Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Saturday 4th August

Millie has completely re-decorated and furnished Lorenzo’s apartment. She has spent week’s co-ordinating everything with help from Liberty and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s atelier in Paris. The result is stunning. Well, when you have unlimited funds supplied by a rich Italian what do you expect?

She has also organised a spiffiing welcome party from 6.30 -8.30 pm. Rather early I know but we do not want to start off on the wrong footing with the neighbours by having loud and noisy parties late at night. We have Champagne and canapés. The latter of which Lorenzo has co-ordinated himself which are delicious.

Millie has taken it upon herself to become the hostess with the mostess, in the most delightful way possible and greets everyone who arrives from her husband Henri and Henri’s sister Yvette, to Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver. She introduces Lorenzo to dozens of her society friends and friends of our parents, but finally gives up when a flood of familiar faces descend including Monty, Dolly Tree, Eddie Dolly, Velma Deane, Julian (Sir Oliver’s son), Eva with Peregrine, Aubrey, Priscilla, Dora, Josephine Earle and Peggy Marsh and a host of all their guests. There are even scores of Italians – friends and acquaintances of Lorenzo’s family – that arrive and add to the joviality. We have a wonderful evening.

Much later when most people have left we take a late dinner at Bellomos nearby on Jermyn Street. Mr Bellomos is an artist in food and the restaurant is run on the most up-to-date lines (as is the hotel above). The menu was delightful with Hors d’Oeuvre Varies or Crème Jackson, Supreme de Merlan Italienne or Oeufs Brouillles au Jambon, Poulet Bouilli au Riz Sauce Supreme or Entrecote Minute or Hamord a la Newburg or Poulet Saute Chasseur with all the trimmings and either a Rhubard Tart or Beignet Souffle St Joseph for dessert.

In the following days we get ready to decamp to Deauville.

Wednesday 8th August

The promenade at Deauville

The world and his wife is at Deauville. It is tremendously busy. We take our usual rooms at the Normandy Hotel and Lorenzo and I share. Tonight, after dinner, we are in the Casino but something appears different. Mama is the first to observe ‘Oh dear it is far too crowded’ as we struggle to find seats in the gilded ballroom. ‘Not only that but it is full of rather vulgar rich Americans’ says Aunt Mimi with disdain, as we are all squeezed into a space that is really not to our liking. But we are positioned adjacent to some of Mama’s friends who come over to greet us and end up gossiping.

‘Oh it has been frightful this year. There have been the most rancorous disputes between the various French, English and American circles.’ Says Mrs Fitzgibbon. ‘Really, some people are losing the art of etiquette and politeness.’

‘Deauville’s reputation seems to be enhanced when it is contemplated from a distance. That is certainly the case with Americans. So many of them cross the Atlantic simply because they think that they must see Deauville’ says Lady Rocksavage.

‘The trouble is’ says Comte de Maza ‘Deauville is losing its exclusivity. There are more and more provincial tourists coming here trying to appear fashionable.’

‘….and then’ says Mrs Fitzgibbon ‘there is a new fashion to have a suntan. Some women are becoming brown you know!”

‘Heavens above’ Says Mrs Reggie Fellowes ‘Whatever next?’

Millie is uncomfortable, blushes and covers herself with her shawl saying ‘hmm it is a bit chilly in here tonight isn’t it?’ as the other ladies continue to gossip.

‘Come and dance with me’ I say and we head off to the dance floor to join Lorenzo who is already dancing with the daughter of the Comte de Maza. ‘That’s a nice tan’ I whisper to Millie.

Despite the congestion the evening is pleasurable and the cabaret with the dancing of old favourites Robert Sielle and Annette Mills is quite delightful.

La Potinaire Cafe, Deauville

We swiftly settle into the gentle rhythm of life – breakfast, the beach, lunch at the Potiniére café, horse racing, beach walks, cocktails, dinner at Ciro’s or the Casino, followed by dancing and sometimes a little flutter.

Thursday 9th August

The tennis star Suzanne Lenglen with her mother and a party are the talk of the day on the beach. Lenglen is becoming bronzed like so many others. I am intrigued by this sunbathing fad and following a discrete tip from Millie head off for a walk following another chap who she tells me is a journalist writing about the subject.

The mystery of how beautiful creatures manage to get sunburnt all over as lavish décolleté gowns at night reveal, was solved when we stumbled upon a secluded spot about half a mile from the usual bathing place. We discovered a dozen charmers tanning themselves in full glory. Since we stumbled upon them by accident there were screams of surprise and a great scurry to button up shoulder straps on the bathing sits and don bath robes as we gawp in disbelief.

One of the ‘girls’ recognises me ‘honestly Fynes fancy sneaking up on a girl like that.’ Peggy Marsh scolds me.

‘Ah Peggy my dear’ I say with a smile ‘I didn’t recognize you…’

That night in the Casino, we nip into the gaming rooms and watch George Carpentier, the handsome French boxer, lose a large sum at chemin de fer. Despite his losses he dances very well in turn with Peggy Marsh and ex-Ziegfeld beauty Muriel Miles. Lorenzo and I catch both of them afterward.

Sunday 12th August

The Terrace at the Casino, Deauville

It is my birthday and I have a more sedate celebration than last year. A simple family dinner at Ciro’s, followed by an evening of even more dancing at the casino. Peggy tells me she is to make her debut shortly in the cabaret with a certain Marshall Hall and they are practising routines. She says that he is one of the most versatile of American dancers and creator of the role of Prince Guidon in Le Coq D’Or at the Metropolitan Opera six years ago.

Monday 20th August

We are out in force for the new cabaret entertainment in the Casino that features the exotic acrobatic dancing of the American Nina Payne and the new team of Peggy Marsh and Marshall Hall. They are all sensational.

