José Giovanni, a former Parisian death-row inmate who became a famous director and crime writer, died on April 24 from a brain hemorrhage. He was 80.
Giovanni was a member of the French resistance during World War II, then joined a criminal gang run by his Corsican uncle. He was only 22 years old when he and his older brother were arrested for burglarizing a house in Paris. The homeowner died during the commission of the robbery, and the siblings were arrested and sentenced to death. His brother escaped from prison only to be killed in a fight. After many requests by his father, the French government commuted Giovanni’s sentence to life imprisonment and pardoned him eight years later.
In the late 1950s, Giovanni launched his movie career as a screenwriter. He penned “Du rififi chez les femmes” (The Riff Raff Girls) for director Alex Joffe, and adapted his debut novel, “Le Trou,” (The Hole) into a 1960 film of the same name.
Giovanni also spent 30 years directing films. In 1972, he turned his novel, “La Scoumoune” (The Hitman) into a popular gangster movie. He followed that up with “Deux hommes dans la ville” (Two Men in Town), a drama about an ex-bank robber whose past catches up with him. His final movie, “Mon père, il m’a sauvé la vie” (My Father Saved My Life), which focuses on his father’s tireless efforts to free him from prison, was completed in 2001.