This Week in Armenian History

Death of Max Maxudian (July 20, 1976)


Max Maxudian was one of the Armenian names most recognizable in early French twentieth century culture as an actor of theater and cinema. 

He was born in Smyrna (Izmir) on June 12, 1881. At the age of twelve, he moved to France with his parents. He graduated from the theatrical section of the Conservatory of Paris in 1904, where he earned the first prize in tragedy for his monologue of Triboulet (Victor Hugo’s “The King Has Fun”). His art was characterized by the tragic style, inner impetuosity, clear diction, harmonious gestures, and sincere executions. He was often partner of Sarah Bernhardt, with whom he toured Europe and America (1911). He was on the stage until the late 1930s. 

Maxudian followed Bernhardt when she decided to go into the new artistic medium, cinema. They played together in Les amours de la reine Élisabeth (1912), about the love affair between Elizabeth I of England and the Earl of Essex, and Adrienne Lecouvreur (1913), which were the beginning of his long career as spanning almost four decades and 77 films. He was a favorite of directors Louis Mercanton and Roger Lion. He was particularly remembered by his role of Barras in Abel Gance’s acclaimed historical film, Napoleon (1927). In silent movies and at the beginning of the talkies he usually played the villain, most often all the more suspicious as he was foreign-born. His last film was Ronde de nuit (1949). He retired in 1950. 

During his career in theater and the movies, he remained connected to the Armenian community, occasionally participating in cultural events. Maxudian passed away on July 20, 1976, at the age of ninety-five, in Boulogne-Billancourt, one of the suburbs of Paris.