Biography

Apparently none of the studios in Hollywood cared if French-born director Louis Gasnier's work was consistently mediocre. For one thing, he had an excellent professional background: working at the Paris-based Pathé studios in 1905, he helped bring comedian Max Linder to prominence (though it's likely that Linder directed himself). Also, Gasnier had an excellent ability to spot talent, discovering leading French actor Jules Berry and American serial queen Pearl White. In charge of Pathé's American offices in 1914, Gasnier directed White's immortal The Perils of Pauline (1914); the results have prompted one influential film historian to tag Gasnier's direction as "appalling beyond belief." The director did a better job with the second White serial The Exploits of Elaine (1915) but still missed several opportunities to heighten tension through his lackadaisical pacing and staging. Throughout the '20s, Gasnier directed several major feature films, which nearly always drew praise for the stars and writing, but never for the directing (one fan wrote to a trade magazine complaining that Gasnier handled his actors like "wax dummies"). When talkies arrived, Gasnier's difficulties in grasping the English language relegated him to poverty-row productions. One glance at Gasnier's low-budget "masterpiece" Reefer Madness (1935) shows that the director's technique had not progressed one iota since the declamatory days of Max Linder. Louis Gasnier retired in 1942; subsequent records are hazy, and it isn't clear whether he died in 1948 or several years thereafter. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi