|Series||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9|
|Aliases||Nighthawk, Rene 1, Rene 2, The Grand Master Big Hoot|
|Affiliation||The French Resistance|
|Portrayed by||Gorden Kaye|
René François Artois is the owner of Café René in the French town of Nouvion. He is the husband of Edith Artois and is a womanizer to his Waitresses Yvette Carte-Blanche and Maria Recamier and Mimi Labong. Whilst having a seemingly quiet life and befriending Germans. Rene is offered the chance to be a pivotal player in the French Resistance by current leader Michelle Dubois. In addition, he is also charged with the protection of the Fallen Madonna painting by Colonel Kurt Von Strohm. Desperately trying to hide away all these incriminating factors, Rene tries to survive the war without any danger and eventually marry his waitress/mistress Yvette, but is determined to marry Edith first in order to prolong his rightful hold on the cafe.
René was Born in Nancy, where also had a fling with Denise Laroque, which saves his life when she recognises him by a mole when the communist resistance wants to shoot him as a collaborator. He has a cousin in Bordaux
During a visit by the Colonel and his captain, Hans Geering, Rene agrees to split a wishbone and Rene personally wishes that the war be over soon. When asked about the availability of Yvette and Maria, Rene organizes their meeting in exchange for some important supplies. Yvette then informs him that a woman is awaiting his presence in the back room. Rene, his wife and his two waitresses head into the room and meet Michelle Dubois, appointed head of French Resistance who holds them at gunpoint. She asks that Rene hide two British airmen in his cafe and a forger who will make fake papers for the soldiers. After hearing that the previous safe house had been found out and the owners shot, Rene becomes less inclined to agree to harboring the airmen.
Later, at the bar, Rene is told by Edith that the forger, a man called Roger LeClerc will make his presence known by having a cigar and asking for a light. When a man dressed in German uniform arrives at the bar with a cigar, Rene unwittingly believes him to be the forger. Rene attempts to move the conversation along by asking if he wants a light, to which the soldier, Lieutenant Hubert Gruber, replies by giving Rene his spare matchbook. When the real forger, LeClerc, does arrive there is a misunderstanding as Gruber is insulted when Rene claims not to have any matches. Frustrated, Rene takes LeClerc into the cellar.
In the back room, Rene is having some alone time with Yvette, when the two British airmen arrive at the window. Rene is infuriated that they have arrived two days too soon, but because of his inability to translate, the airmen don't understand his plea. Accepting their arrival reluctantly, Rene tries to explain to them that they must hide before being spotted. After much deliberation and a conversation going nowhere, Rene is pleased to see Michelle who speaks in their own language to explain the predicament. They are sent to the cellar, while Michelle tells Rene to head upstairs to talk on the radio as London was due to be calling anytime soon. In his mother-in-law's room, Rene speaks to an informant in London who gives him and his wife a message in code, which translates that two more airmen would be arriving soon.
While Rene is discussing terms with LeClerc about the current state of the papers, he is very concerned to see the Colonel and Captain coming down into the cellar. The Colonel is about to turn him in with the airmen, until Herr Flick of the Gestapo arrives in the cafe, and Rene is relieved that they offer to cover for him as they wish to hide the Fallen Madonna painting in his cellar too. After Herr Flick is sent away, the Colonel tells Rene to keep in mind how he has saved his skin, and that he will now do the orders when it comes to time with the waitresses. Rene hesitantly agrees.
Rene is stubborn, sarcastic and reluctant, but can sometimes see himself good at something. He is also a coward and the only way the Resistance or the Germans are using him is by threatening to shoot him. He is very caring .he recovered and got much better
Aliases / disguises
- When communicating with London through the hidden radio in Fanny La Fans room, he is often referred to as "Nighthawk". Naturally Edith is then several times referred to as Mrs. Nighthawk.
- After being shot and buried, René have to pretend he is his twin-brother as a cover up for his survival. For the sake of convenience, him and his twin-brother were called René 1 and René 2.
- As a cover up story for a secret operation by the Resistance, René need to convince the germans the existence of The Grand Order of the Night Owls where he is the Grand Master Big Hoot.
- With a request from Helga René is asked to dress up and disguise himself as Heinrich Himmler, in order to break into the Chateau and release Herr Flick before he cracks.
- When being captured by the Communist Resistance, disguised as a german leutanant, he is adressed as Lt. Von Smittelhoffen by Denise Laroque.
Talents and abilities
Despite being very reluctant, Rene has many known talents.
- Pianist - Rene is a potentially capable pianist, as shown on one occasion where his talents are badly covered up by his wife's incompetent singing.
- Survivalist - Rene, in many episodes, is shown as an extremely capable survivor, living through a firing squad, a collapsing ceiling, the Battle of Nouvion and also a duel with Monsieur Alfonse.
- Resilience - Rene is able to survive a volley of shots by a German firing squad. But it must be noted that the bullets were wooden and not meant to kill him.
- Covering up his affairs - Rene is good at covering up his affairs with Maria/Yvette by giving his wife excuses when being caught alone with them. He thinks about things and gets stressed