Rene Clair


Director
Rene Clair

About

Also Known As
Rene-Lucien Chomette
Birth Place
Paris, FR
Born
November 11, 1898
Died
March 15, 1981

Biography

Rene Clair almost single-handedly revived French film comedy after WWI, adapting the pre-war comic tradition to sound technology and the realities of the post-war era. Though he eventually broadened his range of material and faltered toward the end of his career, he will always be remembered as France's first great director of comedies. After short stints as a journalist, an actor under ...

Photos & Videos

A Nous La Liberte - Movie Poster
Le Million - Movie Posters
Under the Roofs of Paris - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Bronya Perlmutter
Wife
Married in 1926.

Bibliography

"Cinema d'Hier, Cinema d'Aujord'hui"
Rene Clair (1970)
"Terre"
Rene Clair (1919)
"Relexion Faite"
Rene Clair

Biography

Rene Clair almost single-handedly revived French film comedy after WWI, adapting the pre-war comic tradition to sound technology and the realities of the post-war era. Though he eventually broadened his range of material and faltered toward the end of his career, he will always be remembered as France's first great director of comedies.

After short stints as a journalist, an actor under Feuillade and Protozanov and an assistant to Baroncelli, Clair made an engaging satire of French society, "Paris qui dort," in 1924. In this science fiction fantasy, an angry scientist invents a ray gun which paralyzes the French capital. Those few who escape the ray wander throughout Paris poking fun at various people they encounter, though they end up reenacting the very gestures and attitudes they initially mocked. With its flat sets, rudimentary animation and stock character types recalling both American slapstick and the work of Georges Melies, "Paris qui dort" combined social satire with a witty exploration of film's ability to manipulate time and motion. Clair followed with the deliciously outrageous dada masterpiece, "Entr'acte" (1924), based on notes by Francis Picabia. With music by Erik Satie and starring Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, "Entr'acte" was made for the Ballet suedois production of Picabia's "Relache" (literally, "performance canceled"). The opening sequence is virtually plotless, structured along graphic and rhythmic principles and including a number of comic gags, while the second half shows a crowd of mourners chasing a camel-drawn hearse through the streets of Paris.

Clair next made a series of fantasy works "a la Melies," including "Le Voyage imaginaire" (1925) and "Le Fantome du Moulin-Rouge" (1926). He established an international reputation with "The Italian Straw Hat" (1927), a brilliant updating of Labiche-Michel's play. An early and vocal opponent of sound film, Clair nonetheless proved its capacity for eloquence with "Under the Roofs of Paris" (1930) and two other masterpieces, "Le million" (1931) and "A nous la liberte" (1932), in which he perfected his command of comic timing and gift for almost musical plot structure.

Following the unexpected failure of "Le dernier milliardaire" (1934), Clair moved to England. There he made two films, including "The Ghost Goes West" (1935), in which an American (Robert Donat) transports a castle back to the States, only to discover that it's haunted. With the coming of WWII Clair himself headed west. Unlike other French exiles such as Jean Renoir, Clair fared rather well in Hollywood, making the successful comedy-fantasies "The Flame of New Orleans" (1941) with Marlene Dietrich and "I Married a Witch" (1942) with Fredric March and Veronica Lake (a feud between these two made for lively filming). In "It Happened Tomorrow" (1944) Dick Powell plays a reporter who can predict the future, a journalistic advantage which leads to unexpected complications when he learns of his own death. Clair completed his US stay with a highly suspensful Agatha Christie adaptation, "And Then There Were None" (1945).

Clair's post-war return to France coincided with a turn to more demanding subject matter. "Man About Town" (1947) is a nostalgic reflection on the silent film era which also condemns totalitarianism and the irresponsible use of science. It was followed by a free adaptation of the Faust legend, "Beauty and the Devil" (1950), starring Michel Simon (as Mephisto) and Gerard Philipe. Philipe returned in "Beauties of the Night" (1952), a comic fantasy in several timeframes based on D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," and "The Grand Maneuver" (1956). Neither film was particularly successful, and "Gates of Paris" (1957) continued Clair's undeniable decline.

Although elected in 1960 to the Academie Francaise, Clair found that his last few films had badly tainted his reputation. Nevertheless, he is now regarded as one of the preeminent French filmmakers, the man whose wit, irony and delicate sense of timing inspired both Chaplin and the Marx Brothers.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Lace Wars (1965)
Director
All the Gold In the World (1961)
Director
Gates of Paris (1957)
Director
The Grand Maneuver (1955)
Director
Beauties of the Night (1952)
Director
Beauty and the Devil (1949)
Director
Break the News (1938)
Director
Le Dernier Milliardaire (1934)
Director
July 14th (1933)
Director
Le Million (1931)
Director
À nous la liberté (1931)
Director
Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)
Director
La Tour (1928)
Director
Deux Timides, Les (1928)
Director
The Horse Ate the Hat (1928)
Director
Le Voyage imaginaire (1926)
Director
Entr'acte (1924)
Director

Writer (Feature Film)

Ladies & Gentlemen (1984)
From Screenplay ("It Happened Tomorrow")
The Lace Wars (1965)
Screenwriter
All the Gold In the World (1961)
Screenwriter
Gates of Paris (1957)
Screenwriter
The Grand Maneuver (1955)
Screenwriter
Beauties of the Night (1952)
Screenwriter
Beauty and the Devil (1949)
Screenwriter
Le Dernier Milliardaire (1934)
Screenwriter
July 14th (1933)
Screenwriter
À nous la liberté (1931)
Writer (Dialogue)
À nous la liberté (1931)
Screenplay
Le Million (1931)
Screenplay
Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)
Screenwriter
Under the Roofs of Paris (1930)
Dialogue
The Horse Ate the Hat (1928)
Screenwriter
La Tour (1928)
Screenwriter
Deux Timides, Les (1928)
Screenwriter
Le Voyage imaginaire (1926)
Screenwriter
Entr'acte (1924)
Screenplay

