Frédérick-Lemaître

Frédérick-Lemaître

 

(pseudonym of Antoine Louis Prosper Lemaître). Born July 29, 1800, in Le Havre; died Jan. 26, 1876, in Paris. French actor.

Frédérick-Lemaître became a drama student at the Conservatory in 1818. From the age of 16 he performed in Parisian théâtres des boulevards (boulevard theaters), including the Ambigu-Comique, the Porte-St. Martin, and the Gaieté. In 1823 he performed the role of the escaped convict Robert Macaire in the melodrama L’Auberge des Adrets by B. Antier, Saint-Amand, and Paulyanthe. Frédérick-Lemaître changed the originally gloomy, melodramatic figure of Robert Macaire into that of an eccentric who satirized the representatives of Bourbon power.

After the Revolution of 1830 and during the July Monarchy, Frédérick-Lemaître’s art acquired a distinctly political orientation and its element of protest and social criticism became intensified. In 1834, Frédérick-Lemaître created a new version of the role of Robert Macaire, the famous bandit and swindler in his play of the same name. Frédérick-Lemaître’s new interpretation of the role had universal implications and great denunciatory force. In 1837–38 and 1840–41, the artist H. Daumier produced a series of satirical drawings inspired by the acting of Frédérick-Lemaître. K. Marx referred to the king, Louis Philippe, as “Robert Macaire on the throne” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 7, p. 10).

Other important roles performed by Frédérick-Lemaître were those of romantic dreamers and heroes who rebelled against the criminality and amorality of the ruling elite. These roles included Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia by V. Hugo, the title role in Kean by Dumas père, and the title role in Ruy Blas by Hugo. Frédérick-Lemaître brought great emotional and dramatic intensity to the role of Papa Jean in the melodrama The Ragpicker of Paris by F. Pyat.

Frédérick-Lemaître was a major representative of democratic romanticism and the founder of critical realism in the French theater. Together with M. Dorval and P. Bocage, he reformed the art of acting on the French stage by rejecting the rigid classification of characters into types, the traditional idealization of leading characters, the outworn rules of classical drama, and the strict differentiation of genres according to level. Frédérick-Lemaître was equally skilled in the roles of eccentrics, tragic figures, sensitive and idealistic romantic heroes, and realistic personages.

The humanist art of Frédérick-Lemaître reflected the attitudes of the democratic masses during the epoch of struggle against the Restoration and the July Monarchy. His acting was highly esteemed by Hugo, A. I. Herzen, and I. S. Turgenev.

REFERENCES

Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 3. Moscow, 1963.
Souvenirs de Frédérick-Lemaître, publiés par son fils, 2nd ed. Paris, 1880.
Silvain, E. Frédérick-Lemaître. Paris, 1927.
Baldick, R. The Life and Times of Frédérick-Lemaître. London, 1959.
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