Frank J. Gould, his new wife and Edith Kelly Gould his former wife were all present at the same baccarat table in the gaming rooms creating a bit of a sensation. They did not look at each other, and Edith Gould enjoyed winning a small fortune back from the new Mrs Gould.

Papa says ‘One has ceased to be impressed by wins or losses of a mere few hundred thousand Francs. When Sir Alfred Butt was counting out a win of over a million Francs, the other day it was considered a pleasant little haul, but nothing impressive.’

As for the dresses and jewelry – the displays in the Casino ballroom are becoming more intense every day like the frenzy of gambling. One woman walked past our table and put all the chandeliers to shame by the brilliance of her earrings – four great stones gleamed from each ear and reached to her shoulders. Many people gasped. Millie was amazed but said ‘if you think they are the biggest diamonds in existence, observe the three even larger ones hanging from her necklace!’

‘Look at that woman with the belt of real diamonds on her brocaded dress’ says Mama ‘Soon the usual glitterering bracelets and ropes of pearls will appear quite insignificant.’

Aunt Mimi adds ‘Well I still do not like those barebacked dresses. And I know you wear them Millie, but allowing one to contemplate the vertebrae of the wearer is for me most disturbing.’

Sunday 26th August

A view of the Normandy Hotel, Deauville with the Casino on the right

We wake up early since today is the Grand Prix racing but the weather is vile and has become dreary and wet. We amble down for breakfast but enthusiasm to go out in the rain is slight and many people have not even got up.

‘Goodness’ says Henri (Millie’s husband) as we eat our bacon and eggs ‘it is ghastly and like being in Scotland for heaven’s sake.’

As the rain subsides a little, we persevere and along with thousands of others, trail to the race course carrying umbrellas for a rather dull Grand Semaine with a French horse, Sao Pauloa, a comparative outsider, winning.

In late afternoon we are sat taking cocktails in a slightly wet La Potinaire Café. There has been huge excitement regarding the arrival of Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova for a flying visit and everyone is talking about them.

‘It is their belated honeymoon you know…’ says Millie ‘they have already seen the sights in London and Paris.’

‘I am told they arrived in three cars’ says Mama ‘The first for the luggage, the second for secretaries and the last for the Valentino’s and guests. They are staying in a villa rather than a hotel that is wise for privacy: they would be swamped in a hotel.’

That night the Valentino’s arrive in the Casino, take drinks, dinner, visit the baccarat rooms and watch the cabaret but are rather aloof and do not mingle much. Needless to say they cause a huge flutter. But gossip spreads like wild fire as usual. Mama comes back from conversations with her nearby groups of friends and tells us ‘they are in ill humour and not happy with the weather or their accommodation. They are also disappointed with the Casino, upset with the food and rather disdainful of all of us. Mrs Valentino apparently has her nose stuck in the air and was heard to ask ‘where is the fashionable crowd?’ I can see no smart women and no smart men’ What a cheek.’

‘Mind you’ retorts Millie ‘you were only saying the other day that Deauville has lost its attractiveness and had become less exclusive. So she might just have a point.’

Friday 30th August

The season is winding down and many people are leaving. We are having fun dancing in the Casino again but were all rather shocked to learn that Harry Pilcer narrowly escaped death in an automobile accident while racing the Dolly Sisters from Paris to Deauville. The Dollies and Pilcer had completed their respective performances in Paris and left at midnight in two cars with a bet of 2000 francs for whoever got to the Casino first. In heavy mist, Harry Pilcer tried to pass the Dollies who were being driven by the Vicomte de Rochefoucauld. His car jumped the road and struck a tree. The Dollies stopped and rescued Pilcer and his chauffeur both of whom were unconscious and bought them to Deauville. With Pilcer being cared for, they made a dash into the ballroom and Lorenzo and I managed to get a dance from each of them despite their ordeal.


Read Full Post »

The Empire, the Rendezvous, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Court Theatre (Carte Blanche) and Murray’s.

Thursday 12th April 1923

I am taking out Priscilla Fry one of Mama’s latest matches. Priscilla is beautiful like Eva but not quite as spectacular. However, she certainly has more umph. She is wearing a sumptuous ‘baccante’ gown from Elspeth Phelps (Paquin) in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves which sets off her auburn hair perfectly. She was educated in Switzerland, comes from a very well respected family, she paints, she sings and she loves dancing. She also has an opinion.

We have cocktails at the Criterion before seeing Alfred Butt’s new show at the Empire called The Rainbow, a fairly typical lavish Albert de Courville revue. The comedienne Daphne Pollard does an amusingly grotesque dance with Fred Leslie, Ernest Thesiger is hilarious when dressed as Miss Violet Vanbrugh to sing The Price of Love, the dancing of Gaston and Andree was superb and the knockabout comedy of Willie, West and McGinty is excellent. There were also several spectacular scenes including My Lady’s Boudior, In Old Versailles, Indo China and the Great Street in Scarlet and Gold featuring amazing costumes by Hugh Willoughby.

The programme for the Rainbow

The programme for the Rainbow

Within the show is a segment called The Plantation, comprising a coloured entertainment set on a mythical Southern plantation on the Mississipi which has caused a little furure.

“I particularly liked Lola Raine and Alec Kellaway’s pretty singing duet ‘Sweethearts.’’ Says Priscilla afterward as we walk through Soho. “The 16 Empire Girls were superb in this number too. But, I also rather enjoyed The Plantation.”

“Well I must admit I rather liked that bit too. It is good to see something completely different. The dancing was amazing especially Leonard Harper and his wife Osceola Banks and the acrobatic Archie Ware in the Crackerjacks troupe.”

We meet Monty for dinner at the Rendezvous at 45 Dean Street with its latticed windows and rows of quaint Noah Ark trees in green tubs outside. It is in fact a row of two old houses knocked into one, The two front rooms are decorated to represent the parlours of an old English farmhouse with heavy thick black beams, walls panelled with green cloth in wooden frames, electric lights as old lanterns and silver wine coolers with ferns on window sills.

