12 February 2015

Roger Hanin (1925-2015)

Yesterday, French actor and director Roger Hanin passed away, following a respiratory distress. Since 1953, he appeared in more than 100 French and foreign films, often playing tough guys in crime films. But he was best loved in France as TV Commissioner Navarro.

Roger Hanin
French postcard by Editions P.I., offered by Les Carbones Korès Carboplane, no. 1048 A. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Série noire

Roger Hanin was born as Roger Paul Lévy in 1925 in Algiers, then France, now Algeria, to Jewish parents. He went to Paris to follow a study pharmacy.

However, he quickly turned to acting, taking small roles in the theatre. His film debut was a small part in Le chemin de Damas/The Road to Damascus (Max Glass, 1952) with Michel Simon.

Then he played a bodyguard in the French crime film La môme vert-de-gris/Poison Ivy (1953). It was French director Bernard Borderie's first film, which made American-born actor Eddie Constantine a big star in Europe. The screenplay is based the on the 1937 Lemmy Caution thriller Poison Ivy by Peter Cheyney, which had been in 1945 the first title published in Marcel Duhamel's Série noire. The story involves FBI agent Caution investigating gold smuggling activity in Casablanca.

More parts in crime dramas followed, such as in Série noire (Pierre Foucaud, 1955) with Henri Vidal, and Gas-oil/Hi-Jack Highway (Gilles Grangier 1955), starring Jean Gabin and Jeanne Moreau.

Hanin also played a supporting role in the drama Celui qui doit mourir/He Who Must Die (Jules Dassin, 1957), based on the novel Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Roger Hanin (1925-2015)
French collector's card by Biscottes Corvisart, Epinal. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Short tribute for Roger Hanin. Source: Mourn for You (YouTube)

Eurospy films

Roger Hanin also appeared in the Nouvelle Vague classic À bout de soufflé/Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) about a wandering criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg). It was Godard's first feature-length work and represented Belmondo's breakthrough as an actor.

Another classic in which Hanin had a supporting part was Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960) featuring Alain Delon.

He started to play leading roles but in less interesting French films. In Italy, he co-starred in the comedy La marcia su Roma/March on Rome (Dino Risi, 1962), opposite Vittorio Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi.

With Claude Chabrol, Hanin co-wrote the scripts for the Eurospy films Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche/Code Name: Tiger (Claude Chabrol, 1964) and Le Tigre se parfume à la dynamite/Our Agent Tiger (Claude Chabrol, 1965), both featuring Hanin in the starring role of secret agent Le Tigre (the tiger). The films were an attempt to create a French franchise equal to James Bond.

It was not a success and soon Hanin returned to supporting parts as in The Brides of Fu Manchu (Don Sharp, 1966) starring Christopher Lee, Le clair de terre/Earth Light (Guy Gilles, 1970) and the Hollywood Western The Revengers (Daniel Mann, 1972) starring William Holden. In Italy, he appeared opposite Alain Delon in Ducio Tessari's action film Big Guns - Tony Arzenta (1973).

He started to direct films himself, such as Le protecteur/The Protector (Roger Hanin, 1974) with Bruno Cremer. In total he made 10 films and series, for the cinema and TV. His film Train d'enfer/Hell Train (Roger Hanin, 1985) was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Special Prize. In 1977, he founded the theatre festival of Pau.

He kept appearing in well-known films, such as in Les misérables (Robert Hossein, 1982) and often collaborated with director Alexandre Arcady such as at the Jewish mafia drama Le grand pardon/Day of Atonement (Alexandre Arcady, 1982) and the sequel Le Grand Pardon II/Day of Atonement (Alexandre Arcady, 1992).

In France, he is probably best known from TV as commissioner Navarro in the police series Navarro (1989–2006) and the sequel Brigade Navarro (2007-2009). In France the series was a colossal success. After shooting the final episode of Navarro he retired.

From 1959 till her death in 2002, Roger Hanin was married to producer Christine Gouze-Rénal. They often worked together on films. His brother-in-law was former President of France, the late François Mitterrand. Hanin was 89.

Roger Hanin and Enrico Macias sing Les Filles de Mon Pays. Source: Aranjmalar (YouTube).

French trailer for Le Grand Pardon II/Day of Atonement (Alexandre Arcady, 1992). Source: guiri47 (YouTube).

Sources: Thomas Sotinel (Le Monde - French), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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