Childhood & Early Life
Jean Renoir was born in Paris, France, on September 15, 1894. His father was the famous painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his mother was Aline Victorine Charigot. He had an elder brother named Pierre and a younger brother named Claude.
He joined the ‘College Saint-Croix’ in 1901, then the ‘Ecole Sainte-Marie de Moneceua’ and finally the ‘Ecole Massena’.
He studied at the ‘University of Aix-en-Provence’ and received his degree in Arts in 1913.
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Jean Renoir directed his first moderately successful movie ‘La Fille de l’eau’ in 1924 starring Catherine Hessling (name changed from Andree Heuchling).
He made ‘Nana’ based on Emile Zola’s book in 1926 but went bankrupt when it flopped at the box office.
He made ‘Charleston’ in 1927 starring Hessling which was had limited success. He directed a commercial film ‘Marquitta’ the same year.
Renoir made his next significant film, a military comedy, titled ‘Tire-au-Flanc’ in 1928.
In the film ‘Crime et chatiment’ or ‘Crime and Punishment’ in 1935, Hessling played the lead role though Renoir and she were separated.
His first successful film was ‘On Purge Bebe’.
He produced the film ‘La Chienne’ or ‘The Bitch’ in 1931 edited by Marguerite Mathieu, with whom Renoir had an affair that ended in late 1930s.
He directed his elder brother Pierre in a detective film ‘La Nuit du Carrefour’ or ‘Night at the Crossroads’ in 1932 which was a brilliant piece of work but not seen much.
His next film was a delightful comedy, ‘Boudu sauve des eaux’ or ‘Boudu Saved from Drowning’ in 1932.
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He produced ‘Madame Bouvary’ in 1934 starring Pierre Renoir and Valentine Tessier which was also a commercial success.
He followed this up with ‘Toni’ in 1934, ‘The Crime of Monsieur Lange’ in 1936, ‘La Vie est a nous’ or ‘People of France’ in 1936, ‘Une Partie de compagne’ or ‘A Day in The Country’ in 1936, ‘Les Bas fonds’ or ‘The Lower Depths’ in 1936, ‘La Grande Illusion’ or ‘Grand Illusion’ in 1937, ‘La Marseillaise’ in 1938, ‘Le Bete humaine’ or ‘The human Beast’ in 1938, and finally ‘La Regle du jeu’ or ‘The Rules of the Game’ in 1939.
He spent most of time in 1939 in Rome where he taught at the ‘Centro Sperimental di Cinematographia’.
In the spring of 1940 he started the production of a film version of ‘La Tosca’ but was interrupted as Italy joined the war and he had to escape to America.
He made ‘Swamp Water’ in 1941 under contract with ‘20th Century Fox’ which was a moderate success.
He tried his hand at a Deanna Durban musical but had to abandon the project after doing 2/3rd part.
His next film ‘This Land is Mine’ in 1943 for ‘RKO’ was accepted by the American public but was rejected by the French audience.
He tried to make amends with ‘Salute to France’ in 1944 but was unsuccessful though the American audience accepted it.
He directed the film ‘The Southerner’ for ‘United Artists’ in 1945 which received great acclaim.
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He became a US citizen in 1946.
In 1947, he made the film ‘Woman on the Beach’ for ‘RKO Studios’ which was a masterpiece though it was cut drastically.
The film ‘The River’ shot in Calcutta, India, in 1950 based upon a book written by Rumer Godden on three young women growing up in India, was a great success and won him the first prize at the ‘Venice Film Festival’ in 1951.
He returned to France after 15 years and made the film ‘Le Carosse d’or’ or ‘The Golden Coach’ in 1952 that did not do very well. It was followed by ‘French Cancan’ in 1954, ‘Elena et les hommes’ or ‘Elena and her Men’ in 1956, ‘Le Testament du Dr. Cordelier’ in 1959, ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe’ or ‘Picnic on the Grass’ in 1959 and ‘Le Caporal epingle’ or ‘The Elusive Corporal’ in 1962
In 1960 his film ‘Rules of the Game’, which he had made in 1939 and had been rejected by the public, was re-released and it was acclaimed a masterpiece.
During the 1950s he remained active in the theater by writing a play ‘Orvette’.
The films that he made during the later part of the 1960s were modestly successful and were used mainly for the TV. These included a short film ‘La Direction d’acteur par Jean Renoir’, in which he acted, and his last feature film ‘Le Petit Theater de Jean Renoir’ or ‘Little Theater of Jen Renoir’ in 1971.
After making these films he retired from films and dedicated himself to writing.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Andree Madeleine Heuschling, his father’s model and an aspiring actress, in January 1920, and divorced her in 1930. He had a son named Alaine with her.
He married Dido Freire, his secretary, in February 1944.
Jean Renoir died in Beverly Hills, California, USA, on February 12, 1979, at the age of 84.