We are greeted by the ruling spirit of Luca Martini and taken to our table in the back room which is decorated in dark oak and mirrors with oriental carpets and a handsome oak gallery.

“He is as cheerful as the cocktail.” I say. “And endures endless witticisms about his name but remains sweet and dry. But one does not get on his wrong side. He is a rather fiery Italian and devoted to Mussolini and thus a fascist.”

The clientele of the restaurant comprises every class of Londoner from Princes to Arts students and it is a Soho landmark.

“There are fashions in Soho restaurants.” I continue “As a rule when a Soho restaurant becomes the fashion it is doomed. It loses its character, its intimacy, its charm and the cuisine declines. And like a faded beauty it lives upon past reputation. This place is one of the few exceptions.”

We have a delicious dinner comprising melon cantloupe, crème fermeuse, aile de poularde en casserole and aubergine a l’espagnole. We partake their two specialiaties as well with Sole Rendezvous (the fish is cooked in white wine sauce) and Souffle Gallina, with branded cherries served in a little lagoon of fine champagne cognac which is set alight. All washed down with a nice Vieux Pre champagne and a bottle of Mottoni.

“Ah, so you went the Empire did you? Because therein lies an interesting story.” Says Monty “Alfred Butt rejected an offer to stage Lew Leslie’s Plantation cabaret show from New York starring Florence Mills on the grounds of cost so Charles Cochran stepped in and secured it for the Pavilion. Butt then engaged another coloured attraction called ‘Plantation Days’ for the Empire that was running at the Green Mill Gardens in Chicago. But Cochran and Leslie issued an injunction against Butt for using the name of The Plantation as it was misrepresenting it as the original Florence Mills show. There was been a huge fuss that is still ongoing.”

“I have heard that there has also been huge opposition to the importation of black musicians and entertainers.” Says Philippa. “Daddy owns a newspaper and tells us all about these things.”

“Yes, you are right Philippa. On opening night the audience hissed and booed.”

“There is nasty odious man called Hannan Swaffer who whipped up a frenzy of racism in the Graphic I believe.” Philippa replied.

“Very disrespectful if you ask me.” I say “Considering where all our dances and jazz music originated from.”

“Very profound Fynes, but you are right of course!” Says Monty. “By the way did you enjoy the songs? They were all from a Yankee composer called George Gershwin. I think he is going to be big.”

We decide the night is still young. Monty suggests a visit to The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole. “They have added a novel attraction called The Follies Derby.”

The cabaret show has some wonderful scenes including an Hawaiieen number, China Love with the dancing of Vera Lennox and Carl Hyson, Zwadir (the God’s of Passion) and Gipsy Night in June. The costumes by Gordon Conway are magnificent.

The Follies Derby is indeed packing in the audience night after night as one can enjoy the excitement of Newmarket in miniature! The chorus girls in the guise of bookies distribute coloured discs representing racing colours. The odds having been called, four steeds made of papier mache and mounted on tiny wheels concealed in their hoofs appear and they race, albiet rather slowly, across the floor with the winner snapping the tape at the end of the line. What fun!

The highlight for me of course was the speciality dancing of Carl Hyson and Peggy Harris. I watch them intently. However, the featured artist is Odette Myrtil and what a lady she is. This French born artist scored a triple hit as a violinist, dancer and singer. She is a clever performer and, according to Monty she bears a strong resemblance to Mlle Polaire.

Odette Myrtil

Odette Myrtil

“Odette made her first appearance on the stage at the age of 12 at the Olympia in Paris. Florenz Ziegfeld saw her and engaged her for his Midnight Frolic in 1915.” Says Monty “She has been in great demand ever since. We ought to see her in the revue at the Court Theatre.”

Priscilla is a rather capital dancer and even taught me a thing or two. I think we are going to get on fine.

Friday 13th April

I am moping around at home when Monty phones to say he is bored and fancies a night out and says he has got tickets for Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre.

Monty tells me .“I am told it has been modelled along the lines of the Mde Rasimi productions in Paris and all the dances have been arranged by the rather clever Max Rivers who is also one of the specialist dancers. He has just returned from a two-year dancing trip around Europe, so you should enjoy his performance.”

It is a little of a trek out of town but worth it as the show turns out to be rather original, whimsical and colourful. The humour is provided by Tubby Edlin and the Two Bobs, the latter are hysterical when they sing Spain, Spain, Spain with Bob Adams dressed as a large Spanish lady with Donna Rosita and Bob Alden as typical bandaleros.

The French touch is made clear with Odette Myrtil (who doubles up later at the Midnight Follies) singing the charming ‘Bon Soir Madame La Lune’ dressed as a pierrot and standing under the light of a street lamp, packing in all the poetry and melancholy of Montmartre.

“Let’s go to Murray’s Club.” Says Monty. “Dolly will be there with Eddie.”

When we arrive Dolly and Eddie are on their second bottle of champagne.
“I am celebrating boys.” she says with a big grin. “I have just got the job to design all the costumes and gowns for Graham Cutts’ film Woman to Woman that will star the American actress Betty Compson. I am so excited.”

“Congratulations my dear.” Says Monty.

“Wow! Dolly that is terrific.” I add. “Is this film to be based on the stage play of the same name?”

“Yep, it is Fynes… we start shooting in mid May so I have got a lot of work to do!”

Harry Day who controls the revue productions at the Palladium has been assigned the responsibility for all the entertainments at Murray’s for the next two years. His first attraction is called ‘Harry Day’s Crystal Cabaret’ and is derived from his show Crystals that is running at the Palladium and which I have to confess I have not seen.

