Le Grand Ecart, Paris

Le Grand Ecart, Paris

At once the most exclusive, chicest and smallest nightclub in Paris in the Jazz Age of the 1920s was Le Grand Ecart at 7 Rue Fromentin (just off the Boulevard Clichy and not far from Place Blanche and the Moulin Rouge) and created by Louis Moyses, creator of the other legendary venue Boeuf sur le Toit.

It is not known exactly when Le Grand Ecart opened but the first mention in the press was in early 1927 but it may have been opened before this date. It had a modest entrance with a white stucco facade, projecting marquee in leaded glass with lettering on the side and a door with a diamond art deco design. The bar was in the entrance way from the street and was home to the wealthiest men and women in Europe who sat on stools.

A view of the bar at Le Grand Ecart, Paris

The main tiny room was lined with mirrors around the smallest dance floor in the world. It was reported that The room is tiny and the dance floor tinier. The internal decor was in black and white. The mirrored walls were broken with occasional surfaces covered with shiny black oilcloth which also reflected colours, lights and people. The cornices and angles of the room were outlined in strings of the smallest coloured electric lights like those hanging from a Christmas tree. The place sparkled. The ceiling was made of squares of corrugated papers and the chairs and banquettes were made of straw coloured wicker.

It was noted that there was a procession of interesting people who pass through the door every evening and it was regarded as the real treat of an evening out in Montmartre. ‘This is the spot where we find familiar young men, habitues of the Ritz bar, gathered in groups on high stolls. These young men are the barometers of Paris, because where they are is the place where we should also be, as they follow the chic world of the night life, and indeed they may have even give such a place as this its reputation.’ For the young, bohemian and wealthy this was the place to be seen, and it was a favoured haunt of the famous dancing Norwegian Rocky Twins who found fame on the Paris music hall and later in America. Neeedless to say, it did have the reputation of being a ‘gay’ haunt.

A sketch of the bar at the Grand Ecart, Paris, 1927
A sketch of the bar at the Grand Ecart, Paris, 1927

Understanding the venue was simple – it was regarded as the same old story again in the sense that here was a new place in Paris which was so small that punters had to fight to get in and so it became the greatest success of the season. All the world struggled to get in lest it be said that they are not in the inner circle of fashionable Paris. It was so awfully jammed that one writer said he was sat next to Lady Davis ‘I nearly ate the slipping collar off her coat and almost put my club sandwich on her shoulder by mistake.’

At first Le Grand Ecart was probably thought to be too small to stage a cabaret, but Louis Moyses may have introducing ballroom dancing acts or other entertainers from time time each season. However, in the 1930s seemingly the trend became more obvious. For example, in January 1932  from the Casino de Paris appeared with the Whitman orchestra.

Oddly, in July 1932 there was report that Le Grand Ecart had been turned into a typical American speakeasy with a sliding front and a mysterious entrance that led through a fake library into an atmosphere of gas lamps, popular music, food and drinks. It was called the Temple of the Dry Regime and attracting an amused crowd of pleasure seekers. But the Speakeasy transformation did not last long and by the following year (August 1932) Le Grand Ecart resumed being a typical smart, Parisian night club with exotic decor seemingly the same as before with black walls, black floor, a fringe of tiny blue lights around the edge of the ceiling and eerie, feathery lighting coming from the bottoms of the rectangular daisy filled crystal bowls on every table. A Harlem jazz band played the music and it was noted that the bar was always crowded with wealthier artists actors and writers.

By December 1932 there was indeed a cabaret of sorts with the South American star Alina de Silva along with Fernande Saale, Reda Claire and Jane Stick and the Parrish orchestra. De Silva was still there in first half of 1934 but with Rubens de Lorena and Robert Darthez and in May 1934 the cinema star Alice Roberte with Nadja Sarasky. By late 1934 the Carlos Hamelers orchestra was in residence along with with Stephen Gruppely and guitarists Django followed by the Gottlieb orchestra and entertainment from Cox and Louis Cole.

One can only presume that Le Grand Ecart continued through the mid to late 1930s but what happened to the venue thereafter is not known.

All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent

Images of Le Grand Ecart from the internet

A view of the exterior of Le Grand Ecart, Paris
A view of the interior of Le Grand Ecart, Paris
A view of the bar at Le Grand Ecart, Paris

Sources

Vogue (UK) Late Feb 1927
Vogue (UK) Early May 1927
Vogue (UK) 30 Nov 1927
The Bystander 9/1/29
Rocky Twins: Norway’s Outrageous Jazz Age Beauties
Odden Standard Examiner 1/7/32
L’Intransigeant 27/1/32
Decatur Daily Review 14/8/33
L’Intransigeant 19/12/33
Paris Soir 14/3/34
L’Intransigeant 31/5/34
Paris Soir 24/11/34
Paris Soir 5/12/34

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