Abel Gance was a French film director and producer, writer and actor.
28 Facts About Abel Gance
Abel Gance then returned to Paris to rejoin his mother, who had by then married Adolphe Gance, a chauffeur and mechanic, whose name Abel then adopted.
Abel Gance started working as a clerk in a solicitor's office, but after a couple of years he turned to acting in the theatre.
Abel Gance tried to maintain a connection with the theatre and he finished writing a monumental tragedy entitled Victoire de Samothrace, in which he hoped that Sarah Bernhardt would star.
Abel Gance soon caused controversy with La Folie du docteur Tube, a comic fantasy in which he and his cameraman Leonce-Henri Burel created some arresting visual effects with distorting mirrors.
Abel Gance nevertheless continued working for Film d'Art until 1918, making over a dozen commercially successful films.
Abel Gance's experiments included tracking shots, extreme close-ups, low-angle shots, and split-screen images.
Abel Gance's subjects moved steadily away from simple action films towards psychological melodramas, such as Mater dolorosa starring Emmy Lynn as a neglected wife who has an affair with her husband's brother.
In 1917, Abel Gance was finally drafted into the army, in its Service Cinematographique, an episode which proved futile and short-lived, but it deepened his preoccupation with the impact of the war and the depression which was caused by the deaths of many of his friends.
When he parted company with Film d'Art over a shortage of funds, Charles Pathe stepped in to underwrite his next film, J'accuse, in which Abel Gance confronted the waste and suffering which the war had brought.
Abel Gance re-enlisted in the Service Cinematographique in order to be able to film some scenes on a real battlefield at the front.
In 1920, Abel Gance developed his next project, La Roue, while recuperating in Nice from Spanish flu, and its progress was deeply affected by the knowledge that his companion Ida Danis was dying of tuberculosis; furthermore, his leading man and friend Severin-Mars was seriously ill.
Nevertheless, Abel Gance brought an unprecedented level of energy and imagination to the technical realisation of his story, set firstly against the dark and grimy background of locomotives and railway yards, and then among the snow-covered landscapes of the Alps.
Abel Gance employed elaborate editing techniques and innovative use of rapid cutting which made the film highly influential among other contemporary directors.
Abel Gance was offered a contract with MGM to work in Hollywood, but he turned it down.
Abel Gance re-used material from it in later films, and the restoration of the silent film at the beginning of the 1980s confirmed it as his best known work.
Abel Gance embraced the arrival of sound with enthusiasm, and his first production was La Fin du monde, an expensive science-fiction film about the imminent collision of a comet with the Earth.
The film was a critical and commercial disaster, and thereafter the creative independence which Abel Gance had enjoyed in the previous decade was seriously curtailed.
Abel Gance continued to be a busy film-maker throughout the 1930s, but he characterised most of the films made during this period as ones that he did "not in order to live, but in order not to die".
At this period Abel Gance was among those who saw Philippe Petain as the means of the country's salvation, and in September 1941 Venus aveugle had its first screening in Vichy, preceded by a speech in which Abel Gance paid tribute to Petain.
Abel Gance returned to Napoleonic spectacle with Austerlitz, and made a further historical pageant in Cyrano et d'Artagnan, before moving into television for his final works, on historical subjects.
Abel Gance married three times: in 1912 to Mathilde Thizeau; in 1922 to Marguerite Danis ; and in 1933 to Marie-Odette Verite, who died in 1978.
Abel Gance died of tuberculosis in Paris in 1981 at the age of 92.
Abel Gance was interred in the Cimetiere d'Auteuil in Paris.
Abel Gance wanted himself to be seen as "the Victor Hugo of the screen", and many assessments have recognised the ambition, the ingenuity and the sweeping romanticism of his films.
Abel Gance made early experiments with the addition of sound to film, and with filming in colour and in 3-D.
Abel Gance was a member of the jury for Miss France 1938.
Abel Gance was a member of the jury for the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, with Jean Cocteau as president.