This is perhaps the first time that a full company of fifty performers has been seen in a dance club. The principals include the comedian Jimmy Leslie and Harry Day’s wife Kitty Colyer, But the star is the very eccentric Douglas Byng as a dude wearing an eyeglass and small moustache. He has a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre that works perfectly in cabaret.

Douglas Byng

Douglas Byng

Dolly loved the costumes designed by George Crisceudo.

After the show, we are milling around and suddenly Monty darts off and talks to a rather attractive lady with a large group of people. He beckons me to join them.

“Fynes, let me introduce Peggy Marsh.” He says to a vivacious, leggy, dark haired beauty.

“Why howdy.” She says.

“We know each other from New York.” Monty says. “Peggy has been in the wars recently and certainly needs cheering up!”

Could have fooled me. She looks more than happy. Hmm that name rings a bell.

“Ah I am sorry to hear that. What has been wrong?”

“My husband Buster Johnson accidentally shot himself in September and died in January. But we were getting divorced!” She says.

Peggy Marsh

Peggy Marsh

A little later when Peggy is powdering her nose, Monty tells me her story which I do now remember. She was a chorus girl in New York but had worked in London during the war where she met and fell in love with fellow American Henry Field, the multi-millionaire heir to the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. She had a son by him but Henry returned to New York and married the right kind of girl. Peggy followed him, got a job in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and secured a financial agreement for her and her son. But then disaster struck. Henry died and the agreement was not honoured. Peggy went to court and eventually reached a settlement before marrying Buster.

“She is now in London and dancing in Ciro’s and is likely to appear on the West End too before long.” Adds Monty.

Peggy is great company. And, naturally an excellent dancer. We hit it off. I am not surprised that she also likes lunch.

Read Full Post »

Revelle’s, the London Hippodrome (Brighter London), the Monico, Ciro’s and Les Gobelins.

Thursday 15th March

When I get home the first thing I do is plan a night out. Aubrey meets me for lunch and tells me to join a new dance club called Revelle’s at 30 Wardour Street. which of course I do. It is not huge but perfectly proportioned with a really nice parquet floor, music by Hugh Mayo’s Reverie Revels band and good food. Luckily, tonight is a gala night and it is packed to overflowing and we are not short of dancing partners. There is a cabaret with the dancing of Vincent Davies and the delightful Flora Le Breton (wearing a beautiful dance gown from Ninette).

“Who is she?” I ask Aubrey. “She is quite exquisite and looks like a dainty piece of Dresden China.”

“You must know of her Fynes. She started off in the chorus of Murray’s cabaret and was then snapped up by film producers. She scored a big success with the boxer Georges Carpentier in the swashbuckling film Gypsy Chavalier last year.”

“Ah. Of course. She is quite an amazing dancer!”

Tuesday 20th March

I am thrilled when I receive a letter from Lorenzo. He is arranging a trip to Paris and we may see each other soon.

Dolly has been totally engrossed with Eddie so it came as a surprise when she telephoned to invite me to see the launch of the new show at the Hippodrome which she has dressed. I meet her and Monty for a drink at the Criterion first and it is like old times which is a relief. To her credit she apologised for her neglect. Eddie is busy but meets us later in the foyer of the Hippodrome.

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Julian Wylie’s new show Brighter London stars Annie Croft, Reginald Sharland, Lupino Lane. Elsie Prince and Billy Merson. It has no real story but comprises a series of episodes with Cupid setting out to brighten London. There were some stunning scenes. Brighter Shakespeare had Billy Merson playing Hamlet in a contemporary context and the entire company jazzing up many Shakespearian characters. Shawls illustrated a parade of girls wearing Garden, Paisley, Indian, Lancashire and Spanish shawls with a finale of the chorus in picturesque black and white costumes arranged on four shelves, who by reversing their shawls produced a large and beautiful curtain. The Jackdaw of Rheims was founded on the Ingoldsby Legends and had Ruth French dressed as a Jackdaw in a costume of black tights and four hundred black feathers which was very clever. The finale culminates at the Palais de Dance with the appearance of the celebrated American band leader Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.

A scene from Brighter London

A scene from Brighter London

“I think that was a tour de force.” Says Monty afterward. “It is jolly and colourful with never one dull moment. I have a sneaking feeling that this is going to run and run and run…”

“Well my dear” I say to Dolly. “Your costumes and gowns are gorgeous and the colour schemes brilliant. In my opinion they alone are worth visiting the theatre for.”

I decide to take them all to the Monico Restaurant to celebrate. This wonderful establishment stands in Piccadilly Circus and runs through into Shaftesbury Avenue and thus has two entrances. The original Mr Monico came from a village in the Italian provinces of Switzerland and worked for the Gatti’s before founding his restaurant in 1876 in Tichborne Street. The building evolved into the current great bee-hive of different dining rooms. It is a London institution and a temple of excellent international cuisine, but with a more traditional feel about it.

We enter the building on the Piccadilly side through a glass canopy with two gables and emerge into the café which acts as an antre room and sometimes called the Winter Garden. Part of the ceiling is solid  and the other half is glazed over. We walk into the great gilded Saloon or main al la carte restaurant, which was the original restaurant. The walls, mirrors and raised ornamentation are all of gold, there is gilded ceiling with golden pilasters and a golden balcony for the musicians. It is always full and always busy and four maitres d’hotel in frock coats and black ties and a battalion of waiters run from the kitchen to the tables. Further toward the Shaftesbury Avenue entrance is the grill room which is less gorgeous with simple buff marble pillars and walls. There are two marble staircases at each entrance leading to further banqueting rooms upstairs and there is a famous German beer cellar in the basement.

We eat a rather exquisite dinner with oysters served on plates of crushed ice, soup in earthenware bowls with toasted bread, Sole Falciola (sole with white sauce, mushrooms and tomatoes and herbs & garlic), partridge stuffed with rice, foie gras and truffles served with braised celery and soufflé potatoes in a dainty basket of potatoes mounted on toasted bread. And all washed down with lashings of Louis Roederer 1911 champagne.

