Henri Langlois, 62, founder-director of the Cinematheque Francaise and one of the most influential figures of the international film community, died Thursday after a heart attack at his Paris home.
Mr. Langlois was regarded as a patron saint by most of the French film establishment. Director Jean Renoir, referring to himself and other filmmakers of his own and later generations, once said of Mr. Langlois: "We owe our passion for films to him."
The collection of upward of 50,000 films, said to be the world's largest, which is the basis of the Cinematheque, is now housed in the Palais de Chaillot, on the right bank of the Seine opposite the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Langlois started amassing the films in the mid-1930s, and kept them from falling into German hands during the Nani occupation.
Also located in the Palais de Chaillot are Mr. Langlois' extraordinary museum of film artifacts and one of two inexpensive film theaters (the other in the Rue d'Ulm) he operated for years.
The son of a French engineer, Mr. Langlois was born in Izmir, Turkey. His enthusiasm for firm collecting began in his student days.
"I did it," he once said, "because I loved these old films, and because soon it would have been impossible to see them." The collection, which includes items from many nations and from the earliest days of the motion picture, was brought under the wing of the French government in 1945.
Mr. Langlois became the center of a controversial storm in the film world in 1968, when the incumbent minister of culture, Andre Malraux, tried to dismiss him from the Cinematheque for alleged administrative irregularities. A worldwide protest spearheaded by such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles and Jean-luc Godard led to his reinstatement 10 weeks later.
In recent years Mr. Langlois had been working in collaboration with Americans to establish a cinematheque in New York City, for which I. M. Pei has drawn architectural plans.
In 1974, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Mr. Langlois a special Oscar for his contributions to the art.