Monday, 14 July 2014

Une étoile qui explose dans le ciel

Folies Bergère costumes by Erté

Clare Luce in one of Mistinguett's outfits

"In spite of the conventions of the time, a woman of spirit could easily make an interesting life for herself if she did not waste too much time visiting, attending fittings at her dressmakers, or engaging in love affairs.

"These demi-mondaines loved making theatrical entrances... in very light dresses standing out clearly from the dark suits of their admirers massed behind them and over whom they towered with their plumed hats or lofty sprays of feathers. If every head did not turn on recognising her flourishing soprano laugh, her entrance had failed.

"This is the moment when the Champs Élysées, from the Place de la Concord to the Étoile, and especially around the Rond-Point, gradually awaken[ed] to a night life quite different to the daytime."

- extracts from La Belle Époque: An Essay by Philip Jullian.
In 1895, at the height of La Belle Époque, a young Jeanne Bourgeois made her début as Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris - and the legendary era of the Parisian Folies began in earnest.

Facts about Mistinguett:
  • At the pinnacle of her fame she was the highest paid female entertainer in the world.
  • It was she who first popularised the "showgirl look" of massive feather headdresses, and the art of entering her stage down a glittering staircase - a look upon which many early Hollywood musical numbers by Busby Berkeley relied heavily for their impact.
  • Her early cabaret partner (and lover) went on to eclipse her fame when he landed parts in Hollywood - Maurice Chevalier.
  • She became notorious worldwide when, during argument with her American dancing partner Earl Leslie, she shot at him twice but missed him both times.
  • Her signature song Mon Homme was destined to become a torch song standard when it was given English lyrics and became My Man, a hit for Fanny Brice that was immortalised by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.
  • Mistinguett died, aged 80, in 1956.
"There have been greater comediennes, greater singers, greater dancers - but all in a single package, there has been only one Mistinguett. Complete shows were built around her, she would carry an entire revue on her lovely shoulders, the spirit of the whole evening. Truly, there is no one like her now - and if another great personality like hers should come along, she would be a star exploding across the sky. - Maurice Chevalier.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

Mistinguett on Wikipedia

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