After dinner we visit Ciro’s where some of the Brighter London crew are having their first night party. I dance with Anne Croft, who is married to Reginald Sharland, Ruth French and another featured dancer in the show Ettie Landau.

A little later, we watch the cabaret which is provided by the renowned dancing team of Moss and Fontana. They started off just after the war and appeared at all the dance places in London and on the continent and have become hugely popular.

Moss and Fontana

Moss and Fontana

“Marjorie is a dear” says Dolly. “She started off as an understudy to Phyllis Bedells in the Empire ballet and also served her apprenticeship with the Kosloff Company. Her ballet training has been invaluable. Off-stage she has a limitless capacity to socialise despite her cockney accent! Sadly she had a severe operation last summer and was forced to cancel her season at the Embassy club and at the Casino in Deauville. I always love watching her dance. She is so graceful and elegant. And Georges is quite simply divine!”

Marjorie, wearing a series of stunning creations from Charlotte in Paris, was tiny, fragile and delicate and as a dancer appeared as an incorporeal creature who seemed to defy gravity. They did a reprise of all their old favourites including a Bacchanalian dance, a Pierrot and Pierette number and an oriental piece. Their acrobatic work was restrained and dainty and executed without effort.

“I am told that these two are without doubt the most attractive exhibition dancing couple now performing in Europe.” Says Monty.

Dolly replies “When the Tatler described them as ‘the greatest pair of dancers since the Vernon Castles’ they were without doubt completely correct.”

“Their dancing is excellent.” Says Eddie effusively. “But, I would argue there is very little of ballroom dancing in their work. In this they differ from the Castles and Maurice. They actually have a style all of their own which will, I am sure, find many imitators. When George raised her from the floor in the ‘grand jete en l’air’ it appeared without any semblance of effort on his part. Marjorie looked as light as a feather and graceful as a bird on the wind. This has to be one of the most beautiful things to be seen in dancing today….”

What an observation I thought. Well Eddie is a choreographer so he should know these things!

Wednesday 21st March

“Hello Fynes darling.” Says an excitable voice on the telephone. It is Eva. “I have missed you. Could we have a night out?”

Eva is a strange creature. It is as if I have not been away. She is not really interested in my tales of the Riviera. She is however delighted to see me and we have a wonderful evening. It looks like Eva is back in the picture.

Thursday 29th March

I meet Monty for a modest lunch at Les Gobelins tucked away in Hedden Street, off Regent Street. Its name is derived after the style of tapestries, which together with the oak panelling on its walls, are in keeping with the Tudor style of decoration. The food here is always nicely cooked, savoury, deliciously hot and remarkable value of money.

I am slightly agitated and need to talk to Monty since Mama has introduced me to more eligible young ladies at a little soirree last night at home.

Oh don’t worry Fynes” Monty advises “Just play along. We can still have a lot of fun! And, who knows perhaps I can entertain the cast-offs!”

Changing the subject he tells me “I have just written a piece all about Toutes Les Femmes. Remember it is the show we saw at the Palace Theatre in Paris? Poor Harry Pilcer has come a cropper. There has been some agitation in puritanical circles in Paris about some of the dances in the show and the dancers and managers were charged with indecency and offensive behaviour.”

“What! Puritanical circles in Paris?” I ask aghast.

“Yes, I know it is hard to believe but apparently they do exist!”

“What dances have caused objections?”

“The oriental dance by Mlle. Zulaika and the dances in ‘L’Après-midi d’un Faune’ by Harry Pilcer and Mlle. Rahna. The latter is no doubt a risky dance, although it has been danced in Paris and elsewhere for donkey’s years. It was a shock to Pilcer that his rendering should be questioned. He wears tights, and his performance is exactly as given at the Petit Casino at Marseilles several months ago, when no objection whatever was made.”

“What silliness…”

“Well it is all a matter of interpretation. You see nudity is permitted in a theatre if it is artistic but not if it is vulgar.”

“What on earth is the difference?”

“It is argued that the difference is motion. But the management maintain that the performers were clad in transparent rubber fabric and therefore were not nude.”

“What a fiasco.”

“Well it gets worse Fynes. Rather amusingly, to judge the accusations, the magistrate asked the defendants to perform the dance before him. The entire scandal is certainly boosting attendance of the show.”

“I think there is some skulduggery going on here.” I say “What excellent publicity. Sounds like a careful engineered ploy by Varna the owner of the Palace Theatre if you ask me.”

“The case will probably turn out to be merely a storm in a teacup, and the artistes will no doubt be acquitted with the classic injunction, ‘Not guilty, but don’t do it again.'”

We both laugh.

“Oh and by the way. Just so you know your friend Jessica Brown has sailed to America to marry Lord Northesk at her home in Buffalo New York. I just thought you should know.” Monty tells me.

Read Full Post »

The Negresco, the Rhul, Casino

Friday 19th January

After an eventful time in Monte Carlo we move on down ‘The Diamond Coast’ to spend a few days in Nice at the large and ornate Negresco Hotel. Built for the Romanian hotelier Henri Negrescu and opened in 1913, this beautiful neo-Louis XVI style building was designed by the Dutch architect Edouard-Jean Niermans who was famous for creating the Moulin Rouge in Paris. It has a striking frontage flanked by two lateral rotundas and a dusky pink tiled roof that can be seen from afar. After the war, the hotel was taken over by George Marquet, a magnet in the European hotel trade and director of the Claridge Hotel in Paris.

