Alberto Cavalcanti  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Alberto de Almeida Cavalcanti (February 6 1897August 23 1982) was a Brazilian-born film director and producer.


Early life

Cavalcanti was born in Rio de Janeiro, the son of a prominent mathematician. He was a precociously intelligent child, and by the age of 15 was studying Law at university. Following an argument with a professor he was expelled. His father sent him to Geneva, Switzerland on condition that he didn't study law or politics, so Cavalcanti decided to study architecture. At 18 he moved to Paris to work for an architect, later switching to working on interior design. After a visit back to Brazil he took up a position at the Brazilian consulate in Liverpool, England.

Cavalcanti corresponded with Marcel L'Herbier, a leading light in France's avant-garde film movement. This led to a job offer from L'Herbier for Cavalcanti to work as a set designer.

Film career

In 1920 Cavalcanti left his job at the Consulate and moved back to France to work for L'Herbier, he was to be involved in the making of numerous films the most notable being L'Inhumaine. He was soon making his own films, in 1926 directing his first, Rien Que les Heures (Nothing But Time) — a day in the life of Paris and its citizens. In 1927 he collaborated with Walter Ruttmann on a similar project set in Berlin, called Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Big City). Cavalcanti took a job with Paramount's French studios after the talkies came in. He found that they required him to make more commercial films that did not hold his interest, so in 1933 he left Paramount.

In late 1933 Cavalcanti returned to England to work for John Grierson's GPO Film Unit. He was involved in many capacities, from production to sound engineer. He was to spend 7 years at the GPO Film Unit, working on many projects, most notably; Coal Face (1935), Night Mail (1936), Message to Geneva (1937), Four Barriers (1937), and Spare Time (1939). A lot of Cavalcanti's work at the GPO was uncredited, he was involved in most aspects of its work and acted as a mentor to many new film makers. In 1937 he was appointed acting head of the GPO Film Unit when Grierson left for Canada. When Cavalcanti was told that the only way the position could become permanent was to become a naturalized British citizen, he decided to leave the unit.

In 1940 Cavalcanti joined Ealing Studios, under the leadership of producer Michael Balcon. He worked as an art editor, producer and director. His most notable works were the 1942 propaganda film Went the Day Well?, Champagne Charlie (1944), Dead of Night (as co-director) (1945) and Nicholas Nickleby (1947). In 1946 Cavalcanti left Ealing over a dispute about money. He went on to direct three more films in the UK, before returning to Brazil in 1950.

In Brazil Cavalcanti worked as a producer for Companhia Cinematográfica Vera Cruz; the company eventually became insolvent. After being blacklisted as a communist in Brazil, he moved back to Europe. He spent much of the 1960s and 1970s working as an itinerant film maker in various different countries, including East Germany, France and Israel.

Cavalcanti died in Paris aged 85.

Filmography as director


  • 1926 Le train sans yeux
  • 1926 Rien que les heures
  • 1927 Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt
  • 1927 En rade
  • 1927 Yvette
  • 1927 La p'tite Lilie
  • 1928 La jalousie du barbouille
  • 1929 Le Petit Chaperon Rouge
  • 1929 Vous verrez la semaine prochaine
  • 1930 Toute sa vie
  • 1930 A canção do berço
  • 1930 À mi-chemin du ciel
  • 1930 Les vacances du diable
  • 1931 Dans une ile perdue
  • 1932 En lisant le journal
  • 1932 Le jour du frotteur
  • 1932 Revue montmartroise
  • 1932 Nous ne ferons jamais du cinema
  • 1932 Le truc du bresilien
  • 1933 Le mari garcon
  • 1933 Plaisirs defendus
  • 1933 Coralie et cie
  • 1933 Tour de chant

GPO Film Unit

  • 1934 Pett and Pott: A fairy story of the suburbs
  • 1934 The glorious Sixth of June: New rates
  • 1935 Coalface
  • 1936 Line to Tcherva Hut
  • 1937 We live in two worlds
  • 1937 Who writes to Switzerland?
  • 1937 Message to Geneva
  • 1937 Four barriers
  • 1938 Alice in Switzerland
  • 1939 Men of the Alps
  • 1939 A midsummer day's work

Ealing and UK

Brazil and others

  • 1952 Simão, o caolho (Brazil)
  • 1955 Mulher de verdade (Brazil)
  • 1955 Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (DDR)
  • 1957 Die Windrose (DDR)
  • 1959 La prima notte (France/Italy)
  • 1961 The monster of Highgate Ponds (UK)
  • 1967 Thus Spoke Theodore Herzl (Israel)
  • 1969 Les empailles (France)
  • 1971 La visite de la vieille dame (France)
  • 1976 Le voyageur du silence (France)
  • 1976 Um homem e o cinema (Brazil)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alberto Cavalcanti" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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