Alberto Cavalcanti

from Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Artwork for Paris CinémaImage of Alberto Cavalcanti

Biography

Alberto de Almeida Cavalcanti was a Brazilian-born film director and producer. He 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 did not study law or politics. Cavalcanti chose to study architecture instead. 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. So, in 1920 he 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, but he found himself making more commercial films which could not hold his interest and left Paramount in 1933. In the same year he 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 seven years at the GPO Film Unit, working on many projects. Much of his work at the GPO was uncredited, he acted as a mentor to many new film makers, but in 1937 he was appointed acting head of the GPO Film Unit when Grierson left for Canada. When 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 of this period (many of them propaganda films) were Yellow Caesar (1941), Went the Day Well? (1942), Three Songs of Resistance (1943), 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 he worked as a producer for Companhia Cinematográfica Vera Cruz; the company eventually became insolvent. After being blacklisted as a communist in Brazil, he decided to move back to Europe in 1954. He eventually settled in France, where he continued his work in television. He died in Paris in 1982 at the age of 85.

Timeline

1982Aged 85

  • Poster for Brasília, segundo roteiro de Alberto Cavalcanti

    Screenplay

1978Aged 81

1976Aged 79

  • Poster for Um Homem e o Cinema

    Self

1971Aged 74

  • Poster for La visite de la vieille dame

    Director

1970Aged 73

  • Poster for Alberto Cavalcanti

    Self

1969Aged 72

  • Poster for Lettres de Stalingrad

    Astronomer

1961Aged 64

  • Poster for The Monster of Highgate Ponds

    Director

1959Aged 62

  • Poster for Venetian Honeymoon

    Director

1957Aged 60

  • Poster for The Wind Rose

    Screenplay

1955Aged 58

  • Poster for Mulher de Verdade

    Idea

1953Aged 56

  • Poster for Song of the Sea

    Producer

1952Aged 55

  • Poster for Simão, o Caolho

    Writer

1951Aged 54

  • Poster for Angela

    Writer

  • Poster for Terra é Sempre Terra

    Producer

1950Aged 53

  • Poster for Caiçara

    Producer

1949Aged 52

  • Poster for For Them That Trespass

    Director

1948Aged 51

1947Aged 50

  • Poster for The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

    Director

  • Poster for They Made Me a Fugitive

    Director

1945Aged 48

  • Poster for Dead of Night

    Director

1944Aged 47

1943Aged 46

1942Aged 45

1941Aged 44

  • Poster for Yellow Caesar

    Director

1940Aged 43

1939Aged 42

1938Aged 41

1936Aged 39

1935Aged 38

  • Poster for Coal Face

    Writer

  • Poster for BBC: The Voice of Britain

    Producer

1934Aged 37

1933Aged 36

1932Aged 35

1931Aged 34

1930Aged 33

1929Aged 32

1927Aged 30

1926Aged 29

  • Poster for Nothing But Time

    Director

1925Aged 28

  • Poster for The Late Mathias Pascal

    Art Direction

1924Aged 27

  • Poster for The Gallery of Monsters

    Assistant Director

  • Poster for L'Inhumaine

    Art Direction

1923Aged 26

1921Aged 24

  • Poster for El Dorado

    Costume Design