Musidora (1884–1957)

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Musidora (1884–1957)

French actress, director, and producer. Born Jeanne Roques on February 23, 1884 (some sources cite 1889), in France; died in 1957; attended Jullian Academy of Fine Arts and the Schommer Studio.

Selected filmography:

Les Misères de l'Aiguille (1913); L'Autre Victoire (1914); Bout de Zan et L'Espion (1914); La Bouquetière des Catalans (1914); Le Calvaire (1914); Le Colonel Bontemps (1914); Les Fiances de 1914 (1914); Les Leçons de la Guerre (1914); La Petite Réfugiée (1914); Sainte Odile (1914); Severo Torelli (1914); Les Trois Rats (1914); Tu N'Epousera Jamais un Avocat (1914); L'Union Sacrée (1914); La Ville de Madame Tango (1914); L'Autre Devoir (1915); La Barrière (1915); Bout de Zan et le Poilu (1915); Celui Qui Reste (1915); Le Collier de Perles (1915); Le Coup du Fakir (1915); Deux Françaises (1915); Le Fer à Cheval (1915); Fifi Tambour (1915); Le Grand Soufflé (1915); L'Escapade de Filoche (1915); Les Noces d'Argent (1915); Une Page de Gloire (1915); Le Roman de la Midinette (1915); Le Sosie (1915); Triple Entente (1915); Le Trophée du Zouave (1915); Les Vampires (1915–16); Coeur Fragile (1916); De'brouille-Toi (1916); Les Fiançailles d'Agenour (1916); Fille d'Eve (1916); Les Fourberies de Pingouin (1916); Jeunes Filles d'Hier et d'Aujourd'hui (1916); Judex (1916); Labourdette, Gentleman Cambrioleur (1916); Les Maries d'un Jour (1916); Minne or L'Ingénue Libertine (director, producer, 1916); Mon Oncle (1916); La Peinte du Talion (1916); Le Poete et sa Folle Amante (1916); Si Vous ne m'Aimez Pas (1916); Le Troisième Larron (1916); Les Chacals (1917); Le Malliot Noir (director, producer, 1917); La Vagabonde (director, producer, 1917); La Flamme Cachée (director, producer, 1918); La Geole (1918); La Jeune Fille la plus Meri tante de France (1918); Johannes Fils de Johannes Mam'Zelle Chiffon (1918); Vicenta (director, producer, 1919); Pour Don Carlos (director, producer, 1920); Une Aventure de Musidora en Espagne (director, producer, 1922); Soliel et Ombre (director, producer, 1922); La Tierra de los Toros (director, producer, 1924); Les Ombres du Passé (1925); La Magique Image (director, producer, 1950).

Born Jeanne Roques in France in 1884, Musidora became both a French cinema star and a pioneering producer-director whose abilities were widely praised. Her parents were considered bohemian; her father was a musician and philosopher, and her mother was an educated feminist who founded the literary journal Le Vengeur in 1897. Musidora herself was given a good education, attending the Jullian Academy of Fine Arts and the Schommer Studio. She abandoned painting for the stage in 1910, appearing at the Star Theater in a vaudeville comedy sketch. She then joined the Mount Parnasse troupe of actors. It was while performing with this group that she adopted the stage name "Musidora," from the 1870 Théophile Gautier novel Fortunio.

Musidora made her screen debut in 1913, in Les Misères de l'Aiguille (The Sorrows of the Needle). She appeared in 15 films during the following year, including Le Colonel Bontemps and La Ville de Madame Tango. Stardom came at the end of 1915, when, costumed in a black full-body leotard, Musidora enchanted an entire generation of French moviegoers in Louis Feuillade's surreal Les Vampires. The fame she garnered from this film allowed her to try her hand at producing and directing. Her first attempt was to film her friend Colette 's Minne, or L'Ingénue Libertine in 1915, followed by Le Malliot Noir (The Black Leotard) in 1917; both had a distinctly surrealist flavor. La Vagabonde (1917), another adaptation of a story by Colette, brought Musidora her greatest acclaim as a director. She teamed with Colette again the following year to produce and direct La Flamme Cachée. Musidora directed several films in the 1920s, and many stage productions during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1950, she directed and starred in her last film production, La Magique Image. She then became a writer, publishing many articles on cinema as well as poetry, a play, and two novels. Musidora died in 1957. A documentary on her life, Musidora, was released in 1973. Les Vampires continues to be screened at art houses and revivals.


Acker, Ally. Reel Women: Pioneers of the Cinema 1896 to the Present. NY: Continuum, 1991.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Ellen Dennis French , freelance writer, Murrieta, California

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