are manifest primarily in outward shows and signs of class behavior, including the way one dresses. French historian Philippe Perrot, for example, observes that by the beginning of the 19th century, proper gentlemanly attire had abandoned the sumptuous fabrics and colors of the previous century in favor of a more austere fashion typified by “dark or discreetly striped fabrics. . . . The new dress,” argues Perrot,

embodied the ideological justification for and social legitimacy of the bourgeois. Clothing reaffirmed the concepts of modesty, effort, propriety, reserve, and “self-control,” which were the basis of bourgeois “respectabilty.” They combined a moral rejection with their political rejection of color. “The world of colors,” writes [the French sociologist] Jean Baudrillard, “is seen as opposed to that of values. . . . Black, white, and grey, the very negation of color, were the paradigm of dignity, control, and morality.” [10]

Fashion, of course, is intended for the eyes of others of one’s class, who can be expected to appreciate a socially sanctioned mode of dress, and the bourgeoisie gradually developed various social occasions for presenting themselves among their cultural peers—for seeing and being seen. Jesus Cruz, a historian of Spanish culture, reminds us that the study of any class—he prefers the term “social group”—must include an examination of its “social rituals” and its “ways of socializing.”[11]


           Max Linder, Le Roman de Max,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1912

See the moving picture

Fashionable Decisions: Le Roman de Max  Affecting the persona of a bourgeois gallant, Max Linder specializes in the comic take on the role of fashion in bourgeois “socializing.” Le Roman de Max (or Petit romanAffinity, 1912) finds our hero at a seaside resort, where he is assigned a room next to that of a pretty young woman. As vacationing bourgeois do, they leave their shoes outside their doors for cleaning each night. During the night, as we see in an insert, the shoes become intimately acquainted. The next day, Max and the woman, appropriately attired for separate outings, attempt to do some casual reading, only to notice that one shoe each has become oddly restless. Suddenly, the two shoes detach themselves from their respective feet and, in stop motion, frantically pursue the mutual goal of resuming their interrupted romance. Max and the woman chase their shoes to what appears to be a prearranged trysting spot, and it’s only when they put their enchanted shoes back on that they realize a similar attraction between themselves, which they seal with a passionate kiss (see Figure R9.9). Bourgeois behavior, it seems, has become so inextricably a function of fashion that decisions about even the most delicate forms of socializing can be left to the uncanny judgment of fashion accessories.


  Max Takes a Turn around the Promenade:

      Title Unknown, Pathé-Frères, France

See the moving picture

Strolling in the Bourgeois City

  Among the “social rituals” of the late-19th-century bourgeoisie Cruz identifies “public strolls” in open-air urban areas in which members of “polite society” could “meet, greet, observe each other, and practice the rituals appropriate to the occasion.”[12] Max takes explicitly to the so-called “bourgeois promenade” in a film whose title and date have been lost. He is certainly decked out in the proper attire, but as you can see from Figure R9.10, his sense of proper demeanor and behavior is notably deficient. First, he sits on a bench between a bourgeois lady and gentleman, crossing his legs so that his shoe comes to rest on the gentleman’s trousers. Then he eats an apple that he’s picked up from the ground, tossing the remnant over his shoulder so that it hits the same gentleman squarely in the eye. Finally, Max exchanges greetings and converses with an acquantaince until he says something that earns him a slap in the face and a challenge to a duel, whereupon he unceremoniously pushes his unexpecting adversary into a nearby pool.

Obviously, the outward trappings of bourgeois culture do not ensure respect for either propriety or respectability, and we might surmise that the exaggeration of Max’s thoroughly dysfunctional behavior in this film is intended to suggest the result of decades of inbreeding. In any case, it’s apt grist for a broadly comic mill, and Linder’s performance is more a matter of burlesque than of carefully calculated satire: Max’s boorish take on bourgeois behavior is strictly of the mock sort and is summarily reduced to the merely ridiculous in an effort to get quick and easy laughs.

Performing Gender Roles

  In Italy, the bourgeois promenade is called the passeggiata—a leisurely evening stroll still taken, after a fashion, in many Italian communities. Giovanna P. Del Negro, an American folklorist who returned to her Italian hometown to study its popular culture, describes the contemporary passeggiata as a ritual for judging character through demeanor:

While styles of walking are sometimes seen to express a person’s status in society, they are more often interpreted as reflections of character. In this context, a pleasing countenance reveals not only an affable personality but an interior goodness that transcends manners. While the elegantly dressed woman can, by virtue of her appearance and demeanor, radiate social refinement, her deportment will be seen as the sign of trustworthiness. . . . [T]o be “retto e corretto” (literally, upright and correct) . . . is to be an upstanding praiseworthy person, one whose physical bearing displays moral rectitude.[13]

The “New Woman” in the Belle Époque

  In Catholic Spain, argues Cruz, “bourgeois culture” gradually institutionalized the equation of moral rectitude with certain “standards of virtuousness.” A “woman’s virtue,” for example, “was measured by her ability to be modest and submissive in all acts of sociability.” Moral values originally determined by Christian convictions of right and wrong were reduced to the moral values of class: “The goal was [no longer] to earn the forgiveness of God, but rather to triumph in polite society.”[14] Interestingly, however, we can’t help but notice that many of the women with whom Max becomes enamored don’t conform to this model of feminine modesty and submissiveness. We can tell from her attire and demeanor, for example, that the young woman in Le Roman de Max is as much a bourgeois figure as Max is, and yet we find her vacationing without benefit of chaperone.


              Henri Gervex, Five Hours at Paquin’s,

           a Parisian House of Haute Couture, 1906

She appears to be, in other words, a type of the “New Woman.” In a time of peace and prosperity that the French recall, rather nostalgically, as “la Belle Époque” (“the Beautiful Era,” which can be broadly dated from the 1880s to 1914), not only France but the other industrialized nations of Europe as well as the U.S. experienced a boom in technological development. With the advent of such advancements as electricity and the automobile, for example, the middle-class enjoyed a dramatic increase in leisure time that allowed it to consume such entertainment products as the music hall, the theater, and the cinema. Equally important was the release of middle-class women from lives dedicated almost entirely to domestic duties: they now had the resources—technological, social, and economic—with which to spend more time on activities conducted outside the home. Among those activities was shopping, and the economic resources available to middle-class women quickly made them prime targets for a burgeoning advertising industry; as early as 1883, the novelist Émile Zola had described French women as “a nation of consumers.”[15]

Spurred by new experiences in the public sphere, women soon came to view themselves differently, personally as well as socially: according to historians Diana Holmes and Carrie Tarr, the “consumer revolution” of the Belle Époque “favored women’s personal mobility and a new sense of self as a legitimately desiring, pleasure-seeking subject.” At the same time, however, Holmes and Tarr point out that, “for bourgeois women, the propriety of staying close to home and venturing out only when chaperoned conflicted with the economic imperative to seek and purchase.”[16] Domestic life remained after all a pressing and very real responsibility, and the image of the “New Woman” or “femme moderne”—particularly in the hands of advertisers and other promoters of feminine aspiration—was a highly idealized image of bourgeois woman: it was concocted, according to Holmes and Tarr, as an “inspiring image of ‘having it all’ in the Belle Époque—devoted husband, fulfilling family, beautiful home, and if not a satisfying vocation, at least some sort of outlet for self-expression, all while maintaining her impeccable appearance.” Needless to say, very few women actually “had it all” in the Belle Époque, and for many, the discrepancy between what it was newly possible to attain and what it still wasn’t possible to attain—namely, equality in “the pursuit of freedom, pleasure and achievement”—produced a certain degree of frustration over feminine identity.[17]

Performance Anxiety and the Comic Mode

  What effect did all of this social upheaval have on the life of “Max” as a representative of masculine identity? First of all, we must note that Max is frequently involved with women who, like the lady doctor in Max et la doctoresse and the unchaperoned traveler in Le Roman de Max, are to some degree defined by the trappings and attitudes of the “New Woman” although they seem to display very little anxiety over personal or social identity. Max, meanwhile, would seem to be well adjusted to a masculine role that consists almost entirely of pursuing such women with the apparent intention of securing each selected object of his desire as a bourgeois wife.


