Edouard Molinaro, Oscar Nominee for Directing ‘La Cage,’ Dies at 85
By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS
Published: December 8, 2013
Edouard Molinaro, who received an Oscar nomination for directing the 1978 French film “La Cage aux Folles,” which was remade in the United States as “The Birdcage” and as a Broadway musical, died on Saturday in Paris. He was 85.
His death was confirmed in a statement by President François Hollande of France.
Mr. Molinaro was a successful screenwriter and director with credits for many French films and television shows, but he is best known for “Cage,” which at the time was the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever in the United States.
The film is about a gay couple, Renato and Albin, who run a nightclub in the South of France that features drag shows. When Renato’s son gets engaged and brings his girlfriend’s conservative parents to meet them, Renato and Albin (a drag star) pretend to be husband and wife.
Mr. Molinaro said he wanted to make a comedy with gay characters because they had previously been represented only in dramas. He hoped the audience would “laugh with, not at, homosexuals — the way one would with other people,” he told The New York Times in 1981.
President Hollande praised Mr. Molinaro for working with some of the best French actors and having a rich and varied career.
“Our country lost a great, appealing and original filmmaker,” Mr. Hollande said in a statement.
Mr. Molinaro was born in Bordeaux, France, on May 31, 1928. He started out making crime films and went on to direct “Oscar” in 1967, with Louis de Funès, a popular French comedian, and “My Uncle Benjamin” in 1969. Among the stars he worked with were Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve.
The screenplay for “Cage” was adapted from a play by Jean Poiret and written by Mr. Poiret, Mr. Molinaro and others.
In New York, the film ran for 19 months at the 68th Street Playhouse on the Upper East Side. The theater’s owner, Meyer Ackerman, said it drew a diverse audience: men and women, gay and straight, young and old.
“It’s gentle and human, and compassionate in its spoofing,” Mr. Ackerman told The New York Times in 1980. “It offended no one.”
Some critics, however, argued that it relied too heavily on stereotypes. It was “naughty in the way of comedies that pretend to be sophisticated but actually serve to reinforce the most popular conventions and most witless stereotypes,” Vincent Canby wrote in a reviewfor The New York Times.
A sequel, “ La Cage aux Folles II,” also directed by Mr. Molinaro, came out in 1980.
A Broadway musical version ran from 1983 to 1987 and won several Tony Awards. There were revivals in 2004, and in 2010 starring Kelsey Grammer.
The American film adaptation, “The Birdcage,” appeared in 1996, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
Information about Mr. Molinaro’s survivors was not immediately available.
When Mr. Molinaro saw his film “Cage” for the first time, he thought it was so bad that it might be his last job. He was surprised that he ended up being known for comedy, he told The Times.
“If my most commercial films have been comedies, it’s almost in spite of myself,” Mr. Molinaro said. “I don’t laugh very easily.”