Batcheff ca. 1926
23 June 1901
|Died||13 April 1932 (aged 30)|
|Un chien andalou|
Pierre Batcheff (23 June 1901 – 13 April 1932) was a French actor of Russian origin. He became a popular film actor from the mid-1920s until the early 1930s, and among his best-known work was the surrealist short film Un chien andalou (1929), made by Luis Buñuel in collaboration with Salvador Dalí. After appearing in about twenty-five films, he met an early death from a drug overdose.
Born as Benjamin Batcheff in Harbin in China, he grew up in Saint Petersburg; he adopted the name Pierre later when he started working in the cinema. When war broke out in 1914, his family were on holiday in Switzerland and they decided to remain there, at first in Lausanne and then Geneva. Batcheff's father went bankrupt around 1917, leaving the family in financial difficulty, and Pierre started taking small parts in Georges Pitoëff's theatre company in Geneva. Between 1919 and 1921 he attended the Collège Calvin. In 1921, Batcheff moved with his family to Paris where he worked at first as a theatre actor.
Batcheff's earliest leading role in the cinema was in 1923 in Claudine et le poussin, in the first of several performances as a young aristocratic lover. In the next few years he made films with Marcel L'Herbier, Jean Epstein, and Abel Gance. By 1927 he was established as a popular young leading man, with interviews and covers photos in film magazines. He was at the same time dissatisfied with the type of roles which he was offered and he cultivated links with avant-garde circles, especially the surrealists. In 1927 he met Luis Buñuel and their discussions led to their subsequent collaboration on Un chien andalou in the following year.
In 1926 Batcheff met Denise Piazza, the daughter of a publisher, and they married in 1930. As Denise Batcheff, and later Denise Tual, she became a film editor and producer.
In the ten years of his film career, Batcheff made around 25 films. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a project with Jacques Prévert to write and direct a film which proved to be sufficiently radical to alarm some financial backers. Batcheff's behaviour showed signs of stress and became increasingly erratic, and in April 1932 he died from an overdose of drugs, possibly by suicide.
One of the Parisian newspapers reporting on his death summarised his contemporary appeal as an actor: "As an artist, he brought an extremely personal tone of refinement, of sensitivity and of melancholy, which was not devoid of strength, and this earned him a very wide popularity". It also noted that on the day after his death he had been due to sign a contract with a producer to direct his first film.
|Year||Original title||English title||Director||Notes|
|1923||Le Roi de Paris||The King of Paris||Maurice de Marsan and Charles Maudru||Lost film.|
|1924||Claudine et le poussin||Marcel Manchez||Role of Claude de Puygiron|
|1925||Princesse Lulu||Émile-Bernard Donatien||Lost film.|
|1925||Autour d'un berceau||Georges Monca and Maurice Kéroul||Lost film.|
|1925||Le Double Amour||Jean Epstein|
|1926||Feu Mathias Pascal||The Late Matthias Pascal||Marcel L'Herbier||Role of Scipion.|
|1926||Destinée||Henry Roussel||Lost film.|
|1926||Le Secret d'une mère||Georges Pallu||Lost film.|
|1927||Le Joueur d'échecs||The Chess Player||Raymond Bernard||Role of Prince Serge Oblonoff.|
|1927||Napoléon||Abel Gance||Role of General Hoche.|
|1927||Éducation de prince||Education of a Prince||Henri Diamant-Berger|
|1927||En rade||Alberto Cavalcanti|
|1927||La Siréne des tropiques||Siren of the Tropics||Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant||With Josephine Baker.|
|1928||Le Bonheur du jour||Gaston Ravel||Lost film.|
|1928||L'Île d'amour||Island of Love||Jean Durand and Berthe Dagmar|
|1928||Vivre||Robert Boudrioz||Lost film.|
|1928||Le Perroquet vert||Jean Milva|
|1929||Les Deux Timides||Two Timid Souls||René Clair|
|1929||Un chien andalou||An Andalusian Dog||Luis Buñuel||Short film.|
|1929||Monte Cristo||Henri Fescourt||Role of Albert de Mortcerf.|
|1930||Le Roi de Paris||The King of Paris||Leo Mittler||Lost film.|
|1931||Les Amours de minuit||Augusto Genina and Marc Allégret||Also in German version Mitternachtsliebe.|
|1931||Le Rebelle||The Rebel||Adelqui Migliar||Lost film.|
|1932||Baroud||Baroud||Rex Ingram and Alice Terry||Batcheff appeared in both French and English versions.|
|1932||Amour... Amour...||Robert Bibal||Batcheff wrote the script only; filmed and released after his death.|
- Powrie, Phil & Rebillard, Éric. Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009
- Tual, Denise. Au cœur du temps. Paris: Carrère, 1987.
- Various reference sources give his birth year as 1901: e.g. Bibliothèque nationale de France; Dictionnaire du cinéma français; sous la direction de Jean-Loup Passek. (Paris: Larousse, 1987); Ephraim Katz, The International Film Encyclopedia (London: Macmillan, 1980). On the other hand, the most detailed academic study of Batcheff's life and career, by Powrie and Rebillard (see Bibliography), says that Batcheff was born on 22 or 23 June 1907 [p.2] and cites as evidence his marriage and death certificates [p.24]; in this case he would have started his appearances in film at the age of 16, and he would have been only 24 when he died.
- Phil Powrie & Éric Rebillard, Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009. p. 2.
- Phil Powrie & Éric Rebillard, Pierre Batcheff and stardom in 1920s French cinema. Edinburgh University Press, 2009. pp. 9–10.
- Dictionnaire du cinéma français; sous la direction de Jean-Loup Passek. Paris: Larousse, 1987. p.30.
- Dudley Andrew, Mists of Regret. Princeton University Press, 1995. p.78.
- Guy Jacob, "Les films de Jacques Prévert", in Premier plan, no.14, novembre 1960 (spéciale Jacques Prévert).
- Some accounts identify the drug as Veronal. In 1929, Batcheff's co-star in L'Île d'amour, Claude France, committed suicide by gas inhalation. Simone Mareuil, the leading actress in Un chien andalou, would later (1954) kill herself by setting herself on fire.
- La Liberté (Paris), 16 avril 1932, p. 5, col. 3: "En tant qu'artiste, il apportait une note extrêmement personelle de finesse, de sensibilité et de tristesse, d'où la force n'était pas exclue, ce qui lui valait une très grande popularité".
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