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Micheaux, Oscar (02 January 1884–25 March 1951), novelist and motion picture producer, was born near Cairo, Illinois, the son of Calvin Swan Micheaux and Belle Willingham, farmers. This information derives in part from Oscar Micheaux’s death certificate and in part from his semiautobiographical work of fiction, ...

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Renoir, Jean (15 September 1894–12 February 1979), film director, novelist, and playwright, was born in Paris, France, the son of Pierre Auguste Renoir, an impressionist painter, and Aline Charigot. Raised in Paris and Provence, Renoir graduated college in 1913 and became a cavalry officer. With the outbreak of World War I, he went to the front as a second lieutenant, was wounded, and later served as an aerial reconnaissance pilot. Shortly after his father’s death, in 1920 he married Andrée Heuschling, one of Pierre Auguste’s models who soon after, as Catherine Hessling, became the star of Jean’s earliest films. Renoir and Hessling had one child before they separated in the early 1930s....

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Wilder, Gene (11 June 1933–29 Aug. 2016), actor, writer, director, and novelist, was born Jerome “Jerry” Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Velvel (William) Silberman, a Jewish salesman who emigrated from Russia, and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman, from a Polish Jewish family in Chicago.

Jerry became a comedian when he was eight, hoping to make his mother laugh as she recovered from her first heart attack. “If my mother hadn’t laughed, I probably wouldn’t be a comic actor” (...