Pierre Étaix | French clown, director, 87

Pierre Étaix, 87, a French clown and filmmaker whose stylish acrobatics and melancholy manner made him an Academy Award-winning master of slapstick comedy, died Friday in Paris.

The cause was complications of an intestinal infection, his wife, Odile Étaix, told the Agence France-Presse.

Although Mr. Étaix directed and starred in only five feature films and several shorts - including Heureux Anniversaire (Happy Anniversary), which won the Oscar for best live-action short in 1963 - he was considered one of the most brilliant physical comedians of the last half-century.

Mr. Étaix's film career collapsed after the release of Pays de Cocagne (Land of Milk and Honey, 1971), a satirical documentary about French consumerism following that country's May 1968 demonstrations.

After the film was scorned by critics and audiences, Mr. Étaix found it difficult to obtain new producers for his work and returned to the stage.

Pierre Étaix was born in Roanne, in France's Loire region, on Dec. 23, 1928. His father was a merchant and his mother a homemaker.

Captivated as a child by clowns and the films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Mr. Étaix practiced magic tricks and music, learning to play the concertina, mandolin, saxophone and trumpet.

- Washington Post

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