     Role Reversal and Gender Immaturity:

          Max Linder, Max et la doctoresse

The Anxiety of Inversion: Max et la doctoresse  Granted, this tenuous equanimity is often called into question, as in Max et la doctoresse, which concludes with an explicit comedy of role reversal between the two actors charged with impersonating bourgeois husband and wife. In the final sequence, we find ourselves in the couple’s home—a domestic space that has been merged with the professional space of the wife’s office. Encumbered by a good-sized baby, Max wanders about the parlor/waiting room as handsome male patients await their turns in the privacy of the wife’s examining room. When the doctor ushers a patient through the curtain to the adjoining room, we cut to a set of the professional space, where the lady doctor proceeds to examine the patient precisely as she had earlier tried to examine Max, whose discomfort with such forward physical contact had resulted in a fit of ticklishness. This patient, on the other hand, is prepared for and thoroughly enjoys the doctor’s ministrations (she embraces him from behind and strips his suspenders from his shoulders): his demeanor displays masculine maturity in both of his roles—as patient and as sexual pleasure seeker. As you can see from Figure R9.8, Max—who breaks in and attacks the man—clearly lacks maturity in both respects, as well as in his demeanor as husband. (On Max et la doctoresse, see also Chapter 9.2.)

Vicki Callahan is perhaps a bit harsh on Max in arguing that he is “unencumbered by intelligence or any discernible talent,” but she also suggests that Linder’s films “play out important cultural anxieties about changing social status and structures.” Max’s anxieties, she maintains, result from “the vagueness and elasticity of [his] status. . . . [Even] when Max appears . . . solidly outfitted in the trappings of bourgeois society (complete with servants and infinite leisure time), we are still not sure if this is due to lineage or merely to good taste.”[18] Technically speaking, we don’t in fact know if Max actually hails from the bourgeoisie or merely aspires to it, but inasmuch as he insists on acting out the role of a bourgeois, we are obliged to regard the performance as the man himself.

The Irruption of the Spontaneous: Seven Years Bad Luck  Because the intrinsically comic motivations of Max Linder the impersonator of the bourgeois persona require a certain degree of laughable imperfection in the persona that we know as “Max,” the persona is burdened with certain anxieties about the performance of a role from which he cannot extricate—or even adequately distinguish—himself. At least theoretically, then, the persona himself can never drop out of character and thereby reveal something about himself that isn’t intrinsically embodied and fully realized in his character. How, then, do we account for a central comic conceit in Seven Years Bad Luck, which Linder made in the U.S. in 1921?


       Max Linder, Seven years Bad Luck,

       Max Linder Productions, USA, 1921

See the excerpt

One of the persona’s inherent sources of anxiety has been revealed early in the film—he’s superstitious. Fearing that a broken a mirror has condemned him to the titutlar seven years’ bad luck, Max goes to visit his fiancée, whose maid reads danger from a dog in his palm. Heeding the warning, Max thinks it best to put his fiancée’s beloved little dog in a vase, and when she sees what he’s done, she shocks him with the worst luck of the day by calling off the engagement. Max returns later to apologize but has the bad luck to be left alone once again with the maid. For no apparent reason, he puts a bouncy tune on the phonograph, and before long, he’s playing the piano with grotesque zeal while the maid and a valet dance around the room with equal abandon. The fiancée, of course, appears and, pronouncing a bourgeois interdiction—“You’ve turned mother’s house into a dance hall”—exiles him from her affections.

Again, then, how can we account for Max’s decidedly unbourgeois behavior? Certainly Max is capable of unexpected bursts of what we should perhaps call “imprudent” behavior, but he is usually prompted by some logic, however subjective; he puts the dog in the vase, for example, because he’s been psychically forewarned of canine danger. Elsewhere, he takes a bath in the hallway because that’s where he finds a faucet to fill his tub (Max prend son bain [By the Doctor’s Orders or Max Embarrassed, 1910]), performs a pedicure on an unappealing male foot because he’s pretending to be a pedicurist in order to woo the man’s wife (Max pédicure [Max as a Chripododist], 1914), and elongates himself with electricity in order to convince his prospective father-in-law that he’s not too short for the man’s daughter (Max veut grandir [Max Gets Stuck Up], 1912).[19]

One historian of French cinema explains that the humor in such films is “inherent in the contrast between [Max’s] personal elegance and sophistication and the absurdity of the situations that bef[a]ll him”;[20] another adds that it “springs from the conflict between Max’s extreme self-confidence, an aspect of his social position, and his incompetence at even the simplest tasks.”[21] Such readings of Linder’s comic strategy certainly help to explain the impersonator’s motivations, but Callahan reminds us that there is another factor governing the comic outcomes of the persona’s schemes and dodges. Max, she argues, “appears to correspond to an established social type—looking like an impeccably groomed member of the bourgeoisie,” but in fact “his status is always uncertain and shifting before our eyes. . . . [T]he vagueness and elasticity of Max’s status,” she concludes, “makes him typically proto-modern and aspirational. . . . What the character comically shows us is that the best start toward social advancement is the correct look and proper accessories of the life style” (emphasis added).[22]

In other words, the persona, as a function of the impersonator’s comic design, has been stunted at the stage at which dressing for the part seems—certainly to the overanxious aspirant to bourgeois status—to be sufficient for assuming the role on a fully equipped social stage. His inadequacies as an exemplar of bourgeois demeanor issue from the fact that he has not been fully formed by bourgeois experience, and Linder’s comedy rests on the proposition that, rather like an actor thrust upon the stage without ample opportunity to learn his role, the ill-prepared persona must play his part in episodes set in fully developed bourgeois milieux and designed to dramatize fully developed (indeed, decadent) bourgeois judgment and behavior.


         Max Displays a Discernible Talent:

        Max Linder, Seven Years Bad Luck

Alan Williams argues that the Linder persona is “flat” because “Max has no individuating characteristics, except for generic comic tendencies to get drunk and fall madly in love”;[23] another American critic, Gerald Mast, detects a similar shortcoming in the fact that “Linder’s comic problems and solutions are in no way a function of the Max character. . . . He essentially disregards everything he has built into the character to plunge himself into some problem or task that any kind of character might face in the same way.” Mast, however, also characterizes Max as “a proper elegant gentleman who is completely at ease with his surroundings and his fellow beings, who all share the same social assumptions.”[24] The latter judgment is clearly an oversimplification and certainly won’t provide much help in understanding Max’s (most) peculiar behavior in Seven Years Bad Luck. To return to that issue, let’s begin by modifying Callahan’s assertion that Max has no “discernible talent”: obviously, Max can play the piano, although, judging from his sole performance, his repertoire and style are inappropriate for the bourgeois drawing room.

If, as Callahan implies, Max has no practical talents for succeeding on specifically bourgeois terms, it’s because he has—appearance to the contrary—no bourgeois history. By the same token, however, the talent that he displays in Seven Years Bad Luck indicates another realm of personal history—one which, given the uncertainty of his status, always offers an equally viable explanation of the persona’s behavior. Although we can only speculate about the particular social conditions of Max’s personal history, we can nevertheless be certain of two things: they are not entirely or conventionally bourgeois, and, more importantly, they manifest themselves only in the persona’s behavior—behavior which is almost invariably that of a performer. His performance on the piano in Seven Years Bad Luck suggests nothing so much as the spontaneous irruption of uncensored atavistic behavior incited by a stimulus conducive to performance—namely, the music from the phonograph. It would seem that Max’s professional desire to perform takes precedence over his romantic desire for his comely bourgeois fiancée.

Behavior issuing from the same source figures in many of Linder’s best films, although it is rarely quite so spontaneous. Indeed, it’s typically the result of overheated calculation on Max’s part and develops into whatever ill-conceived project lies at the heart of a film’s plot. The one-man brawl in Be My Wife is a good example, as is the premeditated charade in Max Wants a Divorce, which we discuss in Biographical Sketch 9.1 and Figure B9.4: in order to gain an inheritance, Max arranges to be caught in flagrante delicto so that his new bride may divorce (and later remarry) him. The difference, however, between the outbursts of performative behavior in these two films and its irruption in Seven Years Bad Luck is not simply a matter of calculation on the one hand and spontaneity on the other: the calculation reveals an explicitly moral dimension to machinations whose comic motivations, which are imparted by the impersonator, seem on the surface to reflect nothing more serious than feckless misjudgment.


