Jean Renoir

(1894—1979) French film director

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French-born film director, who went to the USA during World War II but subsequently returned to Europe.

Born in Paris, the son of impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), he was brought up in France. After World War I he worked for a time as a potter but by 1924 he had begun his career in films. His early silent films starred his wife, Catherine Hessling, who had been his father's model. Notable among them was Émile Zola's Nana (1926). Renoir also appeared with his wife in a few Cavalcanti films, including Le P'tite Lille (1929) and Le Petit Chaperon rouge (1930; Little Red Riding Hood), shortly after which they parted.

With the coming of sound, Renoir enhanced his reputation as a director with such films as Madame Bovary (1934), Toni (1935), and Les Bas-Fonds (1936). He achieved international acclaim with La Grande Illusion (1937), and La Bête humaine (1938). La Règle du jeu (1939), which failed when it first appeared, was subsequently recognized as a masterpiece. In the USA Renoir directed such films as The Southerner (1945) and The Woman on the Beach (1947). The River (1951), his first film in colour, was shot in India with his nephew, Claude Renoir (1914– ), as cameraman. Returning to Europe he had a profound effect on the New Wave film-makers of the 1960s. In this period he made several films, including Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1959), Le Caporal épinglé (1962), and his last, a TV film, Le Petit Théâtre de Jean Renoir (1971).

Renoir also wrote and directed plays and was the author of a novel, a volume of autobiography, My Life and My Films (1974), and Renoir, My Father (1962).

Subjects: Literature — Contemporary History (Post 1945).