Alain Poire

Alain Poire, veteran French film producer with over 250 pics to his credit and a flair for picking popular Gallic comedy, died of cancer Jan. 15 at his home in Neuilly-Sur-Seine. He was 82.

Poire’s entry into the world of cinema dates back to 1938 when the former law student joined the Societe Nouvelle des Etablissements Gaumont, a venture designed to put the near-bankrupt Gaumont back on its feet.

From 1938 to 1941, Poire looked after Gaumont’s exhibition, distribution and services, but in 1941 a film production division was set up and Poire was chosen to head it.

One year later, the debut producer launched Georges Lacombe’s “Le Journal Tombe a 5 Heures.” And that was nearly that. For the next few years, the world’s oldest film company would pre-finance pics, but seldom originate them.

It wasn’t until 1948 that Poire once again put on his production hat with Jean Dreville’s “Les Casse-Pieds.”

Throughout the 1950s Poire continued to work with top directors including Sacha Guitry, Robert Bresson and Roberto Rossellini.

Never a fan of auteur-driven cinema, Poire found himself swimming against the tide when the Nouvelle Vague washed through France. However, in the 1960s and 1970s he helped Gaumont turn out a string of commercial hits including “Les Tontons Flingeurs,” “le Cerveau,” “La Gifle” and “Le Grand Blond avec une Chaussure Noire.”

In 1974, Nicolas Seydoux became chairman of Gaumont and production fell into the hands of Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who launched a string of high-brow pics with relatively little box office success.

Fortunately for Gaumont, Poire continued with his populist formula, introducing Sophie Marceau to the public in “La Boum,” as well as partnering with a band of up-and-coming directors that included Patrice Leconte, Jean-Jacques Annaud and Francis Veber.

Despite a leaning toward comedy, Poire was not afraid to take on more serious fare, producing Yves Robert’s tandem hits “La Gloire de Mon Pere” and “Le Chateau de ma Mere,” based on the Marcel Pagnol novels.

A fervent supporter of the theater, Poire once told Variety he thought “Le Diner de Cons” (“The Dinner Game”) was “one of the funniest and best written plays I have seen” and he promptly produced Veber’s smash film version.

With his film director son, Jean-Marie Poire, Alain brought more success to Gaumont with the two-part “Les Visiteurs” comedies.

He is survived by two sons, Jean-Marie and Philippe.

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