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Alexander Trauner

Alexander Trauner

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Also Known As: Alexandre Trauner Died: December 5, 1993
Born: August 3, 1906 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Budapest, HU Profession: production designer, painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Renowned, influential art director, a key figure of the French "poetic realism" movement which began in the mid-1930s. Trauner apprenticed under Lazare Meerson and worked with director Rene Clair on his famous early sound musical comedies, notably the satire of industrialization in the city, "A Nous la Liberte" (1931). Trauner espoused a studio-bound aesthetic, producing textured, finely detailed sets which subtly highlighted both the naturalism and the claustrophobic, indeed existential, pessimism of such Marcel Carne classics of poetic realism as "Quai des brumes" (1938) and "Le Jour se leve/Daybreak" (1939). During the German Occupation, though Jewish, Trauner managed to work uncredited on films such as Carne's somber fable "Les Visiteurs du soir/The Devil's Envoys" (1942) and the masterful 19th-century period epic, "Les Enfants du paradis/Children of Paradise" (1945). In both cases the look of Trauner's style linked the films, both read as allegories of resistance to the Nazis, with earlier moments in poetic realism, while at the same time suggesting the whimsical lightness of Clair and a great flair for dramatic fantasy. Trauner continued his penchant for working on intense films whose cathartic...

Renowned, influential art director, a key figure of the French "poetic realism" movement which began in the mid-1930s. Trauner apprenticed under Lazare Meerson and worked with director Rene Clair on his famous early sound musical comedies, notably the satire of industrialization in the city, "A Nous la Liberte" (1931). Trauner espoused a studio-bound aesthetic, producing textured, finely detailed sets which subtly highlighted both the naturalism and the claustrophobic, indeed existential, pessimism of such Marcel Carne classics of poetic realism as "Quai des brumes" (1938) and "Le Jour se leve/Daybreak" (1939).

During the German Occupation, though Jewish, Trauner managed to work uncredited on films such as Carne's somber fable "Les Visiteurs du soir/The Devil's Envoys" (1942) and the masterful 19th-century period epic, "Les Enfants du paradis/Children of Paradise" (1945). In both cases the look of Trauner's style linked the films, both read as allegories of resistance to the Nazis, with earlier moments in poetic realism, while at the same time suggesting the whimsical lightness of Clair and a great flair for dramatic fantasy.

Trauner continued his penchant for working on intense films whose cathartic sadness rises to the level of tragedy when he created the stunning, baroque designs for Orson Welles' "Othello" (1952). Later, at the invitation of Billy Wilder, he moved to Hollywood, where he continued to explore the tensions between simplicity and stylization, realism and fantasy, often as filtered through the sensibilities of city life. Notable collaborations with Wilder include the romanticized Paris of "Love in the Afternoon" (1957), the gritty New York of "The Apartment" (1960), the garishly Technicolored, sensuously stylized Paris of "Irma La Douce" (1963) and the moody mausoleum look of "Fedora" (1978).

Trauner has also enjoyed extended working relationships with Fred Zinnemann ("The Nun's Story" 1959), Joseph Losey ("Mr. Klein" 1976, "Trout" 1982), Claude Berri ("Tchao Pantin" 1983) and Bertrand Tavernier ("'Round Midnight" 1986). Fortunately, his durability and adaptability to both a variety of themes and diverse working environments led to a renaissance of critical esteem and professional work, and the aging master was more prolific in the 1980s than he had been in the 30s and 40s.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to Paris in the mid-1920s to become a painter; instead became assistant to set designer Lazare Meerson
1932:
First short as assistant art director, "L'Affaire est dans le Sac"
1937:
First film as art director (also first for director Marcel Carne), "Drole de Drame"
:
Went into hiding during WWII
1952:
Began working internationally with his designs for Orson Welles' film adaptation of "Othello"
:
Moved to USA at Billy Wilder's invitation
1957:
First collaboration with Wilder, "Love in the Afternoon"
1978:
Last collaboration with Wilder, "Fedora"
1989:
Film acting debut, "Reunion"
1989:
Worked on 100th feature film as production designer, "Reunion"; also acted a small part in the film
1991:
Suffered a stroke
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Education

Ecole des Beaux Arts: -

Notes

"Oh, I'll never stop. Maybe they'll stop me one day. But if I have my way I'll never stop. You know what they say about Hungarians. They go behind you into a revolving door--and come out ahead of you." --Trauner, when asked about retirement in press notes for "Reunion".

"He may be the oldest production designer in Europe, but Alexandre Trauner is as young and vital today as he ever was." --Jerry Schatzberg director of "Reunion" (1989).

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Janine Trauner. Second wife; survived him.

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