Georges Lautner, who has died aged 87, was a hard-working, prolific film director whose movies in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s became part of the French canon and are still adored today. The films were often hilarious and wildly popular lines from several of them have entered the popular imagination and are quoted almost as if they are proverbs. President Francois Hollande said Lautner's popular comedies were part of cinematic heritage of France.
His interest in film began in his childhood when he would accompany his mother, the actress Renee Saint-Cyr, into the studio. Eventually, he started doing odd jobs, including set design.
Any hopes of a career in film, though, were delayed by military service (even if he did serve in the documentary unit). But on his return to civilian life, he started making films.
His first was in 1960 and was called Sink or Swim. The theme was espionage and crime, which became signature subjects for Lautner.
By the 1980s, he was making a film a year, mostly a mix of spoof thrillers, comedies and the occasional thriller. His most successful, and probably the best remembered, are the Monocle series of comedies which featured Paul Meurisse as a monocle-wearing adventurer.
His 1963 film Crooks in Clover was also popular and is now seen as a classic of French cinema. The working title was The Last Stop of the Pretentious, which was perfect for Lautner. "When we filmed it, we felt like having fun," he said. "Maybe that's all there is to it: fooling around."
This was typical of Lautner, who was always famous for pursuing an unpretentious style, even at the height of the French New Wave in cinema: his films were fast-paced and accessible. Being meaningful was not something in which he was interested.
"I didn't want glory or to make masterpieces," he once said, "but popular films that would please the greatest number. International recognition didn't interest me. I was passionate at what I did with my faithful team. We made the films we wanted as quickly as possible. But with time, my commercial films appear almost intellectual."
His other films included La Pacha starring Jean Gabin, Death of a Corrupt Man with Alan Delon and My Other Husband. In 1988, he made The Murdered House, an atmospheric thriller. His work is credited with guiding a generation of actors.
He is survived by his son and daughter. His wife Caroline pre-deceased him.