Henri Verneuil, 81, a prolific filmmaker who directed some of France's greatest movie stars, died Friday, according to the French Fine Arts Academy. The cause of death was not announced.
Verneuil directed such giants of the French cinema as Jean Gabin and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Both appeared in Verneuil's 1962 film "Un Singe en Hiver" (A Monkey in Winter).
Born Achod Malakian in Rodosto, Turkey, Verneuil was a naturalized French citizen of Armenian ancestry. After starting out as a journalist and radio commentator, he began directing shorts in 1946 and turned to features in the early 1950s.
In 1991, he directed "Mayrig," a movie dealing with the Armenian genocide and starring Omar Sharif and Claudia Cardinale.
Among Verneuil's most memorable films is "La Vache et le Prisonnier" (The Cow and I), a charming 1959 movie about a man's adventures with a stubborn cow.
In 1996, Verneuil was awarded an honorary Cesar, France's equivalent of the Oscar, for lifetime achievement in film.