All of the subjects covered by Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months have been an absolute pleasure to compile and research. I...

2012 in review: the year’s most rewarding Invisible Bordeaux items

All of the subjects covered by Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months have been an absolute pleasure to compile and research. It feels wrong to be singling any of them out, but here are five subjects that proved particularly interesting when peeling the layers away! Click on the titles or pictures to read the articles.

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2012 is drawing to a close so the time has come to take stock of the past twelve months and finish off with a couple of items looking bac...

2012 in review: the year’s most popular Invisible Bordeaux items

2012 is drawing to a close so the time has come to take stock of the past twelve months and finish off with a couple of items looking back on some of the features produced on the blog throughout the year. This first set rounds up the five most-read articles, which are a varied bunch in terms of subject matter. Click on the titles or associated pictures to read the items!

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|| PART OF A TWIN FEATURE PUBLISHED WITH INVISIBLE PARIS! || One of the most influential (and yet often overlooked) sons of the Bord...

Max Linder: the overlooked silent movie star from Saint-Loubès

One of the most influential (and yet often overlooked) sons of the Bordeaux region is Max Linder, the successful actor, director, screenwriter, producer and comedian of the silent film era.

He was born Gabriel Leuvielle on December 16th 1883 at the home of his wealthy vineyard owner parents in Cavernes, a district of the quiet town of Saint-Loubès to the north of Bordeaux, close to the south bank of the Dordogne river. Growing up, Gabriel showed little interest in viticulture and instead he found himself to be fascinated by the shows put on by travelling entertainers and circus troupes. He rapidly developed an interest in drama and theatre.
The birthplace of Gabriel Leuvielle/Max Linder.

As a youngster, Gabriel proved an energetic handful for his parents, who dispatched him to Talence where he became a boarder at the Lycée de Talence (now Lycée Victor Louis). While there, he put on a number of drama shows with fellow students. In 1899, one Dr Ducan, mayor of Saint-Loubès and a friend of the family, became aware of this fruitful pastime and, unbeknownst to the family, helped Gabriel enrol for tuition at the Société de Sainte-Cécile/Conservatoire de Bordeaux establishment.

Come July 1903, the then 19-year-old actor won the Conservatoire’s awards for first prize in comedy and second prize in tragedy. His acting career had already been gaining momentum with contract performances at the Théâtre des Arts. Gabriel’s father went on to forbid him from using the name Leuvielle, so his surname momentarily switched to Lacerda. The budding actor soon realised this stage name lacked clout. In 1904, he saw a better option staring at him from a bootmaker's shopfront. From then on, he would trade as Max Linder.

Also that year, a fellow actor, Charles le Bargy of the Comédie-Française, urged Linder to audition for the Paris Conservatoire. Although rejected on three occasions, Linder relocated to Paris and worked his way into the theatre circuit there before appearing, from 1905 onwards, in a number of short comedy films for Pathé, many of which were made at studios in Montreuil that still stand today (as documented by Invisible Paris). When Pathé’s slapstick star René Gréhan left the company, Linder took over his role, retaining Gréhan’s high-society dandy-ish demeanour. Linder’s recurring character became aptly known as “Max”: a wealthy figure who would frequently get into trouble because of his taste for womanising.

Max Linder with (left) Charles Chaplin.
The character became well-established, the films became enormously successful and by 1910 Linder was one of the most popular actors in the world. By 1912, he was such a bankable name that his contract with Pathé earned him one million francs per year. Over the following two years he was at his peak, producing films including Max Virtuoso, Max and His Dog and Max and the Jealous Husband. When war broke out he attempted to enlist in the French army but was turned down as it was considered he had a role to play as an entertainer for the people. He did however contribute to the war effort (possibly as a dispatch driver between Paris and the front lines) before being dismissed in 1916 after an injury or illness, probably a result of the hours he spent in freezing cold water in a bomb crater after an explosion.
"To the one and only Max,
"The Professor". From his disciple,
Charlie Chaplin. May 12th 1917."

That year, Linder moved to the United States, committed to making twelve short features for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, whose Charlie Chaplin – who described himself as a "disciple" to Linder and went on to become a close friend – had recently moved on to Mutual Film. The first two American-made Max films were unsuccessful, while the third, Max and his Taxi, fared a little better. Essanay were struggling financially though and, with no turnaround in sight, the remaining films were cancelled.

Suffering from ill health and homesickness, Linder returned to France, acquiring the Kosmorama movie theatre in Paris. It became the Max Linder Panorama, and is also documented by Invisible Paris in the other part of this twin feature. He appeared to have been profoundly affected by the Great War and it would be some time before he began making films again. In 1921, Linder decided to have a second attempt at breaking Hollywood and formed his own production company there.