            Literal-Minded Problem Solving:

         Max Linder, Max veut grandir, 1912

Morality and the Literal Minded

  All of which brings us back to the role of bourgeois satire in Linder’s films: Max’s typically benighted calculations result when he filters his atavistic desires—both romantic and professional—through his compulsive bourgeois aspirations. In good comic fashion, the logic that dictates Max’s judgment leads to problem solving which often takes the path of least abstract resistance—putting a potentially fateful dog in a vase or increasing his stature by strapping on a pair of stilts (Max veut grandir). This habit of mind actually constitutes the entire premise of Le Chapeau de Max (Max’s Hat, 1913), in which Max persists in buying an expensive new top hat each time an equally unforseeable accident befalls the one that he’s wearing (see Figure R9.11).

Performing for the Bourgeoisie: Max joue le drame  In a Linder comedy, however, the recourse to more or less literal-minded solutions is typically conceived as the best means of initiating or perpetuating a performance by Max that has a goal of its own (usually but not always romantic). Max joue le drame (Max Plays Drama, 1914), for instance, opens with Linder, the veteran impersonator, attempting to demonstrate to a group of bourgeois friends that he is “a great dramatic actor.” As his role in the film recapitulates his profession as an actor, we know that we’re witnessing a performance by Linder the impersonator, who, as his friends well know, specializes in comic roles developed from his experience in the the boulevard theater. They refuse to entertain the notion that Linder can play a dramatic part and, ironically, laugh at his dramatic audition as if it were really a barely disguised demonstration of his comedic virtuosity. The offended Linder invites them to “a theatre performance in which he will play the leading part.”


              High-Drama Role Reversal:

      Max Linder, Max joue le drame, 1914

See the moving picture

We next see Linder, in the “leading part” of Max, in costume for a drama which (except for a scene in which two women shed outer garments in order to fight a duel) appears to be something out of French tragedy of the 17th century. The costume is decidedly effeminate, as is Max’s wig, and as we soon see, the entire production is essentially a parody revolving around a conceit of gender-role reversal. Looking forward to the anachronisms of The Three Must-Get-Theres, 1922—see Biographical Sketch 9.1), a telephone is among the props, and when Max’s statuesque wife catches him cooing “I love you” to a woman on the other end of the line, she rushes to challenge her rival to a duel “for the love of Max.” Although both women are adept at the masculine skill of swordsmanship, the lover is slain by an advancing lunge to the heart executed by the wife.


           Spontaneity Trumps Calculation:

                       Max joue le drame

At this point, Max rushes onto the stage and seizes the opportunity to demonstrate his skill as a dramatic actor, keening over his lover’s body and emoting in the manner of grand tragedy. Unfortunately, his wig keeps falling over his face every time he bends forward to embrace the body. Finally, he angrily flings it aside and, following a last tearful lament, imbibes from a vial of poison and expires. A cut to the audience of Linder’s bourgeois friends reveals that Max has succeeded in eliciting a suitably empathetic response, but when he rises to receive their applause, he finds that they’ve all fallen asleep. We, of course, have also been spectating Max’s performance, but for us, the unscripted gesture of discarding the troublesome wig merely serves to cap off a bout of histrionics that reveals neither the impersonator’s nor the persona’s dramatic skill, but rather the former’s comedic virtuosity. Linder confirms our suspicion when, finding his once skeptical audience vulnerable in slumber, he allows Max’s atavistic penchant for comic performance to assert itself over his momentary indulgence of the bourgeois aspiration to dramatic triumph: the film ends on an overtly slapstick note when Max spontaneously turns a convenient hose on his sleeping audience (see Figure R9.12).

Though incapable of maintaining attention through the entire performance, Linder’s bourgeois audience approves of his efforts at bourgeois dramatic art, which depends not only on its members’ foreknowledge of a predictable plot but also on their appreciation of fashions in costuming which, particularly in Max’s case, conventionally signify fashions in romance and morals that they find quite congenial to their own, even though they may entertain them only in repressed fantasies. Thus the emblematic function of the telephone—an invention of the Gilded Age, America’s Belle Époque—which makes a long-distance connection between the bourgeoisie of one age and the bourgeoisie of another.

Bourgeois vs. Deontological Morality; or, Max among the Philosophers

  The satire of Max joue le drame, then, extends to the implicit sensibilities of Linder’s projected audience—his bourgeois friends—whose empathy with his persona’s ostensibly tragic fate requires that they identify with the moral behavior that occasioned it. That behavior is dubious at best but clearly poses no obstacle to audience empathy predicated on class affiliation. Max’s morality, therefore, represents bourgeois morality, which is the main object of the film’s satire. So, what do we mean by bourgeois morality?


         Max Linder, Vive la vie de garçon,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1908

See the moving picture

As we’ve already seen, Max is at his most bourgeois when women are involved. In Max Wants a Divorce, for instance, the prospect of a sizable inheritance immediately turns his thoughts toward the comforts of an inflated bourgeois lifestyle and away from his brand-new bride, who is suddenly transformed into one of the accoutrements of that existence—she is to be reacquired as part of Max’s broader scheme to acquire his fortune. We might have intimated something of this character in the earlier Max hypnotisé (Max Hypnotised, 1910—see Chapter 9.2 and Figure 9.21), in which Max is a young man so loath to make himself useful in the world that his own servants declare a truce in class conflict long enough to sabotage his engagement to an unsuspecting bourgeois girl. Finally, in Vive la vie de garçon (Troubles of a Grass Widower, 1908), we are treated to scenes from the marriage that might have been in both Max Wants a Divorce and Max hypnotisé. Having become inured to his wife’s housekeeping function, Max is exulted when she goes home to mother and confident that he can compensate for lost domestic productivity; the experiment in self-sufficiency is a disaster (in particular, he destroys the house in a search for the proper necktie), and at film’s end Max is begging his wife to return and keep an efficient house (see Figure R9.13).[25]


              Max Linder, Max pédicure,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1914

Virtue-Oriented vs. Duty-Oriented Morality

  Looking beyond the comic foibles with which the persona has been endowed, we can easily raise questions about his values and thus his morality. Obviously, for example, he does not particularly value women, as objects of either romantic or connubial bliss. This, however, isn’t necessarily a moral defect: in the case of Max’s behavior, it reflects certain casually maintained patriarchal assumptions, but as a given type of social structure, patriarchy is a judgment-free concept. Granted, as one among these assumptions, sexism, as the institutionalized subordination of women to men, is undoubtedly a morally indefensible concept, but Max is clearly less interested in subordinating women than in using them, and, what’s more important in this distinction is the fact that he doesn’t balk at extending the same behavior to his dealings with men. In Max pédicure, for instance, Max’s determination to pass himself off as a chiropodist extends to his willingness to cut off a man’s toes with a pair of garden shears. Indeed, so ingrained is this habit of mind that Max will even exploit himself in order to attain his goal, as in Be My Wife, in which he beats himself up to substantiate his claim to the object of his affections.

The persona’s penchant for using people is meant to be more than a violation of the Golden Rule: it is clearly a favorite means toward his most cherished ends and, as such, an essential element in the performance by which the persona seeks to convince the impersonator’s audience that he possesses some bourgeois virtue—usually a degree of masculinity confirmed with an outward show of bourgeois propriety and respectability. Max’s behavior thus reflects a set of values that can be traced to what we’ve identified as bourgeois morality. As a form of virtue-oriented morality, bourgeois morality emphasizes the development of socially defined habits of character (say, honesty or propriety) in dealings with others. As such, bourgeois morality may be contrasted with duty-oriented, or deontological, morality, which emphasizes the kind of behavior that we ought to perform in our dealings with others.