The Negresco Hotel, Nice

The Negresco Hotel, Nice

Aunt Mimi arrived ahead of us and is being escorted by a London socialite and artist called Sir Oliver Beacham. They meet us in the foyer of the hotel and the first thing we do is take a stroll outside along the fashionable and very busy Promenade des Anglais on which the Negresco is perched. This vast expansive avenue is lined with luxurious hotels and palm surrounded villas on one side and the sea on the other. The Mediterranean coastline extends alluringly from the distant lighthouse of Antibes in the West to the Chateau set in green in the foreground to the east

The Promenade de Anglais with the Ruhl Hotel in the distance on the left

The Promenade de Anglais with the Ruhl Hotel in the distance on the left

It is a breathtaking landscape of the sea, the city climbing up the hill to Cimiez and the white-capped mountains beyond. However, as much as the city charms, it also repels and there are some rather noxious odours that permeate the air!

We meet Cécile and her family for lunch at their equally fashionable hotel called the Ruhl further along the Promenade before it becomes the Quai du Midi and just before the Jardin Public. Cécile is looking radiant and stunningly beautiful in a white and green crepe du chine frock with a silver belt studded with silk flowers from Calvayrac.

The Ruhl Hotel, Nice

The Ruhl Hotel, Nice

“It is so good to see you Fynes” says Cécile kissing me on both cheeks “I am so sorry we did not get to see each other when you visited Paris last. I wanted to take you to a new dancing that opened called Le Perroquet. You will love it. Perhaps we can have a night out on your return journey?”

“Oh yes that would be wonderful.”

After lunch we take coffee and have a fascinating discussion about Nice started by Cécile’s observations.

“ I do so like Nice. It is so beautiful, so intoxicating. The sky is always blue and the sea glistens in the bright sky.”

“It is also one perpetual round of balls, horse-races, regattas, concerts, parties and fetes,” adds Millie.

Henri says “ Did you know that Nice boasts more tourists than anywhere else in France? You can hear every language spoken here!”

Mama suggests “Nice stands the test of cosmopolitanism. It is a melting pot of cultures with the French, English, Italians, Russians and now Americans.”

Mimi reminds us “Do remember that little over 60 years ago Nice was Italian. It is not really French.”

Cecile’s mother adds “You are right Mimi. A large portion of the Nicoises are actually Italian by blood, culture and instincts.”

Papa remarks “Well the Russians patronised Nice for decades but since the revolution they have evaporated. It is now flooded with Americans instead. And, I am told that it is the only place in Europe where Americans can honestly say that they feel at home because it was made for and by everybody and caters to everybody.”

After lunch we visit the ballroom to partake of their daily tea dances from 4.30-6.30pm and watch the exhibition dancing of Tina and Giherady. We do indeed have some fun.

After a splendid dinner at the Negresco, Cécile and I with Millie and Henri visit the Casino Municipal on the Place Massena. It has a well managed and daintily decorated salon de thé on the first floor, which is laid out like a winter garden with tropical plants. They are having a Spanish fete and all of smart Nice is in attendance to watch a series of wonderful dancing attractions including Filiberto and Anita.

Exterior of the Casino, Nice

Exterior of the Casino, Nice

Interior of the Casino, Nice

Interior of the Casino, Nice

Cécile is very impressed with my dancing.

“Fynes you are incredible. I have to tell you that half of the room are watching us. You could become a professional dancer you know.”

“Oh don’t be silly Cécile I cannot be that good.”

Saturday 20th January

We spend the late morning exploring the old Italian city set back from the Quai de Midi and then a relaxing hour or so listening to the band in the gardens. After an aperitif on the terrace of the Savoy Hotel we take a light lunch at the Ruhl and then spend the afternoon at the Casino de la Jetée-Promenade. This curious pier was the brain child of the Marquis d’Espouy de Saint-Paul who wanted Nice to have a replica of London’s Crystal Palace. Instead it was built with a more oriental or Moorish style and opened in 1891. At the summit of the 35 metres high dome is a gold-plated mermaid holding a three-pronged fork amidst turrets and minarets standing out against the skyline. The interior contains a vast concert and restaurant hall, a theatre, ball and gambling rooms and open-air terraces for refreshments.

Tonight is the special gala held in the large hall of the Negresco, which is a splendid affair with the added bonus of Prince George and party amongst the 400 covers. Cécile is wearing another stunning creation from Calyayrac, this time a ball dress of ibis georgette with flounced panels and a bodice of ribbon trellis work in ibis and gold and flounced 1830 like sleeves. Mama and Mimi wear their usual Lucile finery and Millie is in a more avant-garde creation from Paul Caret. Mimi is looking rather enamoured with Sir Oliver.
Cécile is not feeling too well and believes she is developing a cold. We eat a sumptuous dinner, but before we can actually dance ourselves, I am thrilled when June Day and Jack Gavin provide an entertainment. They are given a rapturous reception and present a marvellous array of dances.

A legion of men of various ages are fluttering over June after her performance and an equal number of women besiege the slightly haughty Jack. June comes over to our table and I stand up to kiss her as Millie introduces her to everyone.

“This is my friend June.” Millie says “We had the great pleasure of her company in Paris before Christmas when she was the attraction at Claridge’s.”

“Hey Fynes, good to see you. I am here for the season” She explains “So I hope we will see each other more during your stay. Are you here long?”

“We are only here for a week June and then moving onto Cannes.” I say.

“ I want to see how your dancing has progressed since Paris Fynes. Would you dance with me?”

I look at Cécile who nods approvingly.

“Of course June. I would be delighted.”

When we return to our table June says “Your dancing is really exceptional Fynes. I think you are ready to take on a new career!”

I blush. “I have told him the same June” says Cécile.

Sunday 21st January

I get a message from the Ruhl Hotel to say that unfortunately Cécile is unwell and will stay in her room. I am moping around after breakfast and bump into June in the foyer of the hotel.

“Hey Fynes. What are you up to?”

“Ah nothing much June. Cécile is ill.”

“Well that is interesting as Jack is not feeling too well either. Would you like to accompany me today?”

“Oh June that would be my pleasure.”

