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Georges Méliès

Georges Melies

Georges Méliès was a French filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest cinema. He was born, and later died, in Paris, where his family manufactured shoes.

He was very innovative in the use of special effects. He accidentally discovered the stop trick, or substitution, in 1896, and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, dissolves, and hand-painted color in his films.

Before making films, he was a stage magician at the Theatre Robert-Houdin. In 1895, he became interested in film after seeing a demonstration of the Lumière Brothers' camera. In 1897, he established a studio on a rooftop property in Montreuil. Actors performed in front of a painted set as inspired by the conventions of magic and musical theater. He directed 531 films between 1896 and 1914, ranging in length from one to forty minutes. In subject matter, these films are often similar to the magic theater shows that Méliès had been doing, containing tricks and impossible events, such as objects disappearing or changing size.

His most famous film is A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) from 1902 which includes the celebrated scene in which a spaceship hits the eye of the man in the moon. Also famous is The Impossible Voyage (Le Voyage a Travers l'Impossible) from 1904. Both of these films are about strange voyages, somewhat in the style of Jules Verne. These are considered to be some of the most important early science fiction films, although their approach is closer to fantasy. Agents of Thomas Edison bribed a theater owner in London, England for a copy of A Trip to the Moon. Edison then made hundreds of copies and showed them in New York City. Méliès received no compensation.

In 1913 Georges Méliès' film company was forced into bankruptcy by the large French and American studios and his company was bought out of receivership by Pathé Frères. After being driven out of business Méliès became a toy salesman at the Montparnasse station. In 1932 the Cinema Society gave Méliès a home in Chateau D'Orly. Long after burning his negatives in despair, Méliès was rediscovered and honored for his work, eventually taking up stage performance.

Georges Méliès has been awarded the Légion d'honneur (Legion of honor).

Omn his passing in 1938, Méliès was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

The name of his assistant for Le Voyage dans la Lune, Jean-Luc Dupont, is a possible source for the name of Jean-Luc Picard, a character from Star Trek.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Georges Melies Facts

Birth NameMarie-Georges-Jean Méliès
OccupationDirector, Screenwriter
BirthdayDecember 8, 1861
SignSagittarius
BirthplaceParis, France
Date of deathJanuary 21, 1938 (Paris, France, age 76)

Selected Filmography

Georges Melies: First Wizard of Cinema 1896-1913
A Trip to the Moon & The Extraordinary Voyage Deluxe Combo
A Trip to the Moon
After the Ball
A Nightmare
The Damnation of Faust
The Four Troublesome Heads
The Living Playing Cards
The Magic of Méliès
The Kingdom of Fairies
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