Producer (Feature Film)

The Grand Maneuver (1955)
Producer
Break the News (1938)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Le Million (1931)
Theme Lyrics

Life Events

1917

Served in volunteer ambulance corps at the front during WWI, invalided out with injured spinal column after several months

1918

Retired to Dominican monastery after experiencing a religious crisis

1919

Worked as newspaper reporter for "L'Intransigeant"

1920

First film as actor in "Le Lys de la vie"

1921

Adopted name Rene Clair

1922

Went to Brussels with brother Henri to study work of director Jacques de Baroncelli

1922

First film as editor, "Le Theatre et comedia illustre"

1924

First film as director and screenwriter, "Paris qui dort/The Crazy Ray"

1929

Worked as film reviewer in London

1935

Hired by Alexander Korda to direct in London

1938

Returned to France

1940

Playwright Robert Sherwood obtained visa for Clair and his family; immigrated to USA; signed contract with Universal

1942

Joined Paramount

1959

Directed first stage work

1965

Directed final film, "Les Fetes Galantes"

Photo Collections

A Nous La Liberte - Movie Poster
A Nous La Liberte - Movie Poster
Le Million - Movie Posters
Le Million - Movie Posters
Under the Roofs of Paris - Movie Poster
Under the Roofs of Paris - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

And Then There Were None (1945) - The Place For Nursery Rhymes Director Rene Clair is still cycling through Agatha Christie's ten island guests, Walter Huston and Barry Fitzgerald, Mischa Auer on the piano, Richard Haydn playing the record, when the gimmick is revealed, to C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, June Duprez, Louis Hayward, Roland Young and Queenie Leonard, early in And Then There Were None, 1945.
And Then There Were None (1945) - What A Quiet Place Director Rene Clair wastes not a word introducing Agatha Christie's characters, Louis Hayward, June Duprez, Walter Huston, Barry Fitzgerald, C. Aubrey Smith, Roland Young, Judith Anderson, Mischa Auer and Harry Thurston joining Queenie Leonard and Richard Haydn on the island, opening And Then There Were None, 1945.
I Married A Witch (1942) - You'll Be A Redhead! On the eve of his election as governor, candidate Wallace (Fredric March) is lured into a burning hotel by newly-embodied witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake), in I Married A Witch, 1942, directed by Renè Clair.
I Married A Witch (1942) - Fairer Than All Women Influence of producer Preston Sturges apparent, even on French director Rene Clair during his wartime Hollywood sojourn, opening scenes with protagonist Fredric March playing various of his ancestors, discussing witches, from I Married A Witch, 1942, co-starring Veronica Lake.
I Married A Witch (1942) - Love Grows Slowly Mischievous witch Jennifer (Veronica Lake) has wiled her way into sleeping over at the home of candidate Wallace (Fredric March), the night before his wedding, in I Married A Witch, 1942.
And Then There Were None (1945) - She Doesn't Look Good One of their number dead already, Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson, June Duprez, C. Aubrey Smith, Louis Hayward, Roland Young and Walter Huston learn from Richard Haydn that their absent host isn't kidding, in Rene Clair's And Then There Were None, 1945.
Grand Maneuver, The (1955) - France Can Wait A Few Minutes Director Rene Clair opens his first color film, shooting on location in historic Bolougne, his soldier hero Armand (Gerard Philipe) running into immediate trouble, having forgotten his date with Gisele (Simone Valere), in The Grand Maneuver, 1955, with Michele Morgan and Brigitte Bardot.
Grand Maneuver, The (1955) - It Was My Last Chance At a charity event in a French garrison town, Armand (Gerard Philip), with civilian pal (Jacques Francois), gets a first look at Lucie (Brigitte Bardot), then meets Marie-Louise (Michele Morgan), whom he's vowed to seduce via random selection, in Rene Clair's The Grand Maneuver, 1955.
It Happened Tomorrow (1944) - Opening Credits Opening title sequence from director Rene` Clair's It Happened Tomorrow, 1944, starring Dick Powell, Linda Darnell and Jack Oakie.
It Happened Tomorrow (1944) - Yesterday's News Newsmen are celebrating the promotion of Larry (Dick Powell) from obit desk and getting wisdom from ancient librarian Pop Benson (John Philliber) in Rene` Clair's It Happened Tomorrow, 1944.
It Happened Tomorrow (1944) - Cigolini Newsman Larry (Dick Powell) and friends meet the fortune-teller Cigolini (Jack Oakie) and his enchanting daughter Sylvia (Linda Darnell) in an early scene from director Rene` Clair's It Happened Tomorrow, 1944.
Under The Roofs Of Paris (1930) - It's A Hit Already a highly-regarded director of silents, and reluctant to embrace sound, Rene Clair, working from his own script and song he co-wrote, goes all-in, introducing his hero Albert (Prejean), singing for a crowd including Pola (Illery), opening Under The Roofs Of Paris, 1930.

Family

Marius Chomette
Father
Soap merchant.
Marie Chomette
Mother
Henri Chomette
Brother
Assistant to director Jacques de Barnocelli.
Jean-Francois
Son
Mother, Bronya Perlmutter.

Companions

Bronya Perlmutter
Wife
Married in 1926.

Bibliography

"Cinema d'Hier, Cinema d'Aujord'hui"
Rene Clair (1970)
"Terre"
Rene Clair (1919)
"Relexion Faite"
Rene Clair