Photo of Jean-Pierre Melville Jean-Pierre Melville

Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in Paris on Oct. 20, 1917, director Jean-Pierre Melville was a fan of all things American: He adopted the name Melville as a tribute to his favorite author; he drank Coca-Cola and wore a Stetson; and he made films that blended the American ethos of directors such as John Ford with a postwar sensibility formed by his experiences with the French Resistance.

Melville began making 16mm films as a teenager and formed his own production company shortly after World War II. His first feature film, Le Silence de la Mer (1949), created a stir through its claustrophobic look, location-shot scenes and use of untrained actors.

In the years that followed, Melville would become a major influence on the French new wave through minimalist crime dramas such as Bob le Flambeur and Le Samourai that featured charismatic male leads, including Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Jean-Pierre Melville in Léon Morin, Priest

Léon Morin, Priest

1961 NR

As spiritual guardian of his tiny French town during the Nazi occupation, priest Leon Morin is convinced that anyone can be saved. So, when communist militant Barny barges into his church and tears his religion apart, he reacts with compassion.

  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Deuxième Souffle Le Deuxième Souffle
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Army of Shadows Army of Shadows
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Bob Le Flambeur Bob Le Flambeur
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Breathless Breathless
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Samourai Le Samourai
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Le Cercle Rouge Le Cercle Rouge
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Dirty Money Dirty Money
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Two Men in Manhattan Two Men in Manhattan
  • Jean-Pierre Melville in Les Enfants Terribles Les Enfants Terribles