Henri Verneuil

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Henri Verneuil
Verneuil on a 2020 stamp of Armenia
Ashot Malakian

(1920-10-15)15 October 1920
Died11 January 2002(2002-01-11) (aged 81)
Years active1940s – 2000s
Spouse(s)Françoise Bonnot, Veronique
ChildrenPatric, Sophie, Sevan, Gayane
AwardsCannes Film Festival, Golden Palm

1964 Cent mille dollars au soleil
Oscar Award (Nominated)

1956 Le Mouton à cinq pattes
César Awards 1996
Golden Globe Award
1961 Mélodie en sous-sol (1961)

Henri Verneuil (French: [ɑ̃ʁi vɛʁnœj]; born Ashot Malakian; 15 October 1920 – 11 January 2002) was a French-Armenian playwright and filmmaker, who made a successful career in France. He was nominated for Oscar and Palme d'Or awards, and won Locarno International Film Festival, Edgar Allan Poe Awards, French Legion of Honor, Golden Globe Award, French National Academy of Cinema and Honorary Cesar awards.

According to one obituary:

For exactly 40 years, the prolific Verneuil made movies as mainstream and commercial as any to be found in America or Britain. In his best period – the 1950s and 1960s – he delivered films in the "tradition of quality" so despised by the Nouvelle Vague. Many of them proved excellent vehicles for old-timers Jean Gabin and Fernandel, and newcomers such as Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Verneuil was born Ashot Malakian (Armenian: Աշոտ Մալաքեան) to Armenian parents in Rodosto, East Thrace, Turkey.[2] In 1924, when Ashot was a little child his family fled to Marseille in France,[3] to escape persecution after the Armenian genocide.[2][1] He later recounted his childhood experience in the novel Mayrig, which he dedicated to his mother and made into a 1991 film with the same name, which was followed by a sequel, 588 Rue Paradis, the following year.[4]

Verneuil entered the École Nationale d'Arts et Metiers in Aix-en-Provence in 1942. After graduation, he worked as a journalist, then became editor of Horizon Armenian magazine.

Film career[edit]

In 1947, Verneuil managed to convince the established European film actor Fernandel to appear in his first film.[5]

In 1951 he directed his first feature, the black comedy La Table aux crevés. His second film, Forbidden Fruit (1952), based on a Georges Simenon novel, was even more acclaimed.

Later he also directed other movie stars including Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, Lino Ventura (all together acting for him in "Le clan des siciliens" in 1969[6]), Jean-Paul Belmondo ("Le Corps de mon ennemi" in 1976[7] and other films), Omar Sharif, Claudia Cardinale (Mayrig),[8] Yves Montand and Michèle Morgan. Verneuil has filmed almost all the great figures of French cinema, with the exception of Bourvil, as even Louis de Funès has a small role in one of his films.

After the American experience (he was called the "most American of French directors"), in 1969 Verneuil "found" France. He was awarded a César[9] in 1996 and he was elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. He died at Bagnolet, a suburb of Paris, in 2002.

The opening of the seventh annual Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan paid tribute to Verneuil. His son, television director Patrick Malakian, who reclaimed the name of his historical ancestors, received the posthumous award, the Parajanov's Thaler, for his father's contribution to cinema.



  1. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (25 January 2002). "Henri Verneuil. French mainstream film director given his chance by Fernandel". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b Marchand, Laure; Perrier, Guillaume (2015). Turkey and the Armenian Ghost: On the Trail of the Genocide. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 13–4. ISBN 978-0773597204.
  3. ^ "To avoid persecution, his Armenian family fled to France when he was an infant in 1924". January 2002. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Towards the end of his career Verneuil made two more movies – labors of love – which reflect his own childhood and upbringing, MAYRIG (1991) and 588 RUE PARADIS (1992)". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  5. ^ "He made his first film, a documentary on Marseilles, in 1947. He persuaded Fernandel to appear in it and read the commentary". The Independent. London. 15 January 2002. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  6. ^ "Le Clan Des Siciliens – 1969 – Henri Verneuil". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  7. ^ "Le corps de mon ennemi". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  8. ^ "Henri Verneuil very gentle and warm person, Claudia Cardinale says". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  9. ^ "In 1996, Verneuil was awarded an honorary Cesar, France's equivalent of the Oscar, for lifetime achievement in film". Los Angeles Times. 12 January 2002. Retrieved 25 April 2011.

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