Charles Pathé

Active - 1918 - 1923  |   Born - Dec 25, 1863   |   Died - Jan 1, 1957   |   Genres - Drama, War

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At one time, industrialist Charles Pathé had an international lock on the early film industry and was not only the world's largest manufacturer of camera, projection, and film stock, but was also the world's largest producer, distributor, and exhibitor of early film. Pathé was born in Chevry-Cossigny, France, to a butcher and a cook. He started working when he was 12. Pathé spent five years in the military and made a failed attempt at making his fortune in Argentina. The aspiring entrepreneur returned to France in the early 1890s, and tried several ventures before finding success demonstrating and eventually importing and selling Edison phonographs in France. Business took off and Pathé ventured into selling movie projectors. Like Lumière, Pathé also made and distributed a few crude motion pictures. It was later in 1896 that he formed Pathé Frères with his three brothers, Émile, Jacques, and Théophile. Like the latter two brothers before him who had quit to become film producers, Charles also left the division that centered on selling phonographs to Émile and began working with filmmaker Ferdinand Zecca to learn more about film production. Pathé built his first studio in Vincennes the following year and began producing one or two hastily assembled films per day. It was a successful venture and he soon opened production facilities in London, Moscow, and New York (in that order). Even more international studio sites followed until Pathé found himself controlling an empire that developed one of the first color processes and published the first regular newsreel. Pathé was going strong until the outbreak of WWI wrought havoc with his European divisions. In late 1914, Pathé sailed for the States to focus on building up his interests there. It was to no avail -- not only were international costs rising too rapidly, the world's taste in films changed and his works were no longer in demand. By 1918, he was forced to begin the slow process of breaking down and selling his monopoly. It took him until 1929 to sell the last of it. After that, Pathé retired to the south of France.