A still from Seven Years Bad Luck (source: Silent Volume).

His first production, Seven Years Bad Luck, became regarded as his career masterpiece and included a famous scene where Max stands before an empty mirror frame while a servant stands behind the frame mimicking his gestures. Although not the first instance of the "human mirror" gag, it was particularly well-executed and may have inspired the similar scene in the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup. Seven Years was followed by Be My Wife. A third film, The Three Must-Get-Theres, which pastiched The Three Musketeers, was also a moderate success but Linder retreated to France where he made some more “serious” films (Au Secours and Le Roi du Cirque) before neurasthenia (a mix of depression and post-traumatic stress) began getting the better of him.

In 1923, he married the 18-year-old Hélène "Ninette" Peters and together they had a daughter, Maud, born in 1924. The Max Linder story came to an abrupt end though on October 31st 1925 in a Paris hotel room when Max killed his wife before taking his own life. This tragic finale is detailed over at Invisible Paris.

Throughout both the glory years and the troubled years, Max Linder never forgot his roots, regularly returning to his hometown (the 1911 film Max en Convalescence was even set there!) and holidaying in Arcachon. It is reported that the express train from Paris to Bordeaux would stop especially at the tiny station in Saint-Loubès so that the star could alight in his hometown. His final resting place is the Leuvielle family vault in the town's cemetery, just a few hundred metres away from the house where he was born. Although his stage name does not feature on the tombstone, lasting tributes throughout the small town include a community hall, a secondary school and a street which all bear his name.

A still from "Max en Convalescence"

Over in Bordeaux, Max Linder’s legacy is far more difficult to detect, although this may change in the coming years with the arrival of the massive MECA artistic and cultural hub (its name stands for Maison de l'économie créative et de la culture), built on the ashes of the city’s old slaughterhouse. A cinémathèque, or cinema library and multimedia centre, is planned and Max Linder will be among the local silver screen personalities who will be given pride of place in the new institution. Invisible Bordeaux will be monitoring developments closely!…

In the meantime, recent years have been fruitful for Max Linder followers. A DVD box-set (containing ten films, two documentaries and a book) was released by Éditions Montparnasse, and his films have been shown, with live musical accompaniment,  at venues around France and Europe. One of those sessions was a homecoming performance in Saint-Loubès in 2013, where daughter Maud, then 89, gave a talk reflecting on the years she spent recovering, compiling and restoring films, photos and artefacts featuring the father she lost when aged just two (although it wasn't until she was quite a few years older that she learnt the truth...). Maud passed away in 2017, just a few months short of her lifelong ambition being achieved of seeing his legacy celebrated in a permanent institute much like the one being planned in Bordeaux.

Let's sign off with this trailer for the box-set!

Click here if video doesn't display properly on your device.
> Find the Max Linder-related locations on the Invisible Bordeaux map: birthplace and grave, Rue Max Linder, Collège Max Linder and Salle Max Linder, Saint-Loubès; Lycée Victor Louis, Talence; Société de Sainte-Cécile/Conservatoire, site of former abattoir, Bordeaux. 

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The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away...

Place Georges de Porto-Riche: the secret square

The haven of tranquility that is Place Georges de Porto-Riche is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, despite being a stone’s throw away from the hives of activity that are Rue Saint-Catherine and the Grand-Théâtre.
Georges de Porto-Riche

The square is named after a playwright and novelist who was born in Bordeaux in 1849 and spent much of his life in Paris. After a short period working there as a bank clerk, his initial breakthrough came aged just 20 when his first historical dramas were performed at theatres in the capital. Around the same time, his first collections of poetry were also published and well-received.

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Looking at the picture on the left, readers familiar with Bordeaux will have recognised the Colonne des Girondins , which stands at the w...

1907 International Maritime Fair: when Bordeaux was the maritime capital of the world

Looking at the picture on the left, readers familiar with Bordeaux will have recognised the Colonne des Girondins, which stands at the western end of Esplanade des Quinconces. What is a more unusual sight is the extravagant “Grand Palais” structure to the right. This ephemeral edifice was just one of many built especially for festivities held between May and November 1907: we give you the international maritime fair, or “Exposition maritime internationale de Bordeaux”. 

The six-month extravaganza was the brainchild of the Ligue Maritime Française, an institution which aimed to develop and promote the nation’s military and merchant shipping industry. The decision was made to open up the exhibition to other countries, many of whom accepted the invitation to take part in the event which was also an excellent opportunity to commemorate the centenary of steam-powered shipping. From there the event developed further still to showcase other wide-ranging sectors of activity as well as being the venue for 50 trade conferences.

