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Ambroise-François Parnaland

Ambroise-François Parnaland was born in Tournus, Saone-et-Loire in 1854.   Until 1895 he was a chartered accountant by profession, but on 24th April of that year he founded Parnaland Frères with his brother Louis to market and sell mechanisms for which they had obtained patents.

In late February 1896, he registered his first patent for a chronophotographic machine called the Phototheagraphe, a somewhat crude machine which moved un-perforated film by means of a clumsy piston device.   Other experimental devices followed until he patented the Cinépar on 9th June which was successfully marketed in France and Britain.

In 1897, in addition to building and selling cameras from a shop at 5 rue Saint-Denis in Paris, Parnaland began making short films.   Together with Clément-Maurice, he was employed in 1898 by the maverick surgeon Dr Eugène-Louis Doyen to film a number of surgical operations.   However, the collaboration came to an abrupt and acrimonious end in 1902 when Doyen discovered that Parnaland had been illegally copying the films and selling them on for exhibition in fairground sideshows.   Doyen took legal action to recover the films and was awarded substantial compensation in 1905 after a lengthy courtroom battle.

While Parnaland tried in vain to ward off Doyens legal gambits, Clément-Maurice used his camera to shoot the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre sound films.   Business was good, despite the Doyen setback, and in 1904 Parnaland embarked on a fruitful collaboration with Emmanuel Ventujol, a former colleague of Lumière, to make several dozen films for exhibition in fairgrounds.   When Ventujol left the company, fresh financial support soon arrived courtesy of lawyer Charles Jourjon, with whom Parnaland formed films l'Eclair, anciens établissements Parnaland on 22nd April 1907.   However, this apparent ascendancy within the filmmaking business signaled the beginning of the end for Parnalands career: although Éclair could boast a catalogue of 480 films made by Parnaland since 1897, establishing the new company was a lengthy and expensive business, and by 1910 he found himself relieved of his managerial responsibilities.

Parnaland once again returned to building and selling cameras, but he seemed to have lost his touch; business was so bad that, in 1912, he was forced to abandon the film industry altogether and return to accountancy.

Ambroise-François Parnaland died on 23rd May 1913.

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