Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

'Legendary' director Berri dies

Claude Berri
Berri produced Roman Polanski's 1979 drama Tess

French director and producer Claude Berri, best known for Jean de Florette, has died of a stroke at the age of 74.

He passed away in a Paris hospital, where he was admitted on Saturday.

Known as the "godfather" of French film, Berri worked with generations of top French actors and won an Oscar for his 1963 short film Le Poulet.

His work includes the two-part saga on life in Provence, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. President Nicolas Sarkozy callled him "legendary".

Berri suffered a stroke once before, in 2006, and had been ill for some time.

Last year, Berri was one of the producers of the record-breaking comedy Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis, which became the highest-grossing film in French box-office history and is due to be remade in Hollywood under the title Welcome to the Sticks.

Born Claude Langmann to working-class parents in Paris, he started his cinematic career as an actor but gave it up to concentrate on making short films.

Mr Sarkozy said Berri was one of the most gifted producers and directors of his generation.

He described him as "the most legendary figure of French cinema".

Before his death, Berri was directing his 20th film, a comedy called Tresor.

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