Folies de Femmes
The Folies de Femmes revue was the third show launched at the French Casino New York in February 1936 with an array of talent and spectacular scenes that included the Women from Paris, Military Fashions, Music of the Accordians and Supper in Paris.
The production was staged by Jean Le Seyeux of the Folies Bergere and rehearsed in Paris under the supervision of Clifford Fyscher. The choreography and ensemble arrangements were by Natalie Komarova, music was by George Komaroff, scenery by Lavignac and Pellegry and costumes by Max Weldy. Following the first edition (1e) there was a revised, second, summer edition (2e) before it was transferred to London in the autumn of 1936 for a third edition (3e), where it almost reverted back to the original format. There were great changes in the speciality acts between each show and some big production numbers dropped from the summer edition in New York, which do not go down to well – even the New York Times thought that it was not quite as lavish in its costumes and décor as the original first edition.
The Swiss, star Andre Randall so long a favourite conferencier at the Folies Bergere in Paris was the MOC in both New York editions and was equally at home in French and English. He was regarded as a svelte foil for the production he paced and did a great job. But he did not transfer to London his role being taken by Al Kramer.
The inclusion of Andre Stravinsly’s widow billed as Arlette Simon was a nifty little touch of the old Hammerstein that Fischer capitalised upon even though she was only one of the show girls. There were a range of other acts from France, Germany, England and Switzerland but Variety felt that the show was stronger in the second half than the first.
For Part one Andre Randall introduced the Women of Paris (all editions) with Dorothy Delford as the prime nude and Andree Lorain (Miss Paris 1935) as one of the highlighted models. There was a display of Parisian types including the Midinette (hat shop girl), the Coquette (Frivolous girl), Femme qui a du Chien (personality girl), Poule de Luxe (the courtesan), Femme qui du Chic (smart girl), Vamp (herself), Femme qui n’a rien a se meitre (the nothing to wear girl), Femme de Cinema (movie girl), Trottin (errand girl), Femme qui s’habille (adaptability girl), Femmes Excentrique (odd girl), Corset (girdle girl), Femmes qui plait aux femmes (mannish girl), Femmes comme il faut (proper girl), Femmes en Serie, Premiere Femme (eve) and La Parisinne 1936.
Mlle Emilee Adreon from the Alhambra in Paris followed with a dance speciality (for the summer edition this was by Freda Sullivan and in London Anita Jakobi) followed by the novelty football game (1e and 3e) with a red and blue team, which led into the rather bizarre Little Fred dog football team from the Scala Berlin (1e and 3e) introduced by Sherkot (1e only) a white chalked comedian with licorice coloured lips and eyebrows from Cochran’s London revue Streamline making his first appearance in America. In the summer edition there were the Hurdle Girls, Arsene Gautier and his intelligent, dumb friends (another dog act), the Russian novelty act of Karavaeff (2e) and Ben Dova (2e) in Concicial Inebriate – a kind of musical and acrobatic act.
Another big spectacular scene was Military Fashions (all editions) with an announcer, lieutenant, Captain, Colonel, military dresses, the Spahis, Marshall of France and Drums followed by a military Fashions parade with Vera Nargo (from Alhambra, Paris) and Randall doing the pacing. Piroska (1e and 3e) from the Ambassadors Paris did an eccentric splits and snappy dance speciality.
Marita Farell did a vocal introduction to a spider web number called Autumn Sympony (all editions, except Nita Carol replaced Farrell in the summer edition) followed by a political poke at the Nazi’s in Strictly Forbidden (1e). The finale of the first half was the tableau Birds (1e and 3e) with some intricate wiring and staging as the sundry birds flit through space. Including pheasant, Guinea hen, Rooster, Numidi, Ostrich, Marabout, Bird of Paradise, Aigrettes, Nightingale, Humming birds, Blue bird and the charmer, the Dream bird, Dream bird’s feather and birds on the perches. Marita Farell warbled as the nightingale (1e and 3e). Interspersed were dancing specialities from Estelle and LeRoy, from the Savoy hotel, London (1e), Kirby’s flying ballet (1e and 3e) and Mlle Adreon (1e). In London (3e) the dance speciality was by Horam and Vander .
Part two opened with League of Nations (all editions) showing international politics done in masks with two of the three Bredwins (Jack and Joe). This was followed by Triangle (all editions), a dancing act of three – two boys and a girl – with Sonia, Gannser and Andre, a cute adagio dancing conceit impersonating Mussolini and John Bull wooing a coy La Belle France (1e only). In New York (2e) this was played by Dmitri, Karel and Andre and in London (3e) by Lowe, Burnoff and Wensley. In the London run (3e) Emil Boreo and Freddy Zane also appeared in speciality numbers. Cilly Feindt, a German act from the Scala Berlin was next riding the Prince of France, a beautiful white horse rivalling the pink-white equine in Jumbo (1e and 3e).
The next big spectacular scene was the couturier conceit of Rue de la Paix (1e and 2e) featuring a dress maker (Andre Randall), Italian customer, Hungarian customer, French customer, Premiere, Mannequins, the fiancé and fiancée. Randall was a swishy dressmaker and the hit was Alphonse Berg as the lightning dressmaker who modelled, with long strips of cloth and a couple of doo-dabs, some nifty sartorial creations on the sundry mannequins. This number was not included in the London (3ed) edition.
Nautical creations of Antoine (1e and 3e) followed, a kind of partial payoff to France’s number one coiffeur wit hthe girls in sundry bizarre head-dresses representing the Adriatic sea, the calm sea, the sun, coral, pearl, octopus, rough sea, shell, siren, algae, sea serpent, sea butterfly and birth of Venus.
Choppy from the Ambassadeurs in Paris featured in the Montmartre number (all editions) showing lightning painting on the girls bare backs. It was a switch on the current George White Scandals number where the girls front torsos above the waist are made up in facial simulations. Piroska seen earlier did another eccentric dance in Grands Ecarts (1e and 3e).
This led into another big scene called To the Music of the Accordians (all editions – in the summer edition this closed the first part) and included the femme gaucho band – the ten Argentinas from the Alhmabra, Paris who were illuminated pseudo-accordians. The femme gauchos are in odd, red, green, orange and blue costume. There was a speciality dance in an eclipsed shadow effect achieved by bunch lights aimed at the audience by
Roberts and Gaby (1e and 2e) or Lola and Louis (3e). Estelle and LeRoy did a tango dance (1e) followed by the three Bredwins an acro-comedy act from the Folies Bergere.
The finale was the elaborate supper in Paris (all editions) showing a festive board with nudes on toast, a riot of baubles and bubbles and dripping cadelabras.
The London show (3e) was interesting because like in New York, two performance were given at dinner and supper but the supper show was not the same as the dinner show and was an abbreviated version, which may have led to the formulation of staging two different shows entirely at dinner and supper a few years later.
All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent
Take a look at the page about The French Casino Project
Take a look at the page about The French Casino
Take a look at the page about The London Casino
Take a look at the page about The Revue Folies Bergere
Take a look at the page about Folie Parisienne
Take a look at the page about Clifford Fischer
The New York Times and Variety