Jean Renoir was a French film director, screenwriter, actor, producer and author. As a film director and actor, he made more than forty films from the silent era to the end of the 1960s. As an author, he wrote the definitive biography of his father, the painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Renoir, My Father. Renoir was born in the Montmartre district of Paris, France. He was the second son of Aline Charigot and the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He was also the brother of Pierre Renoir, a noted French stage and film actor; the uncle of Claude Renoir, a cinematographer; and the father of Alain Renoir, late professor emeritus of comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley.
As a child, Renoir moved with his family to the south of France. He and the rest of the Renoir family were the subjects of many of his father’s paintings. His father’s financial success ensured that the young Renoir was educated at fashionable boarding schools, which, as he later wrote, he continually ran away from.
At the outbreak of World War I Renoir was serving in the French cavalry. Later, after receiving a bullet in his leg, he served as a reconnaissance pilot. His leg injury left him with a permanent limp, but allowed him to discover the cinema, where he used to recuperate with his leg elevated while watching the films of Charlie Chaplin and others. After the war, Renoir followed his father’s suggestion and tried his hand at making ceramics, but he soon set that aside to make films, inspired, in particular, by Erich von Stroheim’s work.