Former student of painter Auguste Rodin who turned his attention to the theater and then moved into films as an actor and assistant director at the Eclair studios. Tourneur moved to the USA in 1914, i...
In the 2006 animated blockbuster Happy Feet an alienated emperor penguin named Mumbles found empowerment through tap-dancing and in so doing managed to both attract a mate and stop the overfishing that imperiled his Antarctic habitat. Directed by George Mitchell – the same George Mitchell who gave us the post-apocalyptic Mad Max trilogy and the almost despairingly bleak Babe: Pig in the City – Happy Feet paired its broadly conventional narrative with a darker sensibility not often seen in talking-animal fare.
The film’s sequel Happy Feet Two finds Mitchell (co-directing with Gary Eck) both more jovial and more easily distracted. The story begins straightforwardly enough with Mumbles (Elijah Wood) now grown-up and by all appearances well-adjusted ceding the mantle of self-discovery to his son Erik (Ava Acres). Boogie fever has swept the once dance-averse penguin nation but in a cruelly ironic twist Erik has inherited none of his father’s nifty moves. But just as Happy Feet Two appears intent on recycling its predecessor’s basic storyline the film abruptly changes course and embarks on a series of detours that seemed geared more as fodder for throwaway gags and showy set pieces than anything else. The disparate narrative elements while enjoyable in isolation never quite coalesce into a meaningful whole leaving us entertained but unfulfilled.
As before Happy Feet Two features a variety of buoyant song-and-dance numbers with Alecia Moore (aka P!nk) lending her formidable pipes to spirited re-workings of “Rhythm Nation” and “Under Pressure ” among others. Robin Williams returns for double duty as both Ramon a diminutive oversexed Latin lover and Lovelace a fiery Southern-preacher type. (Lovelace later adopts a Rastafarian dialect allowing Williams to achieve the rare culture-caricature trifecta.) His voracious scenery-devouring is all the more impressive given the grandeur of the scenery. Not to be left out of the quasi-Vaudevillian comic shenanigans Hank Azaria lays on a thick Scandinavian shtick as Sven a charismatic Arctic émigré who presents himself as the only penguin in the world who can fly. Azaria is a hoot but the film’s best moments come courtesy of the cast’s highest-profile additions Matt Damon and Brad Pitt voicing Bill and Will (respectively) two tiny krill in search of meaning at the bottom of the food chain.
Emigrated to US to run Eclair's studio in Fort Lee, NJ; began association with designer Ben Carre
Military service in artillery in late 1890s
Began career as illustrator and graphic and interior designer; became assistant to Auguste Rodin and then Ruvis de Chavannes
Actor, then stage director
Formed own production company
Moved to Universal after disagreements with Paramount
Quit direction of "The Mysterious Island" after MGM put him under supervision of producer; returned to France
Directed first US film, "The Man of the Hour"
Worked as actor in several Eclair films directed by Emile Chautard
Filmed last silent film in Germany, "Das Schiff der verlorene Menschen" (starred Marlene Dietrich)
Moved to Hollywood; signed contract with Paramount; formed Associated Producers Inc. with Thomas Ince and others (failed, 1921)
Former student of painter Auguste Rodin who turned his attention to the theater and then moved into films as an actor and assistant director at the Eclair studios. Tourneur moved to the USA in 1914, initially as head of Eclair's Fort Lee, New Jersey, subsidiary. He soon became known as one of the most stylish directors of his time, partly thanks to his collaboration with pioneering art director Ben Carre, who designed some 35 features for Tourneur through 1920. The pair's best work was in the mystery and fantasy genres. Tourneur's most important films highlight his inimitable visual sensitivity and include the delightfully wistful "The Wishing Ring" (1914); "The Poor Little Rich Girl" (1917), one of Mary Pickford's best showcases; and a vivid rendition of "The Last of the Mohicans" (1920).
Tourneur returned to Europe in 1927 and, aside from one German film, continued his career doing fine work in France through 1948, when he lost a leg in a car accident. Probably his best-known film from this period is his strong and finely acted adaptation of Ben Jonson's "Volpone" (1940), starring Harry Baur and Louis Jouvet. He subsequently translated English-language mystery novels into French. Father of director Jacques Tourneur.
married in 1904; separated in 1927
born on November 12, 1904; died on December 19, 1977
"The cinema is a different medium for hieroglyphically expressing human thoughts using images in place of words and with a savagery no one means of expression possesses. It is no more of an art than the printing press or the alphabet. It is the most significant instrument for bringing together nations and classes because it shows us in the most rapid and forceful way how human beings resemble each other, how the color of their skin or their language does not prevent their hearts from beating in a similar manner. More through the cinema than through the efforts of diplomats, men will realize their needs, aspirations and joys and will stop considering others as strangers." --Maurice Tourneur to Robert Florey in 1920 ("Dictionary of Film Makers" by George Sadoul)
"To speak of the future development of the art of the cinema is futile. It cannot be. It costs a great deal of money to produce a motion picture. The only way the financial backer can get his money back, to say nothing of a profit, is to appeal to the great masses. And the thing that satisfies millions cannont be good." --Maurice Tourneur ("The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers"--Christopher Lyon, editor)