An actor turned director, producer, and screenwriter, Claude Berri is known in France and abroad for making films that offer both comedic and dramatic explorations of the prejudices and anxieties that plague most people, and their alternately deleterious and hilarious repercussions. His work tends to be intensely personal and has oftentimes been informed by his own background as the child of Jewish immigrant parents.
Born as Claude Langmann in Paris on July 1, 1934, Berri grew up during the war years under the protection of his parents' gentile friends. As a young adult, he worked for a brief time as a furrier before becoming an actor. He made his screen debut in Claude Autant-Lara's Le Bon Dieu Sans Confession (1953). After playing a series of small roles in such films as Claude Chabrol's Les Bonnes Femmes (1960), Henri-Georges Cluzot's La Verité (1960), and Maurice Pialat's Janine (1962), Berri made his directorial debut with the 1965 short La Poulet. The film won an Oscar for Best Live Short and a prize at the Venice Film Festival, and Berri proceeded to release two more short films, Les Baisers and La Chance et L'Amour, the following year.