Gaston Leroux was a French journalist and author of detective fiction. He is most renowned for his novel, The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, 1909), which has inspired numerous film and stage adaptations, including the iconic 1925 film starring Lon Chaney and Andrew Lloyd Webber's acclaimed 1986 musical.
Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux was born in Paris. He received his education in Normandy and later pursued a legal career, graduating in 1889. However, his lavish lifestyle depleted his inherited wealth, leading him to seek employment as a court reporter and theatre critic for L'Écho de Paris in 1890.
In 1893, Leroux embarked on a career as an international correspondent for Le Matin, covering significant events like the 1905 Russian Revolution. During his journalistic tenure, he also uncovered the chilling history of the former Paris Opera, which housed a sinister basement cell used for holding prisoners of the Paris Commune.
Leaving journalism in 1907, Leroux transitioned to fiction writing. His debut in this genre was the mystery novel "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" (1907), featuring the amateur detective Joseph Rouletabille. His contribution to French detective fiction has been compared to that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe.
It was The Phantom of the Opera, however, that catapulted Leroux to international prominence. Originally published as a serial in 1909–1910 and as a book in 1910 (with an English translation in 1911), the novel is partly based on historical events at the Paris Opera. Leroux infused his story with rumours of a ghost haunting the opera house and a real-life accident involving a chandelier.
This literary masterpiece has been adapted into numerous stage and film productions, notably the 1925 film featuring Lon Chaney's iconic portrayal of the Phantom and Andrew Lloyd Webber's beloved musical in 1986.
In recognition of his contributions to literature, Gaston Leroux was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1909. He continued to write and venture into film production, co-founding Société des Cinéromans with Arthur Bernède in 1919. One of his other notable works, Balaoo (1911), was also adapted into several films.
Leroux's personal life included two marriages, first to Marie Lefranc and later to Jeanne Cayatte. He had a son, Gaston, and a daughter, Madeleine, from his second marriage. In 1918, he ventured into film production with Société des Cinéromans, where his daughter played the lead role in two films.
Gaston Leroux's literary legacy extends beyond The Phantom of the Opera to include a series of detective novels featuring the character Rouletabille. He writes in a variety of genres, from mystery and adventure to supernatural and giallo (Italian thriller). Some of his notable novels include The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1949), The Crime of Rouletabille (1921), and The Bride of the Sun (1915).
Gaston Leroux passed away at the age of 58 in Nice, France.