We walk out onto the Promenade des Anglais and head toward the Ruhl Hotel.

“Do you know that it is a shame that the beach is so stony. We could dip our feet in the water if there was some sand.” June says with a giggle “Instead I think it is almost time for an apertif.”

The bar of the Ruhl hotel is the meeting place for cocktails just like the Ritz bar in Paris and we end up having a few cocktails, followed by a long lunch before we return to the Negresco.

“There is nowhere to dance now” says June. “Why don’t you come to my room? I have a gramophone and we can dance and I can show you a thing or two.”

Thursday 25th January

We have had an amazing week of fun and frolics. Cecile’s illness was over quickly and we resumed our daily activities. Cecile is charmin g and in no way hampers my social life to the extent that one night I went out with June to visit the New York Bar favoured by Americans and the two fashionable cabaret clubs Le Perroquet and Maxime’s.

Although Cécile is adorable and June is fun and I am not short of attention, I am missing Lorenzo, who is still in Monte Carlo.

Read Full Post »

Ciro’s and the Casino

Thursday 10th August

I woke up (far too early I hasten to add) to the sound of the surf and the smell of a brisk salt breeze perfumed with flowers in full bloom coming from my open window. I get ready, have a spot of breakfast alone and run to the beach.

It is not a good day for sunbathing or swimming. There is nip in the air and it is clouding over. I am told that the weather has been variable. The beach is sparsely populated and I wander around debating the pros and cons of getting wet. I stumble upon a photographer taking pictures of two amazingly adorable ladies. They look identical. They are short, slim, dark haired, exotic looking and amazingly beautiful. They are wearing matching black bathing suits. Whoever they are, they are noisy and seemingly having great fun as the photographer and his assistant fiddle with his equipment.

“Hello there” yells one
“Come and talk to us” says the other
“Who are you?” says one
“Yes, tells us your name” says the other

They have a strange accent. Vaguely Eastern European, vaguely French and vaguely American “How do you do.” I say in my best well-behaved British accent “Good morning ladies. I am Fynes. Fynes Harte-Harrington. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Pleased to meet you Fynes” says one.
“Oh” says another. They look at each other and giggle and then point at each other.
“This is Rosie”
“… and this is Jenny”
“We are the Dolly Sisters.”

By jove. The Dolly Sisters. I had seen them of course in London. But seeing them in the flesh was altogether a different matter. I should have put two and two together earlier! Silly me. “Gosh. I have seen you perform in A League of Notions. You were amazing. Are you having a well earned rest?”

“Why thank you Fynes” says Rosie “No, this is not a rest! We have just finished a tour of America and I have just had a holiday in Spain and Morocco.”
“… and I have been having great fun in Paris starring at the Acacias cabaret with Clifton Webb” says Jenny
“We make our debut at the Casino on Friday evening” says Rosie
“We do hope you will come and see us” says Jenny

“Oh, of course I will. We were there last night. Actually, I only arrived yesterday with my family. So I am just settling in. But I am told we go to the Casino every night.”

‘Oh we will be there too!’ they exclaim in unison.

“OK girls” interrupts the photographer “let’s get this show on the road.”
“Oh, do excuse us Fynes” says Jenny
“Seymour, please make sure that this charming gentlemen gets one of these photographs” says Rosie
“Bye bye and see you later mon cheri” says Jenny blowing me a kiss.

“One last thing ladies….” I ask with a smile ‘Would you dance with me tonight? You see I am expanding my repertoire and I bet you can teach me a thing or two.’
“Oh Fynes” says Rosie
“Of course we will”
“We will be delighted”
“After all we are good at that”
“We taught the Prince of Wales all his new dances you know….”

They giggle as I wave and wander off blushing like mad. What a story to tell.

The Dolly Sisters on the beach at Deauville

The Dolly Sisters on the beach at Deauville

I notice that more people had emerged on the beach as glimpses of sun flash through the cloud. I reach Mama and Papa and some guests lounging under a row of little striped umbrellas all wearing some rather splendid bathing outfits.

‘Fynes, mon cheri’ shouts Aunt Mimi ‘We decided to come here rather than Le Potiniére today. Come and play Mah Jong with us.’ I settle down and idle away an hour listening once again to further endless chatter.

‘Sem’s new book of caricatures is called La Nouveau Monde.’ Says Mama ‘it is rather good and once again makes me laugh.’

‘Well, it might make you laugh Alice’ says the Duchesse de Noailles (one of her friends) ‘but do remember opinion is divided between those who have achieved notoriety by having their weaknesses exposed to public laughter and those who have escaped, but who are hurt by the suspicion that they may be considered non-entities. You are not in the book my dear. I am surprised you are so happy!’

‘Regard’ says Aunt Mimi a little later, waving her hands at everyone now parading along the beach front ‘gone are the commonplace bathing coats of white towelling. Viola the futurists, Dadaists and cubists rule! Look at the latest brilliant designs Fynes.’

Almost at once everyone stopped talking and gawped as a young man walked past wearing a black cloak of shiny satin with a wallpaper design of large pink roses. He marched along with two large Alsatian wolf hounds and riding on the back of one was a small brown monkey who was having great fun picking up peoples slippers and other things and throwing them around!

“Oh my word…… Deauville becomes more eccentric about its pets every day” said Mimi with a shrug and adds ‘Often the most eccentric people are the best you know” and winks.

Mama is on the terrace at the Normandy for lunch with three new prospective brides and their mothers. I admire Mama’s tenacity. This time the candidates are all French. Taking Aunt Mimi’s advice, which I am sure was intentional, I gravitate to Cecile d’Orsay and her mother who are from the famous French perfume company. Cecile is the complete opposite to Eva – dark haired and clever. She is also a hoot and not in the slightest bit stuffy, unlike the other two. I suspect Mimi was giving me a coded message earlier.

