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French filmmaker Georges Lautner dies aged 87

French director Georges Lautner at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival
French director Georges Lautner at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

The French filmmaker Georges Lautner, best known for directing popular crime movies and comedies, has died in Paris aged 87.

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Lautner, who directed around 50 films during a career spanning 60 years, died at his home on Friday after a long period of poor health.

He is best known for directing the 1963 box-office hit “Les Tontons Flingueurs” (Crooks in Clover), a comedy starring Lino Ventura and Bernard Blier.

Audiences warmed to the movie’s quick-fire wit between the ageing gangsters, and to this day, French people still quote classic one-liners from the film, which is regularly shown as a re-run on French television.

Lautner’s popular movies, although not always liked by critics, drew hundreds of thousands of viewers to movie theatres. He also directed cinema legends such as Jean-Paul Delmondo, Alain Delon and Mireille Darc.

“Georges Lautner staged quality laughter in films that were funny and comical, but never vulgar,” actor and “Tontons” co-star Claude Rich told news agency AFP.

“He was a charming, modest man and a sure hand at his trade,” the president of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, wrote on Twitter. The French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said Lautner’s death “turned a page” in French cinema history.

Born in Nice in 1926, Georges Lautner’s mother, an actress, introduced him to the world of film. Although he started by studying law, he soon entered the movie business by working as an assistant producer in 1949.

His first film, “La Môme aux boutons”, premiered in 1958.

On Wednesday, “Les Tontons Flingueurs” is due to celebrate 50 years since appearing in cinemas. Lautner cancelled an appearance in Nantes earlier this month to celebrate the film. A street in the city was renamed “Les Tontons Flingueurs” in his honour.

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