Marcel Perez: One Name Behind the Camera

Marcel Perez kept revising his onscreen persona and his character’s name throughout his career. His years working in the U.S. Found him sporting three different character names, and a different costume and persona each time he changed distributors. But one thing remained constant throughout all of this.

He is always billed, as director, as Marcel Perez.

His first work in the states was in Florida for Vim as a character called “Bungles”, which appears from surviving photos to be heavily influenced by Keystone. Dropping this persona after a half dozen films, Perez’s adopted a more goofy bumpkin persona for his films for Eagle. Sort of like his version of Al St. John. 

His character shifts again for his series made in New Jersey for Jester, and again for his series for Reelcraft, and once more for his series for Sanford Productions. He appears to be trying, over and over, to assimilate, to fit in with American screen comedy and to appeal to the audiences of his new and adopted country.

Marcel Perez Busy Night
promotional still for A BUSY NIGHT (1916, Eagle)

In the opening of A Busy Night (1916, Eagle) he poses in front of a large photo showing himself in all the costumes of the characters he will play in the film. He gestures to the characters, and mouths to us, clearly in English, “That’s me.” At the time this film was made, he had been in the USA for about six months. 

Each of his shape-shifts come off as efforts to Americanize his screen persona. And yet, in an era when people in show business with ethnic names almost always changed them to something more Anglicized, Marcel’s surname is always Perez in his credit as director.

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