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Invisible Bordeaux has once again teamed up with real-world and online acquaintances to proudly present another set of faded hand-pain...

A second selection of ghost signs in and around Bordeaux

Invisible Bordeaux has once again teamed up with real-world and online acquaintances to proudly present another set of faded hand-painted adverts and signs or, if you will, "ghost signs"! (And don't forget that they can all be located in the handy dedicated GoogleMap!)

This first find is from the right-bank suburb of Carbon-Blanc. It promotes "Meubles Bayle", the furniture outlet founded in Bordeaux in 1854. In the early 1900s, heir Émile Bayle went on to set up a number of neighbouring shops catering for different furniture needs and tastes on Cours d'Albret in central Bordeaux (or "Bx" on the ad, the "ET" probably being the final letters of "Albret").
Today, that concept remains but the location and scale have changed. Bayle now run a host of branded furniture shops (But, Crozatier, Fly, Monsieur Meuble and Cuisine Schmidt) which are all handily positioned next to each other in what they still like to call "le Village du Meuble" in Mérignac.

There are obviously at least three generations of adverts competing for space here, although the white and blue sections on the right have only recently resurfaced. They had previously been covered up by a modern advertising hoarding, as can still be seen on the September 2008 shot that is currently visible on Google Streetview (as pictured right). The metal rods that supported the hoarding are still in position. [Find it]

This ad for a Renault garage can also be seen in Carbon-Blanc. This incarnation of the Renault logo was used by the car manufacturer between 1959 and 1972. [Find it]

"À La Ruche" (the beehive), in the right-bank district of La Bastide, would have supplied haberdashery and sewing products and materials, as well as textile dye and shoes. (Photo: @Bordeaux_Expats[Find it]
Rue du Loup is on the el Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through the city, hence the scallop shell on the street sign. Perhaps pilgrims could carry out a few running repairs on their footwear at this supplier of leather (cuirs) and shoemaking tools and materials (crépins). [Find it]
I have a funny feeling that the current owners of this property no longer supply the neighbourhood with "charcuterie de campagne", but I may be wrong... (Photo: Gilles Rose) [Find it]

This fantastic old shopfront was spotted by @Bordeaux_Expats and @GillesRose. Could find no traces of the "waterproof clothing manufacturer" Emel on Google so if anyone has any further information, do get in touch! (Photo: Gilles Rose) [Find it]

Today, this building is home to TOC, or "Trouble Obsessionnel Culinaire", a designer kitchen ustensil boutique. In bygone years it was a parlour providing hair care, massages and manicure services (not to mention "postiches", i.e. wigs or toupees) for a male and female clientèle. Spotted by @mllebordeaux. [Find it]


Rue Capdeville: there's a lot going on here, with various generations of painted signs all fading and blurring into a virtually illegible succession of messages. One appears to be promoting the painter and glazier (peinture et vitrerie) entreprise générale Marcel Salles (formerly Messieurs Magot), located at 74 (?) Rue du Loup.

Further down the wall are just hints of other activities: sommiers (bed frames), immobilier (real estate). Given the state of the walls, it looks as if these signs could soon be fading away for good... [Find it]

Dubonnet is a wine-based apéritif that was first invented in the mid-19th century (its creator, Joseph Dubonnet, was in fact aiming to create a cure for malaria!). Since 1976, the drink has been distributed by the Pernod-Ricard group. In the 1950s and 1960s, Dubonnet became synonymous with its advertising slogan: "Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet".

The brand and the slogan remain an occasional roadside sight throughout France, as here in Gujan-Mestras on the Bassin d'Arcachon. Other Dubonnet ghost signs can be viewed on the and Painted Roadside Advertisements websites. [Find it]

A double-whammy for this charming house in the centre of Saint-Loubès. The front wall displays the tenant's status as "garde champêtre", the country warden or rural policeman. Either side of the upper-floor windows are carved "RF" homages to the République française.

Around the corner is this faded advert for "Chocolat Louit", the chocolate manufacturer founded in the 19th century by Émile Louit, heir to a successful family foodstuff business and the man who created Le Journal de Bordeaux... as well as funding a number of buildings in Bordeaux including a doomed theatre, initially known as Théâtre Louit. The Louit chocolate factory was situated in the area where the France Télévisions TV studios can now be found. [Find it]

  • Other Invisible Bordeaux ghost sign features here and here.

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