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Biography of pioneer early filmmaker Georges Méliès, now in English

Table of contents

List of Figures
Editor’s Acknowledgments
Editor’s Introduction

Author’s Foreword
Chapter 1. Bootmaker to Queen Hortense
Chapter 2. The Dreams of a Student
Chapter 3. Early Adventures
Chapter 4. An Introduction to Magic in London
Chapter 5. A Marriage Set in Motion
Chapter 6. Opponent of the “Brave General”
Chapter 7. Director of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin
Chapter 8. From La Griffe to the Moulin Rouge
Chapter 9. Spiritism, Catalepsy, Magnetism
Chapter 10. A New Passion: Jehanne d’Alcy
Chapter 11. Birth of the Kinétographe
Chapter 12. The First Feature Film
Chapter 13. All Kinds of Trick Effects
Chapter 14. The Dreyfus Affair
Chapter 15. 1900
Chapter 16. Happy Méliès!
Chapter 17. The Triumphant Years, 1902-1903
Chapter 18. The “Genre Méliès”
Chapter 19. Cinema Becomes an Industry
Chapter 20. The First Signs of Collapse
Chapter 21. The Death of Eugénie
Chapter 22. Ruin
Chapter 23. Candy-Seller at the Gare Montparnasse
Chapter 24. Méliès, Lord of the Manor
Chapter 25. The End of a Pioneer


The films of Georges Méliès (1861–1938) are landmarks in the early history of narrative filmmaking and cinematic special effects. He was a harbinger of modern aesthetics and media manipulation, and this book, written by his granddaughter, is the only one that tells his full story. Magnificent Méliès is a thoroughly researched but highly accessible book that is a crucial source for the scholar and an entertaining read for the nonspecialist. The core of the biography provides detailed accounts of Méliès’ filmmaking years (1896–1913), from his first motion pictures shortly after the public premiere of the Lumière Cinématographe through such worldwide successes as his film Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) and his eventual marginalization by the very industry he had helped to found. The biography also chronicles Méliès’ formative work as director of Paris’s preeminent magic theater, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin; his subsequent career staging operettas for the Théâtre des Variétés Artistiques  (1917–1923) in Montreuil on the site of one of his former film studios; and his later years selling toys and candy at the Gare Montparnasse (1926–1932) before being rediscovered by journalists and the avant-garde. These and other fascinating chapters highlight the remarkable range of Méliès’ creative work while suggesting how his singular life was nevertheless shaped by the seismic historical shifts of Second Empire and Third Republic France.

Madeleine Malthête-Méliès was a pioneering early film researcher and historian of early cinema; she was the granddaughter of Georges Méliès.

Kel Pero is an editor, writer, and translator.

Matthew Solomon is Professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Media at the University of Michigan.

“This book is indeed a very personal tribute to the life and creative contributions of Georges Méliès and especially his legacy in cinema. While celebrating the life and times of Méliès from an insider’s perspective, the biography nonetheless reveals many insights on the economics, creative choices, and cultural contexts for early cinema and the trajectory of Georges Méliès. It should appeal to fans of Méliès, early cinema, and turn-of-the-century France.”
—Richard Neupert, University of Georgia

- Richard Neupert

"The revised Magnificent Méliès is an invaluable book, and it is a blessing that it is newly translated into English, which will—I hope—deepen and expand engagement with Méliès’s films."

- Cineaste, Christopher Small

"Malthête-Méliès paints a rich and lively portrait of her grandfather, combining the results of her own extensive research into her family history as well as the life and work of Georges Méliès with anecdotes and scenes including imagined dialogues."

- Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film

"There have been many books about Georges Méliès – I have over a dozen on my shelves – but none has the biographical detail of this one. Only a dedicated family member could have discovered the personal details about the friendships, the amours, the opinions of this remarkable man."

- Journal of Film Preservation, Stephen Bottomore

Watch: Interview with Madeleine Malthête-Méliès 
Watch: Recording of Book Launch with Méliès Film Screening