About Alain Renoir
English professor Alain Renoir was the son of famed director Jean Renoir and grandson of famed Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He was a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.
Renoir was cinematographer on his father's classic "The Rules of the Game." He worked as an assistant cameraman on his father's 1938 film "The Human Beast." He appeared in several documentary films about his father's career.
He fought in the French Army during WWII and was wounded in battle. After World War II, he started college at the University of Santa Barbara. There he met his future wife, Jane, who was obtaining a degree in nutrition. One of his required classes was nutrition, and he had an assignment to describe a nutritious meal. With Jane's help, he and a friend devised a meal with the least nutrition possible. It drove his professor crazy.
Despite not being able to speak English until after he joined the American Army, Renoir was admitted to the Department of English at Harvard University's graduate school. While there, where he obtained a doctorate in Old English Literature under the brilliant (and slightly wacky) Francis P. Magoun, Jr.
Upon receiving his Ph.D., Renoir went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he remained a professor of English until his retirement in 1989. He co-founded the Department of Comparative Literature there, where it still thrives. A number of important scholars of Old English received their doctorates under his guidance. He was a formidable figure in the field of Oral-Formulaic theory, where his experience as a cinematographer helped bring to life the ancient techniques of storytelling of 7th-10th century England.
He often spoke with great fondness of his father, Jean Renoir, to his students, but he never permitted anyone to discuss his grandfather. Occasionally he would make reference to Pierre-Auguste Renoir (whom he never met) by saying, "I had a grandfather who painted pictures."
Alain Renoir died at his country estate in Northern California on December 12, 2008 in the presence of his late-life companion, Pat Powers.