Pierre Étaix

Pierre Étaix (French: [etɛks]; 23 November 1928 – 14 October 2016) was a French clown, comedian and filmmaker. Étaix made a series of short- and feature-length films, many of them co-written by influential screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière. He won an Academy Award for best live action short film in 1963. Due to a legal dispute with a distribution company, his films were unavailable from the 1970s until 2009.[1]

Pierre Étaix
Pierre Etaix 1.JPG
Pierre Étaix, 2011
Born(1928-11-23)23 November 1928
Roanne, France
Died14 October 2016(2016-10-14) (aged 87)
Paris, France
OccupationActor, director, clown
Years active1954–2016
Annie Violette Fratellini
(m. 1969⁠–⁠1997)

As an actor, assistant director and gag writer, Étaix worked with the likes of Jacques Tati, Robert Bresson, Nagisa Oshima, Otar Iosseliani and Jerry Lewis, the last of whom cast the comedian in his unreleased film The Day the Clown Cried.


Étaix was born in 1928 in Roanne, France. He was trained as a graphic designer and introduced to the art of stained glass by Théodore-Gérard Hanssen. He settled in Paris where he worked as a magazine illustrator while performing in cabarets and music halls, such as The Golden Horse, The Three Donkeys, ABC, the Alhambra, Bobino and Olympia, and a circus performer with the clown Nino.[1]

He met Jacques Tati in 1954 and worked as a draftsman and gagman on Tati's film Mon Oncle (1958), including the creation of the film's promotional poster, then as assistant director. According to many film critics as well as his fellow film makers,[1] Pierre Étaix was a continuation of the great masters of slapstick and the comedy film the silent era such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Max Linder, Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy.

His first feature films as director were The Suitor (1962) and Yoyo (1965), where he paid homage to the circus world. He then directed two feature films, As Long as You've Got Your Health (1966), and The Great Love (1969) that he co-scripted with Carrière.

Faced with the scarcity of French circus artists, Étaix decided to found the National Circus School (1973) with Annie Fratellini, whom he married in 1969, and wore a white clown suit during tours of their own circus, having long played the tramp.

Etaix died from complications of an intestinal infection on 14 October 2016 in Paris. He was 87.[1]

Jerry Lewis once remarked that twice in his life he understood what genius meant: the first time when he looked up the definition in a dictionary, and the second time when he met Pierre Etaix.[2]



As director[6]Edit

As actorEdit

  • Pickpocket (1959) - second accomplice
  • Tire-au-flanc 62 (The Army Game, 1960) - Le chef de gare (uncredited)
  • Rupture (1961, Short) - L'homme qui reçoit une lettre de rupture
  • Une grosse tête (1962)
  • Heureux anniversaire (1962, Short) - Le mari
  • Le Soupirant (1962) - Pierre, the Suitor
  • Le Pèlerinage (1962, Short)
  • Yo Yo (1965) - Yoyo / le millionaire
  • Tant qu'on a la santé (As Long As We've Got Our Health, 1966) - Pierre
  • Le Voleur (The Thief of Paris, 1967) - Le pickpocket (uncredited)
  • Le Grand Amour (1969) - Pierre
  • I Clowns (1970, TV Movie) - Himself
  • The Day the Clown Cried (1972, unreleased) - Gustav
  • Bel Ordure (1973)
  • Sérieux comme le plaisir (1975) - Le garçon d'étage
  • Noctuor (1978, Short)
  • La Métamorphose (1983, TV Movie)
  • Max, mon amour (1985) - Le détective / Detective
  • Nuit docile (1987) - SOS Amor
  • L'âge de monsieur est avancé (1987) - L'auteur
  • Henry & June (1990) - Henry's Friend No. 1
  • Jardins en automne (Gardens in Autumn, 2006)
  • Lucifer et moi (2008)
  • Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009) - L'inventeur des histoires drôles (uncredited)
  • Chantrapas (2010) - Le producteur français
  • Le Havre (2011) - Docteur Becker
  • Chant d'hiver (2015) - Marquis-clochard


  1. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (14 October 2016). "Pierre Étaix, Director and Slapstick Actor, Dies at 87". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Bergan, Ronald (14 October 2016). "Pierre Etaix obituary". The Guardian.
  3. ^ "3rd Moscow International Film Festival (1963)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  4. ^ "Visual Comedy Award - Slapstick | Bristol's Silent Comedy Festival". Bristol's Silent Comedy Festival website. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  5. ^ Hommage à Pierre Etaix, Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique, 15 October 2016 (in French)
  6. ^ "Pierre Etaix". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 30 June 2019.

External linksEdit