René Clair

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René Clair (born November 11, 1898 in Paris , † March 15, 1981 in Neuilly-sur-Seine ; actually René Lucien Chomette ) was a French director and writer .


Early life and breakthrough

René Clair was the son of a soap manufacturer. He grew up in the Quartier des Halles and first attended the Lycée Montaigne and later the Lycée Louis-le-Grand , where he became friends with Jacques Rigaut . In 1917 he was drafted into the First World War as a medic .

In 1918 he worked under the pseudonym René Després as a journalist for the newspaper L'Intransigeant and during this time also wrote - under the pseudonym Danceny - texts for the singer Damia. In addition, he was responsible for the cinema supplement of the Revue Théâtre et Comœdia illustré and appeared as an actor in the films Le Lys de la vie, Le Sens de la mort, L'Orpheline and Parisette , for which he finally adopted his stage name René Clair.

René Clair and Erik Satie , while filming Entr'acte in October 1924

In 1922 he began writing the screenplay for the film Rayon diabolique , which he shot in 1923 and released there in 1924 under the title Paris qui .

At that time, that should Ballet Relâche of Eric Satie in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées , its director Jacques Hebertot also the director of the Théâtre et Comoedia illustré was brought to the stage. The ballet's librettist , Francis Picabia , wanted a film to be projected as an intermediate act and chose René Clair for this task. The resulting Dadaist- inspired short film Entr'acte (1924) became a scandal and made René Clair famous overnight.

Film career

This was followed by various films with a decidedly fantastic direction, for which he brought out Adam's transcript in 1926 . In 1929 he wrote the screenplay for the film Prix ​​de beauté , which Augusto Genina directed with Louise Brooks in the lead role.

With his first sound film entitled Under the Roofs of Paris ( Sous les Toits de Paris , 1930) he gained international recognition. The success continued with Die Million ( Le Million , 1930) and Long Live Freedom ( À Nous la Liberté , 1931), a utopian satire on industrial society. The production company of this film, the German Tobis , came under the influence of Joseph Goebbels in 1935 and in 1936 accused Charlie Chaplin of his socially critical film Modern Times (Modern Times) being a plagiarism of Clair's film. Clair, however, resisted this attack by recognizing Chaplin's film as an indirect homage to his film. Nevertheless, the Tobis continued their attacks on Chaplin.

After his film The Last Billionaire ( Le Dernier milliardaire , 1934) failed, René Clair accepted the offer to work in London . Here he made with The Ghost Goes West ( The Ghost Goes West , 1935) to his success on. His subsequent film, however, Daring Game ( Break the News , 1938), an English remake of La Mort en Fuite , released in France in 1936 , flopped at the box office.

At the end of 1938 he returned to France. There he began filming for Air pur in July 1939 . However, shooting was interrupted by mobilization in September when several members of the film crew were sent to World War II , which is why the film could not be completed. At the end of June 1940 René Clair left France with his wife and their child to go to New York via Spain and Portugal . The Vichy regime then denied him French citizenship, but annulled this decision some time later.

René Clair was in Hollywood well received where he made four films: The Adventurer ( The Flame of New Orleans , 1940), I Married a Witch ( I Married a Witch , 1942), It Happened Tomorrow ( It Happened Tomorrow , 1944) and the last weekend ( and Then There Were None , 1945). The latter was created as a canvas adaptation of the Ten Little Negroes by Agatha Christie .

In 1946 he returned to France, where he made silence is gold ( Le Silence est d'or , 1947) and made two films with Gérard Philipe : The Pact with the Devil ( La Beauté du diable , 1950) as an adaptation of the Faust myth 'and the comedy film The Beauties of the Night ( Les Belles de nuit , 1952). In 1955 he made his first color film, The Great Maneuver ( Les Grandes manœuvres ), for which he received the Louis Delluc Prize . He then brought La Grande ceinture , a novel by René Fallet , under the title Die Mausefalle ( Porte des Lilas , 1957) with Georges Brassens on the screen.

Late life

In 1960 René Clair was elected to the Académie française (armchair 19) - it was the first time that this happened to a cineast. At the same time, the Nouvelle Vague overturned the rules of a cinema of which he was the most important representative. Clair was therefore often attacked by the representatives of the Nouvelle Vague. His last films are alternating short films ( The French woman and love / La Française et l'Amour , 1960, and The four truths / Les Quatre vérités , 1962) and feature films ( All gold in this world / Tout l'Or du monde , 1961, with Bourvil ), of which The fortress falls, love lives ( Les Fêtes galantes , 1965) was his last. René Clair then devoted himself to writing and directing at the theater. In 1970 he brought Relâche von Picabia back to the stage and in 1973 he staged Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck at the Paris Opera . In 1974 he was president of the jury at the Cannes International Film Festival and directed La Catin aux lèvres douces at the Théâtre de l'Odéon .

René Clair died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1981 at the age of 82 .



  • Adams. Grasset, Paris 1926.
  • Le Cinématographe contre l'esprit. Conference du 19 février 1927 au Collège libre des sciences sociales. Cinemagazine, Paris 1927.
  • Reflection faite. Notes pour servir à l'histoire de l'art cinématographique de 1920 à 1950. Gallimard, Paris 1951.
  • La princesse de Chine. Imprinted: De fil en aiguille. Grasset, Paris 1951.
  • Comédies et Commentaires. Gallimard, Paris 1959.
  • Cinéma d'hier, cinéma d'aujourd'hui (= Collection Idées. Vol. 227). Gallimard, Paris 1970, ISBN 2-07-035227-7 .
  • L'Étrange ouvrage des cieux. Comédie sur un thème de John Marston (= Le manteau d'Arlequin ). Gallimard, Paris 1971, ISBN 2-07-031881-8 .
  • Jeux du Hasard. Nouvelles et récits. Gallimard, Paris 1976, ISBN 2-07-029255-X .


  • The Princess of China (La princesse de Chine), spokesperson: Willi Reichmann, SWR 1955 (published by SWRedition ( ISBN 978-3-95615-233-7 ), available from the usual audio portals)



Web links

Commons : Rene Clair  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Histoire de Collège - Le 23. clinamen 84 (French, accessed on July 29, 2014)