cover of book

Magnificent Méliès: The Authorized Biography
by Madeleine Malthête-Méliès
translated by Kel Pero
edited by Matthew Solomon
University of Michigan Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-0-472-13258-4

The films of Georges Méliès (1861–1938) are landmarks in the early history of narrative filmmaking and cinematic special effects. He was a harbinger of modern aesthetics and media manipulation, and this book, written by his granddaughter, is the only one that tells his full story. Magnificent Méliès is a thoroughly researched but highly accessible book that is a crucial source for the scholar and an entertaining read for the nonspecialist. The core of the biography provides detailed accounts of Méliès’ filmmaking years (1896–1913), from his first motion pictures shortly after the public premiere of the Lumière Cinématographe through such worldwide successes as his film Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) and his eventual marginalization by the very industry he had helped to found. The biography also chronicles Méliès’ formative work as director of Paris’s preeminent magic theater, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin; his subsequent career staging operettas for the Théâtre des Variétés Artistiques  (1917–1923) in Montreuil on the site of one of his former film studios; and his later years selling toys and candy at the Gare Montparnasse (1926–1932) before being rediscovered by journalists and the avant-garde. These and other fascinating chapters highlight the remarkable range of Méliès’ creative work while suggesting how his singular life was nevertheless shaped by the seismic historical shifts of Second Empire and Third Republic France.
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