All theories of morality, of course, consist of principles of conduct determined by convictions of right and wrong. In determining the source of these convictions, deontological theories generally refer to reason or rationality—that is, to our innate ability to acquire information and formulate postulates about the world independent (at least in part) of experience. Thus the understanding of right and wrong is not only independent of both individual and collective experience, but is also cultivated by a faculty possessed by all people (at least by those in whom it hasn’t been compromised). Reason, therefore, allows us to understand universal duties, and it’s upon this understanding of duties to be performed under all relevant conditions that deontological convictions of right and wrong are based.


                Immanuel Kant

Deontological Morality according to Kant

  The most influential deontological theory of moral judgment was proposed in the 18th century by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). According to Kant, I can regard an action as morally permissible only if I agree that it’s permissible for all other moral agents as well. I must, therefore, conceive and act according to a “maxim” to which I assign “universal conformity”—according to a principle, in other words, which has the force of a “law” applicable to all people: “I should never act,” says Kant, “in such a way that I could not also will that my maxim should be universal law.”[26] How can I arrive at such maxims? Reason makes me, like all human beings, innately capable of understanding the purpose or end of an act independent of any personal inclinations that my will may propose to me as attractive justifications for acting. “Good will,” then, “springs from the attainment of a purpose which is determined by reason, even though this injures the ends of inclination.”[27]

Kant is particularly determined to divorce the concept of acting morally from any framework that calls for ends and means to justify an action. He thus argues that in the pursuit of maxims or universal laws, I must look to “natural laws” because nature itself is rational and “exists as an end in itself” (emphasis added): “Everything in nature,” explains Kant,

works according to laws. Only a rational being has the capacity of acting according to the conception of laws, i.e., according to principles. This capacity is will. Since reason is required for the derivation of actions from laws, will is nothing else than practical reason. . . . That is, the will is a faculty of choosing only that which reason, independently of inclination, recognizes as practically necessary, i.e., as good.[28]

If I act according to a maxim consistent with the form of natural law, the end of my act

is not to be conceived as one to be effected but as an independent end. . . . It is that which must never be acted against, and which must consequently never be valued as merely a means but in every volition also as an end. . . . Act with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an end in itself in your maxim. Act by a maxim which involves its own universal validity for every rational being.[29]

Acting in such a way is to act from a sense of duty, which is “the necessity of an action executed from respect for law” rather than in expectation of a desirable outcome. “The moral worth of an action,” Kant contends, “does not lie in the effect which is expected from it or in any principle of action which has to borrow its motive from this expected effect. . . . An action performed from duty does not have its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim by which it is determined.”[30]

If I am able, by an exercise of my reason, to conceive an appropriate maxim, or “objective principle,” I must direct my will to the satisfaction of that principle. In order to take morally valid action, I must consider that principle “a command (of reason)”—that is, an imperative which takes the form of “an ‘ought.’” If I act in accord with this command, I am adhering to what Kant calls the categorical imperative—an imperative which “presented [my] action as of itself objectively necessary, without regard to any other end. . . . [T]he categorical imperative may also be expressed as follows: Act according to maxims which can at the same time have themselves as universal laws of nature as their object. Such, then, is the formula of an absolutely good will.”[31]

Sociologist Barbara Heron contends that virtue-oriented morality translates deontological moral values into attributes—and justifications—of class experience and aspirations which are by their very nature exclusive to members of the class: bourgeois morality, she charges, “allow[s] for the actualization of moral choices and living out of personal goals in terms not available to the majority of peoples of the world.” Morality, then, is pegged to “the material privileges of class” rather than to the universal possession of reason, and this concept of moral privilege, argues Heron, was gradually elaborated to validate the model of “the bourgeois individual that capitalism needed: a self-regulating moral subject, accountable to him- or herself in ethical terms.”[32]


                    Adam Smith

Prudential Morality according to Adam Smith

  What moral values are (at least in theory) “self-regulating”? Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey prefers the term “self-disciplining virtues,” chief among which she identifies prudence.[33] “Prudence,” she explains, “is the cardinal virtue of practical wisdom. . . . It is reason, know-how, rationality, efficiency, getting allocation right.”[34] Elsewhere, she heads the list with “profit,”[35] but McCloskey is quick to point out that the negative connotations of prudence as a capitalist moral precept don’t do justice to the concept as it was formulated by the 18th-century Scottish economist-philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790). Smith, she argues, was simply trying “to create an ethical system for the middle class”[36] and characterized the exercise of prudence as an individual’s practical effort to meet his needs; Smith treated prudence as a “virtue” on the grounds that shirking such responsibility was detrimental to both the individual and the society of which he was a part.

So, how—in addition to the notion that “bourgeois life is merely the vice of greed,” which, according to McCloskey, became fashionable among “Western intellectuals” in the middle of the 19th century—did such values as prudence become instantly recognizable signs of bourgeois moral hypocrisy? In part, admits McCloskey, because “self-regulating” or “self-disciplining” virtues were readily devalued by critics of Smith’s middle-class ethics as corollaries of “self-interest”—the desire to satisfy one’s needs or to better one’s condition. From an economics perspective, for example, critics have argued that a capitalist system governed by Smith’s model of “middle-class ethics” creates the “efficiency” which McCloskey extols as a function of prudence by applying the form of “self-interest” commonly known as “greed”; [37] Smith has even been characterized as “an unconscious mercenary [who] gave new dignity to greed and a new sanctification to the predatory impulses.”[38]

From the perspective of moral theory, Smith’s self- and virtue-centered model of ethical motivation is also subject to the so-called “self-centeredness objection,” which, according to one American philosopher, “holds that virtue ethics is egoistic and so fails to accommodate properly the sort of other-regarding concern that many take to be the distinctive aspect of moral theory.”[39] In other words, if the subject of a moral decision (the “self” in “self-interest”) is the arbiter of its success in meeting any goals for its object (the interests of others)—that is, in determining where self-interest must be tempered by the interests of others—then the object of the decision possesses no moral value independent of that which is allotted to it by its subject. Among moral theorists, the “proper” accommodation of the “other” is generally taken to be more satisfactorily met by deontological theories based on reason and duty.

To be fair to Smith, he regarded prudence as a “lower-order” or “inferior virtue.”[40] As McCloskey emphasizes, Smith was working with a model of “the seven principal virtues” which had influenced moral theory in the West for more than 2,000 years. Prudence, she explains, occupies the lowest realm—the realm of “self-disciplining virtues whose main object is the Self”; in order to practice “altruistic virtues whose main object is Others,” one must advance to a higher level at which justice is practiced as a virtue.[41] Placed on a spectrum, McCloskey argues, Smith’s model of the seven virtues was actually reduced to five, from Courage on one end to Love on the other, with Temperance, Prudence, and Justice in the middle. Significantly, “he left off Faith and Hope,” relegating them not to the edge but completely “off the edge.”[42] In so doing, he effectively eliminated any “high-order” virtues—and, indeed, values. Smith, says McCloskey, “was a virtue ethicist for a commercial age,” and if modern moral theory tends to dismiss him as “the theorist of the bourgeoisie,” it’s because, she argues, his system “was not a search for a general precept of ethics such as Kant was at the same time busily pursuing.”[43]

The Master of the Hypothetical Imperative

  As predicated on a Smithian model, therefore, “maxims” of bourgeois morality are neither universal nor unconditional, and so the categorical imperative cannot be applied to them. Rather, they can be assessed only as hypothetical imperatives, which “present the practical necessity of a possible action as a means of achieving something else which one desires”; if, in other words, an “action is good only as a means to something else, the imperative is hypothetical” (emphasis added).[44] “Every rational being,” argues Kant,

exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In all his actions, whether they are directed to himself or to other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end. . . . [H]e who transgresses the rights of [others] intends to make use of the persons of others merely as a means, without considering that, as rational beings, they must always be esteemed at the same time as ends, i.e., only as beings who must be able to contain in themselves the end of the very same action.[45]


    Max Linder, Le Baromêtre de la fidélité,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1909

See the moving picture

The Clash of Hypothetical Imperatives: Le Baromêtre de la fidélité  We must, then, judge Max to be regularly in violation of the categorical imperative: we must assume, for instance, that the wives in Be My Wife and Vive la vie de garçon would neither assent to Max’s mode of acting against their own inclinations nor “contain” the end of this action in their own expressions of them. One variation on the impracticality of such a situation is played in Le Baromêtre de la fidélité (The Barometer of Faithfulness—1909), which provides an ironic response to Kant’s criterion for determining the distinction between “duties to ourselves and to others”: “How would it be if my maxim became a universal law?”[46] What, in other words, would happen if everyone acted according to my hypothetical imperative rather than to a true categorical imperative?

