Wednesday, 23 September 2020

La Muse de l'existentialisme

"My weapons have always been: some mascara, some powder and a black liner pencil."

“If I want to be anybody, I want to be Juliette Gréco.” - Marianne Faithfull

The woman who almost single-handedly became the living embodiment of the free spirit and bohemianism of post-liberation Paris in the late 1940s to the 50s, “the muse of existentialism" (Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus both wrote lyrics for her), style icon of the black-clad Beatniks, lover of Miles Davis, Sacha Distel and of Darryl F Zanuck (and many, many more), the epitome of "cool", Mademoiselle Juliette Gréco est morte.

Mlle Gréco's career began in a relatively lowly fashion in the cabaret clubs, but her instinct for being in the "right place at the right time" meant that the places she sang in were the type of venue that attracted fellow bohemians such as Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Marlon Brando among their regulars, and her natural beauty captivated photographers such as Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Hollywood inevitably beckoned (in the form of the aforementioned Mr Zanuck and David O Selznick) but she soon tired of it; she eventually did become a popular actress in French cinema.

It was for her much-lauded interpretations of that most beloved of art-forms, the French chanson, however, that made her into a "national treasure" in her native country, as well as on the international stage. She only performed her final farewell tour at the age of 87; the culmination of a seven-decade career.


  • Her family survived being interred in Ravensbrück concentration camp during the War, and Juliette herself was imprisoned by the Nazis. It was not until 1959 that she finally agreed to perform in Germany.
  • Apparently she inspired the Beatles’ 1965 classic Michelle.
  • Renowned as a lifelong Left-wing supporter, many were surprised when she agreed to give a command performance for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1981  - but what she gave him was a show entirely consisting of songs he had banned. "I went off to dead silence", she recalled. "It was the greatest triumph of my career."
  • She was awarded Commander of the Legion of Honour in 2012.

RIP, Juliette Gréco (7th February 1927 – 23rd September 2020)

[More Mlle Greco here]

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Forbidden Honey

"Science fiction double feature
Doctor X will build a creature
See androids fighting Brad and Janet
Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet
Wo oh oh oh oh oh
At the late night, double feature, picture show."

Miss Anne Francis, one of those rare creatures who was more famous for having her name featured in a song from a worldwide smash hit musical than she ever was as an actress, would have been 90 years old today.

In fact, Miss Francis has more of a cult following today than probably at any time during her acting career. Apart from the aforementioned Forbidden Planet (beloved of 50s sci-fi B-movie geeks everywhere), she was also the star of America's answer to (the far better-remembered) The Avengers, Honey West - in which she portrayed a feisty private detective (often referred to as the "private eyeful" for her voluptuous figure) who dressed to kill, drove a super-cool AC Cobra convertible, was trained in martial arts, used loads of cunningly-disguised spy gadgetry, and kept an ocelot as a pet! Surprisingly, the series only managed one season before being itself replaced by Steed and Mrs Peel in the US TV schedules.

Her career continued in character roles in daytime soaps and popular shows such as Cannon, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Dallas, Wonder Woman and The Golden Girls, almost to the end.

It makes one wonder - what if the legendary Sydney Newman had never masterminded the creation of The Avengers; would Honey West now be "the" fondly-remembered femme fatale-led action series that formed part of the mystique of the Swinging Sixties?

Anne Lloyd Francis (16th September 1930 – 2nd January 2011)

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Watch for baggy knees; there is nothing worse

"In those days, trousers were appallingly cut for women so I used to go to a gentlemen's tailor to have them made. Nowadays you can look at some quite highly priced clothes and be astonished at how badly they are finished. But then, people don't look for that any more, it's only old bags like me that do. When I need to look smart, I go for Armani because he's just absolutely brilliant at tailoring. I always dress for myself, not men or other women."

"If a man holds a door open for me or pulls back a chair so that this old bag can sit down, I'm delighted. Women who moan and carp about that sort of thing are stupid."

"The leather catsuit I wore in The Avengers was a total nightmare; it took a good 45 minutes to get unzipped to go to the loo. It was like struggling in and out of a wet-suit. Once I got into the jersey catsuits, they were very easy to wear but you had to watch for baggy knees; there is nothing worse."

"I got a lot of very odd fan mail while I was in that show, but my mum used to enjoy replying to it. Some of the men who wrote to me must have been a bit startled because she would offer really motherly advice. I would get a letter from a teenage boy, say, who was overexcited and my mother would write back saying: 'My daughter is far too old for you and what you really need is a good run around the block.'."

"Yes I have a dark side, doesn’t everyone? I’ve played a lot of evil, ball-breaking women. And, if you’re honest, you’ll just drag up from the depths all the times you’ve hated or felt passionately about something and play it."

"The older you get, I have to say, the funnier you find life. That's the only way to go. If you get serious about yourself as you get old, you are pathetic."

The Avengers, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Mother Love, Evil Under The Sun, Theatre of Blood, Mrs Bradley Mysteries, Pygmalion - we loved her in all of them.

RIP, Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE (20th July 1938 – 10th September 2020)

The world is a far more dreary place without her.

[More Diana Rigg here]

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

She is the Champion

Felicitations go today to the lovely Marge Champion, who is (remarkably) still with us, aged 101!

All hail.

With her former husband Gower [they divorced in 1973; he died in 1980], the feisty Miss Champion revitalised the world of dancing (as performer and choreographer) in the Technicolor age in such films as Show Boat, Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly, Lovely To Look At, Three for the Show and this one...

  • Miss Champion was the model for Walt Disney’s original Snow White.
  • Their film Lovely to Look At was a remake of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie Roberta; Marge and Gower were originally asked to do a series of colour remakes of Fred and Ginger's classics, but they turned down the proposal.
  • Among many others who got their first break in Marge and Gower's sumptuously choreographed shows was none other than Miss Carol Channing, who Marge "discovered" in 1940.
  • In 2009, at age 90, Marge was still dancing - as featured in a television documentary on her friendship with dance partner Donald Saddler [watch it here].
Marjorie Celeste "Marge" Champion (born Marjorie Belcher, 2nd September 1919)

[More Champion stuff here and here]