Natan, Bernard

   Producer. Born Nathaniel Tanenzapf in Jassy, Romania, Bernard Natan came to France at the age of twenty. He found a job working as a projectionist in a movie theater, and it was this that sparked his interest in the cinema. In 1910, Natan embarked on the first in a series of ventures designed to gain access to the French film industry. He and several friends formed a small production company called Ciné Actualités, but it produced only a small number of films. In 1913, Natan opened a film processing company called Rapid Films. This venture was more successful, and the company became one of the major film processors in France.
   Natan's entrepreneurial drive was interrupted in 1914 when he volunteered to serve in World War I, despite having no obligation to do so (he still held Romanian citizenship). He served from 1914 until 1918 and was decorated with the Croix de guerre. Upon being discharged, Natan set about expanding Rapid Films, acquiring space for the operation and adding editing and producing capacity. He also became a naturalized French citizen in 1921. In 1924, he again ventured into full-scale film production, this time with more success. He formed the production company Les Productions Natan with director Henri Diamant-Berger and with John Maxwell. The company produced a number of films, including Henry Roussel's Destinée (1925), Marco de Gastyne's La Châtelaine du Liban (1926), La Merveilleuse vie de Jeanne d'arc (1929), and La Madone des sleepings (1927), codirected by Maurice Gleize, Léonce Perret's La Femme nue (1926) and Printemps d'amour (1927), Maurice Champreux's Les Cinq sous de Lavarède (1927), and Diamant-Berger's Éducation de prince (1927).
   In 1928, Natan undertook his most ambitious venture. He acquired a controlling interest in Pathé Studios, which Charles Pathé had begun progressively selling off. It seems, although it is not certain, that Pathé had sought the buyout by Natan in order to fend off a financial crisis or a foreign takeover. Natan merged Pathé with Rapid Films and added the assets and facilities of Productions Bernard Natan. He also began buying up cinemas and cinema chains in order to centralize film distribution. Natan changed the name of the studio from Pathé to Pathé-Natan, keeping the old prestige but announcing a new era.
   As the studio's managing director, Natan turned Pathé into the most significant studio and production and distribution company in France. He also ushered Pathé into the era of sound, producing the first sound films in France. Pathé-Natan was highly successful. Natan was forward looking and he began to acquire radio outlets in order to expand Pathé-Natan's audience as well as to experiment with television. However, the financial problems he had inherited when he bought out Pathé, legal issues related to the sale of the studio, and the crash of the stock market led to some financial problems and particularly cash-flow problems. These problems were heightened by financial problems at the bank that had financed the takeover and expansion. These issues caught the attention of Charles Pathé himself, who was under investigation for the processes by which he had sold Pathé. The company was publicly held, and Pathé may not have given shareholders their fare share. This provoked lawsuits by the shareholders, and Pathé, partly to defend himself and partly, it seems, to regain control of the studio, began a campaign of lies and misin-formation against Natan. Thus began what is almost certainly one of the darkest episodes in French cinema history.
   Pathé, and perhaps several investors, sought to forcibly wrest control of the studio from Natan. Pathé, it seems, also sought to shift blame for his own mismanagement to the studio's new controlling partner. In order to achieve these aims, he and his associates began a long and very nasty, clearly anti-Semitic propaganda campaign against Natan. Among the nasty lies spread through the press and elsewhere was the rumor that Natan had been embezzling large sums of money from the studio and that the studio was, therefore, insolvent. Despite the fact that there was no truth to any of these claims, the French government put the studio in receivership. Natan was driven out of the company, and ownership was given to the investors of a group called the Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma.
   Natan attempted to continue producing films on his own. He managed to produce several films, most notably Pierre Chenal's La Maison du Maltais (1938) and Bernard's Cavalcade d'amour (1940). However, in the end, the campaign against Natan cost him more than his reputation and more than his studio. It cost him his life. He was arrested in 1938, tried and convicted on the accusations leveled against him by Pathé and his associates, convicted, stripped of his citizenship, turned over to the Nazis, and sent to Auschwitz, where he died in 1942. This all occurred despite the fact that the review of the finances of Pathé-Natan disproved all of the charges against Natan and demonstrated that the studio had always been profitable. Long after Natan's death, however, the idea persisted that he was a criminal and an embezzler and that he had nearly run the studio into the ground, only to have it saved by its founder and his associates. It is only in very recent years that Natan's true contributions have been recognized and that the process of clearing his name was begun.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Natan, Bernard — (1886 1942)    Producer. Born Nathaniel Tanenzapf in Jassy, Romania, Bernard Natan came to France at the age of twenty. He found a job working as a projectionist in a movie theater, and it was this that sparked his interest in the cinema. In 1910 …   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema

  • Bernard Natan — (1886 1942) (né Natan Tannenzaft) est un producteur franco roumain des années 1920 et 1930. Natan entra dans le cinéma généraliste, où il acquiert le grand studio de cinéma Pathé en 1929. Pathé s effondre en 1935, et Natan est accusé d… …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Bernard Nathan — (* 1886 in Rumänien; † 1942 im KZ Auschwitz) war das Pseudonym des rumänischen Regisseurs Natan Tannenzaft, mit dem er in Frankreich bekannt wurde. In den 1920er Jahren war er neben Dominique der bekannteste Regisseur von pornografischen Filmen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Bernard Offen — was born in 1929 in Krakow. He survived the Krakow Ghetto and several Nazi concentration camps. His parents, two brothers and one sister lived in the Podgórze area of Krakow which in March 1941 became the Krakow Ghetto. His mother, Rochme Gittel… …   Wikipedia

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  • Pathé-Natan —    Pathé Natan was the name given to Pathé Studios in 1928 after its takeover by film producer Bernard Natan and its merger with Natan s companies Rapid Films and Productions Bernard Natan. Natan obtained control of the company by buying out the… …   Guide to cinema

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