The film opens with a shot of Max and his wife seated in a typical bourgeois drawing room, the two figures neatly balanced on either side of an end table as they’re absorbed in reading with their backs to one another. A servant delivers the mail, one item for each spouse—a letter for Max and a package for his wife. Max’s letter is an invitation from his mistress for “you know what.” He’s on his way out the door when his wife unwraps her package—a glass tube with a note from her mother explaining that it’s the titular “barometer of faithfulness”: if either spouse “has a lark,” the clear liquid contents of the tube will immediately turn black. Max is nervous but runs off to his mistress anyway. The comic and moral complications then turn on the same pivot when it’s revealed that both spouses share the same hypothetical imperative: now that Max is gone, his wife arranges an assignation with her lover and likewise hurries out of the house.

The implication that this failure of moral imperatives resides in a specific class sensibility is confirmed by the subsequent action of the servant, who obviously knows about both “larks”: in what appears to be a class-conscious act of behind-the-lines sabotage, he contrives to precipitate “a good farce” by pouring ink into the barometer. The wife returns first, certain that “my husband knows nothing.” Seeing the black ink in the barometer, however, she rushes stage-left from the room. Meanwhile, Max returns, believing that he has arrived safely ahead of his wife, but he, too, panics at the color-coded testimony of the barometer and rushes off stage-right. Each returns with a vase full full of clear water to replace the tell-tale black liquid, but when they literally run into one another, both vases and the barometer are dropped and shattered, eliminating all evidence of their respective transgressions. A final title assures us that “Secret sin is half forgiven” (see Figure R9.14).

Prudence apparently dictates that one leave well enough alone, at least as long as the clash of hypothetical imperatives does not render prudential morality impractical. The result, of course, is an illusion of bourgeois propriety and respectability intended to satisfy other members of the class. The illusion can be sustained only by acting out a fantasy of proper and respectable relationships, but the fantasy and its moral pretense are more or less transparent to spectators who watch from a perspective other than that of the bourgeois, be it that of the connoisseur of performance, such as the comic actor, or of the antagonist agent who has infiltrated the performance itself, such as a servant.


             Max Linder, La Petite rosse,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1909

See the moving picture

The Anxiety of Identity: La Petite rosse and Max a un duel  In the productions mounted by the impersonator as vehicles for the persona, the former can always depend upon the proper degree of opacity in the latter’s perception of his own role—that is, upon the persona’s inability to perceive himself as the object as well as the subject of the satire that he’s acting out. As a rule, the self-perception of other bourgeois characters is similarly opaque, especially when they’re responsible for some eruption of class-conscious nonsense that’s at least as absurd as Max’s scheme for catering to it. In La Petite rosse (The Little Vixen—1909), for example, the woman that Max is courting has decided that the ability to juggle is an appropriate sign of manliness in a suitor (see Biographical Sketch 9.1 and Figure B9.2). In Max a un duel (or Le Duel de Max [Max Fights a Duel—1913]), the object of his affections sets a duel as a suitable test of his manliness. It’s typical of Max—and not without a certain sense of proportion—to interpret such tasks as challenges in performance, and in each case, following unsuccessful efforts to rehearse his role in the performance of the task, he turns for direction to a fellow performer with the requisite experience—a professional juggler and a professional fencing master, respectively.[47]


         La Belle Otero: The Famous

          Courtesan as New Woman

Note that in both films, however, it’s not until the nonsensical task has been imposed that Max’s own penchant for fantasizing via role playing becomes the focus of the satire. Clearly, the women in these two films are caricatures of the New Woman and Max the caricature of the male whose confidence in his masculinity is placed under duress not merely by her seemingly irrational demands for new standards of masculine role playing, but also by her assumption of the prerogative of making them. The Belle Époque, observes historian James F. McMillan, was

an era characterised by a heightening of tensions in relations between the sexes. . . . Perhaps most troubling of all to the male sense of sexual identity was the image of a masculinized woman—one who smoked, dressed as a man . . ., and expressed a sexual preference for other women. Masculinity, it seemed . . ., could be threatened with redundancy.

McMillan hastens to point out that “the conditions under which the great majority of middle-class women lived their lives bore little resemblance to the emancipated existence imagined by troubled male minds” but adds that in certain sections of the popular press, “the new woman was most commonly represented as a dangerous creature . . ., a perversion of the natural order of things and a threat to morality and civilisation itself.”[48]

As we’ve already seen, Max suffers from anxiety arising from the vicissitudes of his class-conscious aspirations. We now see that he also shares an anxiety over gender stability with the male members of the class to which he aspires. Moreover, because Max invariably stakes his bourgeois aspirations on his romantic aspirations, each source of anxiety serves to exacerbate the other. The satirical argument requires a defect in the persona that thoroughly conflates the sources of class and sexual frustration, and Linder’s comedy derives its substance from the fact that the common denominator in class and romantic failure is moral deficiency—the practice of prudential instead of deontological morality. The vehicle of the typical Linder satire—the enactment of a romantic undertaking in which Max indulges some form of hypothetical imperative—furnishes the class-directed satire with the sense of theatrical tangibility that Linder brought with him from the boulevard theater.

The Objects of Frustration and Satire: La Timidité vaincue  Although the persona is an essential object of the impersonator’s satire, Max is not incapable of redressing his frustrations. In La Timidité vaincue (or La timidité guérie par le sérum [A Cure for Timidity—1910]), Max has, via marriage, attained a level of bourgeois comfort. Unfortunately, his social and sexual anxieties are amply borne out by his treatment at the hands not only of his wife but of his mother-in-law (who assigns him the tasks of the maid) and father-in-law (who berates him when he asks permission to go out); even the concierge (literally) sweeps him out the door, and a streetcar passes him by as if he were invisible. Then he chances upon a newspaper article about a doctor who can cure people of timidity. Max visits the doctor, takes the cure, and leaves with a demeanor consistent with his medically enhanced confidence: he forces a streetcar to back up in the opposite direction, runs the concierge back into her room, kicks his father-in-law out of the drawing room, and commands his mother-in-law to kneel at his feet.[49]

It’s hard to say, however, that, in turning the tables on his bourgeois relations, Max is transformed from the object of the film’s satire into the subject who is responsible for its ultimate irony. The symmetrical structure of the film indicates that the ironic reversal reflects merely the turning of the world on the circumstantial axis furnished by the doctor rather than the turning of the worm. In fact, it suggests the resort to a rather literal-minded expedient on the part of the impersonator in his effort to develop his persona: Max displays even less imaginative initiative than he does when he contrives to substitute parts of a juggler’s body for his own, or even when he resorts to stilts as a means of enhancing his social stature. The degree of his opacity, in other words, is virtually absolute.

We can trace the persona’s penchant for literal-mindedness to the deficiency in his bourgeois experience—that is, to his assumption that full-fledged admission into the ranks of the bourgeoisie requires merely that he master certain outward forms of bourgeois sensibility. When we first encounter Max, we find that, having mastered bourgeois fashion, he has advanced to the mastery of a more ambitious display of bourgeois sensibility—namely, bourgeois marriage. But because maintaining a relationship with a member of the opposite sex is much more complicated than merely dressing himself properly, he finds that securing such a relationship poses a much greater threat to his tenuous self-confidence and social and sexual anxieties. Eventually—sometimes inchoately—Max comes to suspect that his frustration in forming the literal bond of bourgeois marriage is symptomatic of an inherent deficiency in his concepts not only of social aspiration but of his own masculinity.

