Happy 122nd Birthday, Jean Renoir!

Jean Renoir, one of our very favorite directors, was born 122 years ago today in Paris, France. Enjoy our 10 JR Did-You-Knows, then make it a point to watch one of Renoir’s classic pictures tonight: Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, La Bête Humaine or any of a dozen others.

  • Renoir was a member of a very artistic family: His father was Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter; his older brother Pierre was a prominent actor, and his nephew, Claude, was a successful cinematographer.
  • When Jean was a small boy, his father insisted he keep his hair long (one of Auguste’s most famous paintings depicts young Jean with flowing locks), which led to him being teased by other boys. So Jean was initially relieved to be sent off to boarding school because he knew he’d be required to have his hair cut short.
  • Renoir was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal while serving in World War I.
  • His first artistic endeavor, undertaken at his father’s suggestion, was making ceramics, but he soon left that pursuit behind in favor of filmmaking.
  • Orson Welles frequently praised Renoir as the greatest film director of all time. Charlie Chaplin made a similar pronouncement.
  • Renoir frequently acted in his own films, usually playing lovable lugs.
  • Renoir was married twice, with one partner, Marguerite Renoir, in between—the pair never married, but she did take his name.
  • Renoir left Paris during the Nazi occupation and took up residence in Hollywood.
  • In 1975, he received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his contributions to the motion picture industry.
  • Renoir eventually became a naturalized American citizen, but following his death, he was interred in France after being given a state funeral.

Joyeux anniversaire, Jean Renoir, wherever you may be!

Jean Renoir

Happy 120th Birthday, Alan Mowbray!

Character actor Alan Mowbray was born Ernest Allen in London, England, 120 years ago today. Here are 10 Did-You-Knows about the veddy, veddy British Mowbray:

  • After serving in the British Army during World War I, Mowbray was awarded the Military Medal and the French Croix de Guerre for bravery.
  • After beginning his acting career in touring productions in the English provinces and later appearing in London’s West End, Mowbray moved to New York City. Once there, his money quickly ran out and with nowhere to stay, he lived for a time in Central Park.
  • Before long, Mowbray was hired to tour with the Theatre Guild. His Broadway debut was in a 1926 play called Sport of Kings.
  • In 1929, Dinner Is Served, an original comedy that Mowbray wrote, directed and starred in, opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. It closed after just four performances. In December of that year, Mowbray opened in The Amorous Antic. After that, he would not again appear on Broadway until 1963, when he was cast in Enter Laughing.
  • His stiff-upper-lip manner and posh accent were Mowbray’s ticket to Hollywood, where, with the advent of talkies, theatrical actors who spoke well were in demand. He made his motion picture debut in 1931 opposite Frank Fay, Laura La Plante and Joan Blondell in God’s Gift to Women. He played a butler.
  • He played George Washington in three different pictures: Alexander Hamilton (1931), Where Do We Go From Here? (1945), and in an uncredited role, The Phantom President (1932).
  • Mowbray was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild.
  • Over a thirty-year career in movies, he appeared in more than 130 feature-length motion pictures. He also was very active on television, where he amassed more than 50 credits in nearly twenty years of work.
  • Mowbray became the father-in-law of fellow character actor Douglas Dumbrille, who, at the age of 69, married Mowbray’s 28-year-old daughter (ick!).
  • He appeared in movies opposite a trio of actors portraying Sherlock Holmes: Clive Brook in Sherlock Holmes (1932), Reginald Owen in A Study in Scarlet (1933) and Basil Rathbone in Terror by Night (1946).

Happy birthday, Alan Mowbray, wherever you may be!

Alan Mowbray