Folie Parisienne was the second presentation at the French Casino New York in September 1935. It was transferred to the Miami Beach French Casino in January 1936 and was then the opening show at the London Casino in April 1936. It was a highly elaborate mix of spectacle, ballet and speciality acts with fashion shows, dog shows, butterflies, fountains, a carpet of roses, aerialists, dancers and as usual a magnificent array of mannequins and chorus girls.
Produced under the personal supervision of Clifford Fischer it was staged by Jean Le Seyeux, choreography and ensemble arrangements were by Natalie Komarova, the music was by George Komaroff, scenery by Lavignac and Pellegry, costumes by Max Weldy and models by Jean Patou showing a range of new styles and new fabrics of rich metallics and colour effects.
It was a sumptuous, lavish, Arabian-nightish, Spanish-esque sort of revue consisting of two acts and twenty-five scenes and ran for more than two hours. The atmosphere was French but there was a talent a mix of French, British and German. When launched for the first time, the New York Times commented that there had been more continentalatmosphere in New York over the last two years than on the continent itself.
Nikita Balieff, proprietor of the Chauve Souris was the conferencier or MOC but the general belief at the New York launch was that he was not good at it and seemingly the size of theatre and size of audience defeated his personal charm and ability. He was not included in later shows in Miami and London.
Part one comprised twenty-one scenes. After the overture (no.1), Georgie Hayes from the Casino de Paris showed her plastic toe work (no.2) followed by a set of three tableaux about the French liner the Normandie that was a big advertising plug. First was the Maiden Voyage of the Normandie (no.3 the arrival) with a blue, red and white groom and a range of travellers moving into How They Dress on the Normandie (no.4) showing the Coat, the Theatre Gown, the underwear, the beach pajamas, evening gown, bath ensemble, storm ensemble and sleeping pajamas. Last there was Passing through Customs (no.5). Interestingly, for the London run the scene was tactfully changed the from the French liner the Normandie to the Queen Mary.
In the Powder puff ballet (no.6) Juliana was featured as the little powder puff and other puffs in red, white and blue followed by George Campo and Elsie Roy (American but from the Ambassadeurs, Paris) who did a pantomime comedy (no.7). Next was a series of scenes with the theme of luxury: The Luxury of Feathers (no.8) had showgirls with feather muffs, feather collars, feather fans and aigrettes; then the luxury of Stockings (no.9); the Luxury of Veils (no.10); the Luxury of hats (no.11); the Luxury of Jewels (no.12) and culminating in the Living Jewel (no.13).
In Mazurka (no.14) there was a singer, three butlers and male and female dancers that preceded the wonderful Ladies and their Dogs (no.15) in which the models matched their dogs with Great Dane, Poodle, Pekinese, Fox Terrier, Bulldog, Chow and Wolfhound. So for example there was a lady wearing a chic spotted dress accompanied by a Dalmatian and another wearing tartan trotted on with a Scottie. It became one of the most popular numbers indicating that perhaps the Americans and British were as notoriously addicted to their canine pets as the Parisians.
The most talked about and sensational number was the Midnight Bath (no.16) with Arabelle, Rich and Artini, a daring adagio trio from the Casino de Paris. Arabelle doffs seemingly her clothes completely (she was in fact costumed with surprising drapery effects whatever that means) for her Midnight Bath while her male partners in black velveteens toss her around. It was allegedly spicy and raw but not too rough a conceit in view of the atmosphere and the manner of dancing.
Mlle Lalage of the Cirque Medrano, Paris was a blond aerialist in Wings of Paris (no.17) preceding the Roses of France (no.18) and a ballet in Bouquet of Roses (no.19), that moved into Butterflies (no.20) featuring the dancing of Marietta and Rudi (from the Ambassadeurs, Paris). The final of the part one was the stunning Carpet of Roses (no.21) effect.
Part two started with the big spectacular scene of Illusions (no.22) featuring the curtain of illusions, cymbals, smokers, veil of illusions, intoxication and singers. This led into another show stopped called the Hunting Rendezvous (no.23) with Renita Kramer, a German girl. She performed ‘Dance of the Lovers’ which was a one person love scene. One half of Miss Kramer was trousered and masculine, the other half was feminine. The seduction of the female half by the male was regarded as punchy sight stuff.
Next was Georgie Hayes who did a speciality act (no.24), showgirls dressed in the Styles of Jean Patou (no.25) with Polly Frank from Ambassadeurs, Paris as featured vocalist, the Dive (no.26) with George Campo and Elsie Roy in a funny little apache burlesque, Enrico Bertaloso a handsome young tenor in Baracarolle (no.27) and Carmen Romero in Spanish Rhapsodie (no.28)
Bull Fight (no.29) was a pantomime with Vega Asp as the bull and Christian as the Matador and assorted Toreadors that led into Court Yard of the Inn (no.30) with Juliana as a Gypsy and Spanish dancers and Fun Aboard Ship (no.31) with the Four Craddocks (acrobatic comedians from the Cirque d’Hiver) as four French sailors.
The last two spectacular scenes were the extravagant Fountains (no.32) with beauties, dancers, water nymphs, graces and charioteers and the Finale (no.33) with the entire company in which the fountains play.
Gloria Gilbert billed as the greatest trick toe dancer in the world and who had appeared in the first French Casino show Revue Folies Bergere was added to the cast for the Miami and London shows.
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 Clifford Fischer
Take a look at the page about Folies De Femme
Dancing Times, Miami News, The Stage, Variety, New York Times
4 thoughts on “Folie Parisienne”
I was wondering if you had a photo of the cabaret singer, Vivienne Lafone, who appeared at the French Casino sometime in the 1930s.
I am particularly interested because my father-in-law, a 1930s photograher, was quoted as saying she was “America’s most esthetically beautiful showgirl” (Broadway Tattler column). She was also mentioned in a Walter Winchell column of the time as appearing at The French Casino.
Your website is very interesting and beautifully composed.
Thank you for your time and attention.
– Linda Toppo
Dear Linda, I can only spot a Linda Lafonne as a ‘mannikin’ in the Folies D’Amour show at the French Casino, NYC in 1937. Sadly the illustrated programme only features named photographs of the leading players. She was one of the leaves in ‘Curtain of Leaves’, one of the gold pieces in ‘The Gold of the World’, one of the lady guests in ‘Olympic Games 1936’and the night cap in ‘Good Night’. Best wishes, Gary
I apologise not Linda – Vivianne
Thank you for you reply. The woman you mentioned (Vivianne Lafone) is the woman whose picture I’m seeking. Appreciate your help. – Linda