As the impersonator well knows, the persona is not altogether wrong in this suspicion. At the same time, however, the impersonator—equipped with both the resources of a bourgeois background and those of the boulevard theater—provides the persona with the resources by which he qualifies as subject as well as object of the impersonator’s satiric strategies. As we’ve seen, the main principle of Linder’s comedy is the conceit of a literal-minded boulevardier whose efforts to gain acceptance into the ranks of the bourgeoisie consist primarily of trivial schemes—schemes which, though typically laughable, reflect a determination to assert confidence and surmount deficiences. La Timidité vaincue is unsatisfactory as a Linder comedy because the persona displays none of the ingenuity—albeit often juvenile—by which he performs a subjective function in the satire.

In this respect, Linder’s satire depends upon the motivation with which the impersonator endows the persona, as manifest in both the persona’s aspirations and the schemes by which he activates well-plotted comic business. Equally important is the degree to which the impersonator diminishes the opacity with which the persona perceives his role in the satire: the more that opacity is diminished, the more clearly the subjects of impersonator and persona converge in the eyes of the audience and the more fully the complex work of the satirist-impersonator, both as performer and privileged social critic, can be comprehended and appreciated. The persona’s opacity in La Timidité vaincue is essentially as dense as it is in Max et la doctoresse and Vive la vie de garçon, though not nearly as dense as it is in Max hypnotisé, in which the persona is rendered completely opaque to himself as he unconsciously acts out behavior dictated by the external agency of his servants.

In Le Baromêtre de la fidélité as in Max hypnotisé, the comic behavior of the persona is instigated by nearby members of the servant class, who act in both cases to ridicule him for his exceptionable bourgeois morality. The structure of the jest thus ensures the impersonator’s opacity to the persona—though not, of course, to the audience: the variably distanced perspective enjoyed by the impersonator is reduced through the mediatory presence of the servant, who—at least in part and certainly from the perspective of the audience—is delegated the impersonator’s task of engineering the immediate satirical situation. The displacement of the impersonator’s machinations onto the stage itself thus enhances the clarity of the entire satiric enterprise—especially the moral clarity advanced for the consideration of the audience. It follows that, if the strategy of the satire is aimed at moral critique, then the satire functions optimally when the representation of its target takes place on explicity moral grounds.

This is not to say, however, that the satire—however sharply its representation has been clarified for the edification of the audience—is most effective when it tends toward explicit demonstration of its premise. In both Le Baromêtre de la fidélité and Max hypnotisé, for instance, the demonstration of the satiric premise is also mediated by the presence of the working-class characters who contrive its conditions. Their function explicitly directs the critique to the behavior of the films’ bourgeois protagonists, but at the same time, it may reduce the critique from a matter of moral principle to one of social mores.

Recall, again, that the presence of the mediating characters increases the persona's opacity with regard to the impersonator. It may also entail his opacity with regard to the mediating characters themselves: in both Le Baromêtre de la fidélité and Max hypnotisé, after all, their role in the difficulties resulting from the persona’s behavior remains unknown to him. But that behavior, of course—which is the target of the satire and which vitiates the persona’s aspirational projects—is itself an attribute of the persona’s own bourgeois character and motives, whatever their state of development in any given film. As we’ve seen, however, Max is likely to attribute his difficulties not to his own character and motivations, but, generally speaking, to bad luck: if we project on Max’s part some effort to reappraise the various ill consequences of his actions, we will no doubt project a verdict of back luck in hypothetical codas to such films as Max et la doctoresse, Vive la vie de garçon, Max Wants a Divorce, and many others. Linder is skillful in modulating the clarity with which, in keeping with the tenor of a given comic premise, his satiric premise can be apprehended by his audience. It should be no wonder, however, that Max is sufficiently incorrigible to be available for the next satiric exercise.


           Max Linder, Max lance la mode,

              Pathé-Frères, France, 1912

See the moving picture

Morality, Motivation, and the Actor: Max lance la mode

  How is the persona likely to behave when the impersonator closes the distance between the two functions—that is, when Max, granted the subjectivity necessary to initiate and manipulate the impersonator’s satiric strategies, is responsible for all manifestations of his own character and motivations? We get a functional demonstration in a film called Max lance la mode (Max Sets the Fashion—1912—Figure R9.15). A title card announces that “Max is going to get married today,” and the first scene opens on the bride-to-be, already bedecked in her fashionable gown. Meanwhile, in his well-appointed bachelor’s apartment, the groom has almost finished putting the final touches on his sartorial splendor. Unfortunately, he’s seated before a mirror over a fireplace, and as he struggles with his collar, a closeup on his scrupulously polished shoes reveals that they’ve caught fire.


      The Persona as Boulevard Comedian:

                    Max lance la mode

Max fails to notice the damage to his shoes until he’s on his way to the bride’s house: when the melted soles stick to the pavement, he realizes that he must replace them before arriving for the wedding. Encountering a well-dressed workingman in front of the bride’s house, Max buys his shoes, but only when he’s about to put them does he realize that they are a workingman’s entirely unsuitable brogans. His delicate sense of bourgeois good taste is offended, but he has no choice but to put on the shoes and enter the house. Greetings are exchanged (Max miming an elaborate lie about being late), and then bride and groom are left alone so that Max can express some tender endearments. The bride’s attention falls on the shoes when Max steps on her foot, whereupon she breaks into tears and her father into a rage. Max concocts an explanation for his clodhoppers: “It’s the latest fashion,” he assures his future father-in-law, adding that the man’s own footware is sadly passé. Unconvinced, the bride’s father runs him out of the room with a warning to solve the problem. Left alone in the foyer, Max—now locked into the role to which his character defects have committed him—elaborately mimes for the audience the process whereby he comes up with a solution before running offstage.

“Cunningly,” reports a title card, “Max allies himself with Baronesse Laval-Yère, who is renowned for setting fashions.” We cut to a room full of wedding guests, including the Baronesse, who’s seated in a chair with her gown draped to her feet. Max sneaks into the room, sits down behind her, and extends his legs under her chair so that his lumpish shoes appear to be hers. Precisely as Max has planned, the bride’s father happens by and observes the shoes protruding from beneath the Baronesse’s hem; naturally recalling Max’s explanation of his shoes, he gathers the rest of his guests and sends a servant to summon Max. A title card—“After the wedding, everyone according to fashion”—flashes forward to the reception, at which everybody is dancing clumsily in brogans just like Max’s.

The success of Max’s solution to his problem suggests that, in a strictly ironic way, it is “rational,” if only in the sense that Max’s projected outcome follows logically from his premise about the nature of bourgeois behavior. His strategy thus succeeds because the other people whom he subjects to his whimsical rationale are themselves irrational: they are easily duped because their bourgeois sensibilities value conformity to fashion above individual judgment. This fact, of course, qualifies them as apt objects of satire, and our response to the comic outcome of the film is largely a response to the ridiculous behavior into which they’ve been duped.

If we want to assess Max’s moral behavior in terms of Kantian morality, we can begin by pointing out that his entire strategy depends upon the use of others as means to an end—an end whose utter silliness may belie the fact that it apparently suffices in Max’s mind for a universally desirable end. In reality, of course, it is fundamentally not much more than a fantasy of personal wish-fulfillment—an expression of what Kant calls individual “desire” and “inclination”: “The subjective ground of desire,” says Kant,

is the incentive, while the objective ground of volition is the motive. Thus arises the distinction between subjective ends, which rest on incentives, and objective ends, which depend on motives valid for every rational being. Practical principles . . . are material when they have subjective ends, and thus certain incentives, as their basis. The ends which a rational being arbitrarily proposes to himself as consequences of his action are material ends and are without exception only relative, for only their relation to a particularly constituted faculty of desire in the subject gives them their worth. . . . All objects of inclinations have only a conditional worth, for if the inclinations and the needs founded on them did not exist, their object would be without worth.[50]

As we’ve seen, Kantian morality depends upon the proposition that all qualifying human agents possess a capacity for reason that allows them to coordinate their actions with their understanding of universal natural laws. All rational beings, in other words, are capable of “choosing only that which reason, independently of inclination, recognizes as . . . good,” and one should propose to them as universal maxims for acting morally only principles to which they can “assent” because they must necessarily recognize them as a rational ends in themselves—that is, as existing in accord with reason and nature. “As rational beings,” therefore, other people “must always be esteemed . . . as ends, i.e., only as beings who must be able to contain in themselves the end of the very same action” proposed to them. In short, one must propose only “a maxim which involves its own universal validity for every rational being” (emphasis added).[51]

Needless to say, the action that Max proposes to the bourgeois guests gathered for his wedding satisfies none of Kant’s criteria for an acceptable behavioral maxim. The ease, however, with which the guests are induced to “assent” to behavior that accords with nothing except Max’s immediate “inclination” suggests that they scarcely “contain in themselves”—that is, are capable of accessing rationally—any behavioral end in itself that would hinder their assent. They are, of course, morally ill treated—at least from the Kantian perspective—but we have no impulse whatsoever to empathize with them: we are quite satisfied to enjoy the spectacle of ridiculous bourgeois behavior as a clever illustration of the foolishness to which their bourgeois values make them vulnerable.


