The Gaby Doll Scene
Recently Doreen Marshall sent me a photo and message on my Jazz Age Club Facebook page of a 1920s Gaby Doll and box. It certainly piqued my interest because it was a representation of a scene from the Folies Bergere in 1923 with the costume designed by Dolly Tree.
The chalkware doll was 8.5 inches tall and came in a matching box. The doll was wearing a green dress with gold appliquéd discs and black edging. As it happens I own the original costume by Dolly Tree that matched.
Because I own the sketch I was able to identify the fact that Dolly Tree had designed the scene O Ma Gaby in the 1923 Folie Bergere show En Pleine de Folie, since in the souvenir brochure, there was a photo of the scene that matched the costume sketch.
The En Pleine Folie show at the Folies Bergére was launched on 6th March 1923, with Yane Exiane, Nade Renoff, Miss Flo, Nina Payne, Constant Remy, Madeleine Loys and the John Tiller Girls. The costumes for about 30 tableau or scenes were designed by an extensive team of at least seven designers, including Erte, Brunelleschi, Montedoro, Jean Aumond, Zinowiev, Georges Barbier and Dolly Tree.
Dolly Tree designed the costumes for several scenes most notably Les Nuits de Bois (Night in the Wood) with modern gowns and satyrs and Monte La-Dessus (Come up there) that featured a provocative and bizarre representation of various drugs.
O Ma Gaby (O Gaby Mine) was a scene featuring the 8 John Tiller dancers all wearing identical costumes that included a big white wig along with ‘Le Veinard’ (The lucky one) played by Willian Brown who dang the song.
The music was by Maurice Hermite and sheet music matching the design of the scene and the doll and box was also available.
Presumably this number was a homage to the great Gaby Deslys. The scene was also described in the programme as the ‘lucky charm of the house of le Perroquet.’
Significantly, the O Ma Gaby number was repeated in London as the Gaby Doll number in the Cabaret Follies show at the Queen’s Hall Roof in Langham Place, at the top of Regent Street, in September 1923. In April 1922, the interior of the hall had been transformed so that it resembled the Ziegfeld Roof Gardens in New York and cabaret shows were staged there. In 1923, the jazz band leader Jack Hylton took over the staging of the shows. The show in late 1923 featured the Trix Sisters and the dancers Divina and Charles and the chorus were dressed by Dolly Tree, who ‘received many congratulations on her bizarre designs for the folly dresses.’
Perhaps the explanation ‘lucky charm of the house of le Perroquet’ means that the box and Doll was a gift given to customers at the famous Le Perroquet night club, situated above the foyer of the Casino de Paris, and were so popular that Maurice Hermite created a special song and music to celebrate and it became a number in the Folies Bergere.
Gary Chapman’s illustrated biography of Dolly Tree is available online – click here for the webpage at Edit Publishing
View the digital sampler