Durand, Jean

(1882-1946)
   Actor and director. Jean Durand got his start, as did many of the film pioneers, in the café-concerts or music halls of Paris. In 1908, Georges Fagot introduced Durand to Charles Pathé, who was constantly recruiting talent from the Parisian stage for his studio, and Durand went to work very briefly at Pathé. He left Pathé for Société Lux, where he made more than forty films, most of which have been lost.
   In 1910, Gaumont hired Durand as a replacement for Roméo Bossetti, who had gone to Italy, and he was charged with directing the burlesque Calino series. Durand, it turns out, was a master of burlesque. He directed Calino from 1910 until 1913, turning out such titles as Calino cocher (1911), Calino médecin par amour (1911), Calino chef de gare (1912), and Calino et les deux candidats (1913).
   Durand went on to create two other very successful burlesque series for Gaumont, the Zigoto series, which ran in 1912, and the Onésime series, which ran from 1912 until 1915, including such titles as Onésime a un duel à l'américaine (1912), Onésime contre Onésime (1912), Onésime et la panthère de Calino (1913), Onésime se marie, Calino aussi (1913), and Onésime et le drame de famille (1914). Durand's burlesque was extremely physical, even more so than Bosetti's, and to that end he pioneered the use of stunt people (as things were always getting broken and people hit). His influence was far-reaching in later burlesque and slapstick performances like the Keystone Cops or the Marx Brothers.
   In about 1910, Durand began working with the Wild West actor/director Joë Hamman. Some of these Westerns were episodes of his burlesque series. Examples are Calino veut être cowboy (1911) and Onésime sur le sentier de la guerre (1913). Others, such as Pendaison à Jefferson city (1911) and Le Railway de mort (1912), are newly created Westerns. These films, at Hamman's suggestion, were shot in France's Camargue region of France, which is somewhat reminiscent of some Wild West landscapes. The Camargue Western was one of the casualties of the war, but Durand's influence may have ultimately led to the Spaghetti Westerns of later days. The famous and enormously popular Arizona Bill series, which ran from 1911 to 1913, and in which Hamman starred, is sometimes attributed to Durand. However, there is evidence that five of the episodes were directed by Hamman himself when he left to work for Éclipse Studios in about 1910 and that others were directed by Gaston Roudès.
   Most of the Camargue Westerns have been lost, although Un mariage au revolver (1911), Une pendaison à Jefferson City (1911), and Le Railway de la mort (1912) are known to have survived. Interestingly, Durand's comic touch is something he does not seem to have been able to turn on and off, and many of his Westerns have elements of burlesque and therefore come off as parodies of the more classic vein of the genre.
   On the whole, Durand made a number of films of a wide variety. There are more than one hundred titles that he is known to have made. He was the third-most-important director during his time at Gaumont, after Louis Feuillade, of course, and Léonce Perret. Out-side of the burlesque series and the Westerns, his other films include Belle-maman bat les records (1908), Mignonne (1911), Sous le griffe (1912), Le Collier vivant (1913), Le Chasseur de lions (1913), La Pipe de master Pouitte (1913), Les Enfants de France (1918), Palaces (1927), L'Île d'amour (1928), and La Femme rêvée (1928). Despite his enormous contribution to early film, Durand was ignored by the first generation of film historians and was thus more or less forgotten by film scholars until quite recently. His work has lately been reevaluated.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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