        Beyond the Reach of Deontological

               Morality: Max lance la mode

We must note, however, that although Max himself behaves immorally, the maxim that he proposes is not intended as a moral principle; nor, indeed, is the issue at hand a moral issue. Max proposes behavior that reflects mindless conformity rather than adherence to a universal principle of “good” behavior, and his strategy succeeeds because he rightly suspects that his bourgeois dupes have no capacity for searching within themselves for a rational understanding of what’s morally reasonable: they fail so completely to perceive the absurdity of Max’s proposal because their capacity for rational thought has been supplanted by a tendency to pursue the vagaries of fashion. Thus there is a moral to the story of Max lance la mode—a proposition embedded in the film’s pointed and amusing illustration of deficient bourgeois behavior: if behavior bred of prudential morality prevents the film’s representatives of the bourgeoisie from distinguishing the ridiculous from the reasonable, they can hardly be expected to distinguish wrong from right. Arguably, they are no longer within the reach of deontological morality.

Finally, as we’ve already indicated, much of Max lance la mode is devoted to detailing the defects of character which are responsible for Max’s predicament, including his tardiness, which leads to his misjudgment about the workingman’s shoes, his inability to correct that misjudgment, and his commitment to lying about everything that transpires as a result. His defects of character also extend to his bourgeois aspirations, for it’s clear that he desires membership in a class on whose own defective judgment his strategy entirely depends. Max lance la mode, then, is as much a revelation of Max’s character as it is a satire on bourgeois behavior.

For one thing, Max is the only character who actually behaves immorally, but what’s most interesting about the character of the persona in Max lance la mode is the fact that the impersonator appears to have disqualified himself as a factor in the persona’s character—and thus as a factor in the delineation of his motivations. The persona, then, assumes from the impersonator the role of stage manager, and it’s obviously in this role—which includes those of both satirist and social critic—that Max is free to engineer his jest at the expense of the bourgeoisie. Hence the apparent clarity of the complex satiric jest that is the film itself: if we accept the persona’s character at face value—including his unabashed willingness to behave immorally—we can accept his motivations as entirely subjective; we needn’t concern ourselves, in other words, about integrating into the structure of a more inclusive and complex jest the persona’s behavior as an object of the impersonator’s satiric motivations.

It would thus appear that all motivations—and thus all behavior—in Max lance la mode are reducible to the structure of the satire as Max the persona constructs it. But, of course, Max is also an actor, simultaneously in the roles of frustrated groom-to-be and con man, and this facet of his character—that is, his willingness both to perform and to dissemble—can be expressed only to the extent that the impersonator is willing to endow him with the impersonator’s own skills. In this respect, Max the onscreen persona is entirely dependent on the impersonator for motivations that are revealed by his character’s physical and emotive theatrics.


                    The Persona Emotes:

                      Max lance la mode

Linder often exploits Max’s emotive overeactions to surprise and frustration (as when he sees the black ink in le baromêtre de la fidélité), but in Max lance la mode, Max is given to emotive interludes that are very nearly parodies of silent-screen acting. Figure R9.16, for example, details his reaction once he realizes what kind of shoes he has bought from the workingman: he approaches them with extreme wariness, as if they might be contaminated with bad taste; grimaces in anguish at the contemplation of his own lapse in sensibility; turns away and hides his eyes like a child who believes that an object put out of sight is an object wished out of existence; apparently sobs in self-pity; and throws up his arms in resignation to his fate before finally putting on the shoes.

Though extravagantly dramatized, the persona’s response is nevertheless genuine: Max’s desire to escape his predicament and his inclination to resort to devious means in order to achieve this end will soon prove overpowering. Providing even more deepseated motivation, of course, are Max’s desire and inclination to consummate his aspirations to bourgeois status by means of an advantageous marriage. As we’ve seen, however, his most compelling claim to the status of bourgeois peer lies in the prudential morality that he shares with the assemblage of fashionable bourgeois attending the nuptials. The desire to be seen in brogans appears to be shared by every born and bred bourgeois at the wedding—from bride and bride’s father to the Baronesse Laval-Yère and even the children—and it’s clear that Max’s scheme works because he directs it toward a sensibility which is both reduced to taste and predicated on values exclusive to class.

The willingness of the wedding party and guests to display themselves in absurd footwear ultimately issues from the assurance that the display will be for a privileged audience of bourgeois who share precisely the same judgment in matters of fashionable taste; indeed, everyone who’s privy to the performance will be making literally the same display, and any rational judgment of the absurd behavior—that is, any judgment independent of class prejudice—is thus obviated. For the boulevard comedian’s satiric jest to work, however, there must of course be another audience—the one whose presence is implied by that of the boulevard comedian turned cinema comedian.

As an audience composed mostly of bourgeois, this, too, is an assemblage on class-conscious display, for an outing to the theater has much the same function as a stroll on the promenade.[52] The taste, however, of this audience for the performance of the boulevard comedian indicates a certain willing suspension of sensibility, and the willingness of its members to attend to the performance of the comedian/impersonator ultimately assures that his performance is never completely opaque to them: although their attention is deflected from the performance of the comedian/impersonator to that of the persona, they presume implicitly that the persona—specifically in the role of an actor of both dubious morals and theatrical aptitude—is being presented to them as a travesty of the comedian/impersonator’s moral as well as professional integrity. We can hardly expect members of this audience to be less prepared to appreciate the representation of the persona’s bourgeois dupes as equally comic travesties—as satirical representatives of a class whose dubious sensibilities leave them vulnerable to lapses of reason in matters of logical, social, and moral judgment.

[1] Quoted by David Robinson, “The Italian Comedy,” Sight and Sound (Spring 1986), p. 111.

[2] Quoted by Robinson, “The Italian Comedy,” p. 111.

[3] See Richard Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896-1914 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1994), pp. 394-95.

[4] Stars and Stardom in French Cinema (London and New York: Continuum, 2000), p. 47.

[5] See Vincendeau, “A Love-Hate Relationship: French Cinema and Boulevard Theatre,” Sight and Sound (NS) 21:7 (July 2011), p. 43, at (accessed November 25, 2016).

[6] “A Love-Hate Relationship,” p. 43.

[7] Stars and Stardom in French Cinema, p. 47.

[8] On Max et la doctoresse, see Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town, pp. 414-15.

[9] On Be My Wife, see Serge Bromberg, “Seven Years Bad Luck,” San Francisco Silent Film Festival (San Francisco, 2014), at (accessed October 22, 2016).

[10] Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century (1981), trans. Richard Bienvenu (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 31, 32.

[11] The Rise of Middle-Class Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spain (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2011), pp. 11.

[12] The Rise of Middle-Class Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spain, p. 31.

