24-1-1926 - 23-11-2013
Georges Lautner, a prolific French director who specialised in comedy and crime - often in the same movie - and became an audience favourite in his home country, has died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris. He was 87.
The cause was thyroid cancer, his son, Thomas, said.
In paying tribute to Lautner, President Francois Hollande acknowledged his cultural stature, saying he had made "great popular comedies that became cult films of our cinematic heritage".
From the late 1950s through the 1980s, Laurent churned out an average of more than a film a year. He made more than 40 overall, often also serving as co-writer; his frequent collaborator was Michel Audiard.
His movies, generally fast-paced and cleverly plotted, often starred one or more of France's celebrity actors, including Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon, Bernard Blier, Miou-Miou and Mireille Darc. And although Lautner's films were not as well appreciated critically or internationally as those of the high-minded auteurs who were his contemporaries and countrymen, he made reliably appealing and profitable movies that reached a wide audience in France, many of which remain in frequent circulation on French television.
Among Lautner's best-known films are Les Tontons Flingueurs (1963), a send-up of organised crime, known to English-speaking audiences as Crooks in Clover or Monsieur Gangster, with Blier and Lino Ventura; Mort d'un Pourri (Death of a Corrupt Man), a 1977 thriller starring Delon, Darc and Stephane Audran, about the murder of a blackmailer; Le Professionnel, a 1981 suspense thriller about the corrupt machinations behind a political assassination, starring Belmondo in a jaunty, James Bond-like turn as a rogue secret agent; a 1983 comedy about a woman (Miou-Miou, in "a lovely, confident performance", Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times) maintaining two families, known in English as My Other Husband; and La Cage aux Folles 3: The Wedding (1985), the final instalment of the series about the comically tortuous relationship problems of a gay couple.
"On the basis of My Other Husband," Canby wrote, "Mr Lautner, a veteran French director whose other films I've not seen, has a fine appreciation for the absurd, which almost - though not quite - hides a sentimental heart. The movie is full of wonderfully eccentric details, including a plastic surgeon who, having made a couple of goofs in the course of an operation, looks down at the unconscious patient, shakes his head and says, 'This really isn't my day."'
Lautner was born in Nice on January 24, 1926. His father, Leopold, was a jeweller who died in a plane crash in 1938, when Georges was 12. His mother, Renee Saint-Cyr, was a well-known actress who inspired her son's love of film.
Lautner served in the French army after World War II and spent much of the 1950s working as an assistant director on numerous films. His first consequential film as a director, Marche ou Creve (Sink or Swim), a spy story starring Blier, was released in 1960.
In addition to his son, Lautner's survivors include a daughter, Alice. His wife, Caroline, a former model he met in 1949, died almost 20 years ago.