French writer and film-maker. He was the first film-maker to be elected to the Académie Française.
Born in Aubagne, the son of a schoolteacher, Pagnol himself trained and worked as a teacher, in his spare time writing plays set in his native Provence. These included a successful trilogy set in Marseilles, comprising Marius (1929), Fanny (1931), and César (1936). After establishing a film magazine, Cahier du film, in 1931, he developed his interest in the cinema by adapting his own stage work for others to direct as films. In 1934 he set up his own studios and began to direct films himself. Angèle (1934) was shot on a colour-tinted film, on a real farm, using direct sound rather than studio recording. It was also noteworthy for the first screen appearance of the great French actor Fernandel (1903–71).
After five productive years, during which he made such classic films as Harvest (1937), The Baker's Wife (1938), and The Well-Digger's Daughter (1940), Pagnol's filming career was disrupted by World War II, but in 1948 his achievements were recognized by his election as a member of the Académie Française. Pagnol's most successful film after the war was Lettres de mon moulin (1954), an adaptation of Alphonse Daudet's sketches of Provence. He also published memoirs of his childhood, La Gloire de mon père (1957) and Le Château de ma mère (1958).
A decade after Pagnol's death, his own film Manon des sources (1953), a rural epic of fortitude and revenge, so impressed Claude Berri (1934–2009) that he remade it as two films adapted from the two novels Pagnol had based on his film. Jean de Florette (1986) and Manon des sources (1987), starring Yves Montand (1921–93) and Gerard Depardieu, proved immensely popular both inside and outside France.