On Figure R9.10: Chaplin quoted in Charles Chaplin, My Autobiography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), pp. 303-04. For a discussion of “satyrism” in Chaplin’s later films, see esp. Domenic J. Corsaro, “Chaplin as Satyr: Mocking the Mystic Ebullience, or Life, Liberty and Prosperity in Three Chaplin Films (with An Afterword on the Final Speech from The Great Dictator),” Journal of the University Film Association 31:1 (Winter 1979), pp. 33-46. Taking his cue from the introductory title card of Modern Times, Corsaro defines “satyrism” according to Chaplin as “humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.” He argues that in Modern Times, however, Chaplin’s “Tramp” persona pursues not only the ultimate goal of happiness, but also all three of “the more pragmatic ends” that he pursues in Chaplin’s next three films—namely, “life (Limelight, 1952), liberty (The Great Dictator, 1940), and prosperity (Monsieur Verdoux, 1947)” (p. 33). His attainment of only one goal—a modest share of happiness—at the end of Modern Times serves as a life lesson that is seemingly lost on the protagonists of the next three films, whose aspirations are directed toward discrete “pragmatic ends” while ignoring the goal of simple happiness which, though seemingly abstract and impractical, is actually both attainable and satisfying. Chaplin, Corsaro concludes, has thus “stood the [ancient Greek] tetralogy on its head, placing the ‘satyr-play’ [Modern Times] first. . . . [His] tetralogy states its thesis in the satyr-play rather than in the tragic-ironic trilogy [consisting of Limelight, The Great Dictator, and Monsieur Verdoux]” (p. 36).

Corsaro maintains that “Chaplin’s final films [sic] form a trilogy on American ideals,” and he contends that Chaplin’s Tramp, who not only stands perpetually outside of society but rejects and even mocks its “ideals,” will always have an ambivalent relationship to them: “[T]o the extent that Chaplin mocks these ideals, he realizes the necessity of them and of his own complicity in subverting and exploiting and defending them. In one paradoxical sweep, Chaplin has damned and blessed himself, [especially in] the later transmogrifications of the satyr-Tramp in the tetralogy (the four films from Modern Times through Verdoux).” By extension—because the Little Tramp represents Everyman—Chaplin also offers a similarly ambivalent and unsatisfying prospect for “all mankind” (p. 33). Perhaps it is more accurate to say that his vision is unsatisfying for the man who, like the pragmatic protagonists of Limelight, The Great Dictator, and Monsieur Verdoux, has not the mark of the satyr upon him, for the “satyric” soul, like the Little Tramp, seeks not the “pragmatic” ideals of life, liberty, and prosperity, but rather the abstract but modest and attainable goal of happiness in which lies his salvation.

If, indeed, Chaplin intends for “satyrism” to stand for “the pursuit of happiness,” his formula is hardly inconsistent with the ancient Greeks’ understanding of the relationship between the two concepts. In Happiness: A History, American philosopher Darrin M. McMahon observes that the Greek philosophers of ancient Athens “first put forth that great, seductive goal, daring to dream that they might pursue—and capture—happiness for themselves.” He also traces the significance of the idea of attainable happiness in the annual ritual celebration—the City of Dionysia—that included the production of tragic and comic plays:

We may wonder initially at [the] juxtaposition of tragedy and celebration. And yet in ancient Greek life, the two were frequently linked. Happiness may be hard to come by, but fleeting pleasures were less difficult to find. For all their talk of suffering, the Greeks knew how to enjoy themselves. . . .

The City of Dionysia is a case in point. Although the springtime festival culminated in the presentation of tragoidia, it was a festival nonetheless, a raucous celebration devoted to . . . the god of wine . . ., the bringer of joys, who delivers . . . periods of sweet abandon. . . . Even the unhappiness of an unhappy ending [in the tragic trilogy] gave way to mirth [in the satyr-play].

(Happiness: A History [New York: Grove Press, 2006], pp. 23, 26-27, at [accessed April 8, 2017].)

For more on the satyr figure in Chaplin, see Robert Payne, The Great God Pan: A Biography of the Tramp Played by Charles Chaplin (New York: Hermitage House, 1952; rpt. Charlie Chaplin (New York: Ace Books), esp. Chs. 1, 12; Walter Kerr, The Silent Clowns (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), esp. pp. 169, 357-58.

[13] The Passegiatta and Popular Culture in an Italian Town (Montreal and London: McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press, 2004), p. 138.

[14] The Rise of Middle-Class Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spain, pp. 36, 31.

[15] Au bonheur des dames (The Ladies Paradise, 1883); quoted by Ruth E. Iskin, “Popularizing New Women in Belle Epoque Advertising Posters,” in A “Belle Epoque”?: Women in French Society and Culture 1890-1914, ed. Diana Holmes and Carrie Tarr (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006), Ch. 7, at (accessed December 17, 2016). See also Rachel Mesch, Having It All in the Belle Epoque: How French Women’s Magazines Invented the Modern Woman (Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 2013).

[16] “Introduction” to A “Belle Epoque”?, p. 17.

[17] “Introduction” to A “Belle Epoque”?, p. 4.

[18] “Representations: Mutability and Fixity in Early French Cinema,” in The French Cinema Book, ed. Michael Temple and Michael Wit (London: British Film Institute, 2004), pp. 68, 69.

[19] On Max prend son bain, Max pédicure, and Max veut grandir, see Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town, pp. 243-44, 415-16, and 423, respectively. For Max prend son bain, see also Chapter 9.2 and Figure 9.24.

[20] Alan Williams, Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 60-61, at (accessed October 11, 2016).

[21] David Robinson, Chaplin: The Mirror of Opinion (London: Secker & Warburg; Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1984), p. 85.

[22] “Representations: Mutability and Fixity in Early French Cinema,” p. 68.

[23] Republic of Images, p. 61.

[24] The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies, 2nd ed. (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 37, at (accessed September 18, 2016).

[25] On Max hypnotisé, see Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town, pp. 242-43. For synopses of Vive la vie de garçon and Max reprend sa liberté, see Georg Renken, Chronicle (2006), at and (accessed April 17, 2017).

[26] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals” and “What Is Enlightenment?”, trans. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: The Liberal Arts Press, 1959), p. 18.

[27] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” p. 13.

[28] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” p. 13.

[28] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 29, 47.

[29] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” p. 56.

[30] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 17, 16.

[31] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 30, 55-56.

[32] Desire for Development: Whiteness, Gender, and the Helping Imperative (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2007), p. 125.

[33] The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006), p. 303.

[34] Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010), p. 125.

[35] Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2016), n.p.

[36] “The Demoralization of Economics: Can We Recover from Bentham and Return to Smith?” in Femiminism Confronts Homo Economicus: Gender, Law, and Society, ed. Martha Albertson Fineman and Terence Dougherty (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 2005), p. 20, at (accessed December 6, 2016).

[37] See Kenneth Arrow and Frank Hahn, General Competitive Analysis (Oakland, CA: Holden-Day, 1971); quoted by Jerry Evensky, “Ethics and the Invisible Hand,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 7:2 (1993), p. 203. See also Jonathan B. Wight, “Adam Smith and Greed,” Journal of Private Enterprise 21 (Fall 2005), p. 46, at (accessed December 9, 2016).

[38] “Introduction” to Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan (New York: The Modern Library, 1937), p. ix.

[39] Lorraine Besser-Jones, “Two Objections to Virtue Ethics,” Ethics and Politics 17:2 (2015), pp. 60-61, at (accessed December 9, 2016).

[40] Vivienne Brown, Adam Smith’s Discourse: Canonicity, Commerce and Conscience (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 83, 86.

[41] The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 15.

[42] “The Demoralization of Economics,” in Femiminism Confronts Homo Economicus, p. 24.

[43] The Bourgeois Virtues, p. 306; “The Demoralization of Economics,” pp. 20, 23.

[44] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” p. 31.

[45] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 46, 48.

[46] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 39, 40.

[47] On La Petite rosse and Max a un duel, see Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town, pp. 237-38 and 410-11.

[48] France and Women 1789-1914: Gender, Society and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 141-43.

[49] On La Timidité vaincue, see Abel, The Ciné Goes to Town, pp. 239-40.

[50] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 45-46.

[51] “Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals,” pp. 29, 48, 56.

[52] See Susan Bennett, Theatre Audiences: A Theory of Production and Reception, 2nd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 129-30.

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