In the afternoon I meet Leonora and a gramophone for my dancing lessons in a private room at the Casino. ‘Let’s dance and I can see what you are like’ she asks as we play several records and go through one-steps and Waltzes. She introduces me to some new variations and finally says ‘You are good Fynes. You simply need a bit of a brush up and we need to add some sparkle.’ We both laugh and carry on talking away as we dance  “in the next few days we go through the tango, the valse, the foxtrot and perhaps even the apache!’

As usual, after a pleasant nap, cocktails were taken in our suite before a large party of us swept off to Ciro’s for dinner. Cecile and her mother were there and joined us. Later, I took Cecile onto the dance floor. She was wearing a simple black satin form-fitting gown, devoid of decoration but framed by an array of glittering diamond rings, earings, bracelets and necklace. She smelt divine of course.

‘Tu es magnifique!’ she whispered in my ear. I am over the moon. ‘Toi aussi, ma cherie’ I reply.

Ciro’s have a cabaret of sorts and I was stunned by the dancing of Samya and Sawyer. They gave several usual yet original variations and then performed an extraordinary number called Une Danse Macabaretre. She a beautiful vision in a silver frock as she dances and gazes at her own beauty in a silver mirror. Behind her stalks la Mort, (Sawyer) in skin tight clothes and a skull cap as a terrifying apparition. Their dancing gets wilder, she becomes breathless with fear, she falls to the floor and death clutches her throat and claims her. Everyone stands and applauds voraciously.

Samya and Sawyer

Samya and Sawyer

‘They have been a hit in London and the Riviera’ says Papa ‘she is exquisite but also quite the business woman. She demanded a huge fee for dancing exclusively for the Ciro chain for one year and got it.’ To my surprise Papa heads straight for Samya who is now sitting at a table with friends. Hmmm, they appear to know each other rather well….

Friday 11th August

Monty arrives in the morning. I meet him in the foyer of the hotel after he has checked in.

‘Dear boy’ he exclaims ‘…you look marvellous: this place must be agreeing with you!’ I give him a run down of the most recent developments.

‘Well as it happens I have a surprise for you’ he says with a beaming smile looking toward the staircase as a chic, bobbed, flapper, cigarette holder and all walks toward us wearing a divine silver satin lounging suit edged with white fur and a string of pearls. I can see the other guests and staff raising their eyebrows. ‘Ah, there she is.”

‘I am Dolly Tree’ she says and extends her hand to me before she sits. “I am so pleased to meet you Fynes. Monty has told me so much about you.” Absolutely exquisite just like Samya, she is clearly what is called a New Woman – strident, confident, independent and glamorous. I shake her hand and sit back down instantly in love. I am a little flustered and blurt “Miss Tree, your gowns for Fay Harcourt were beautiful. I saw them last night. Everyone gasped when she first emerged to dance!’

“Dolly has been a busy little bee this summer’ interjects Monty ‘ with frocks coming out of her eye-balls for all sorts of things…. Haven’t you dear? Such a clever, clever gal’

We continue to talk about Deauville, London and Paris and who we know and we don’t know, before heading off to La Potinaire and then lunch. Miss Tree changes for each and wears even more wonderful outfits, all of which she designed herself.

Despite being introduced Mama is not happy ‘Who is this woman’ she whispers in my ear at lunch. ‘She is very famous Mama as a dress designer and she is a friend of Monty’s’ I reply rather sternly.
‘Hmmm I see’ she replies with a shrug ‘…well you know what I think about him…’

Brochure - programme for the August 1922 season at Deauville

Brochure - programme for the August 1922 season at Deauville

The day flashes by and soon we are once again in the Casino. We are a big group popping champagne like mad and having a great time. My dancing with Eva is attracting interest. She noticed several people who liked her and she told me about it. I saw many people who clearly liked me but I did not mention it. One devastatingly beautiful woman wearing an unfortunately old fashioned gown winked at me. Eva was not amused. ‘That gown is an anachronism’ I whisper
‘I expect you are right’ acquiesced Eva sweetly ‘I don’t know much about isms. I am never ill.’
Thereafter, my chat took refuge in generalities until the cabaret.

The Dolly Sisters were simply sensational. Their first dance was an old fashioned waltz with dresses of grey velvet, silver lace and fringe lined in turquoise blue with huge grey hats trimmed with osprey. The second dance was a mad kind of Apache dance but with elegant bride-like white chiffon frocks abundantly showered with brilliants and exotic white plumed head dresses. Their last number was a gipsy dance in deep orange chiffon with silver bodices, hung with bunches of cherries and matching hats. The applause was deafening.

The Dolly Sisters

The Dolly Sisters

The compére thanked the Dollies and then said ‘I must extend a special word of thanks to Miss Dolly Tree who designed all of the Dolly Sisters costumes and to our great delight she is with us tonight sitting with the Harte –Harringtons.’ There was a hearty round of applause and I turned to Mama who is smiling profusely. I think her reserve might have evaporated.

‘I am not sure I like them’ said Mrs FitzGibbon ‘I do find their ostentatious display of jewellery and their frivolous behaviour quite vulgar.‘

‘Oh don’t be so silly dear’ said the Duchess of Sutherland ‘we adored them in London. They are so pleased with life, so unspoiled and happy and gay and so full of fun. They are such a delightful contrast to some of the languid bored creatures one sees.’

Suddenly both sisters are at our table, wearing matching silver evening gowns and wearing a profuse number of glittering jewels. They hug and kiss Dolly Tree in turn.
‘Well, you two need no introductions…’ Dolly says
‘…hello Fynes, so glad to see you!’ says Jenny.
‘Would you dance with me Fynes?’ asks Rosie.
‘Who am I going to dance with?’ asks Jenny.
‘Oh I think I can oblige’ suggests Henri immediately.

My parents’ jaws have dropped. Monty is smirking. Millie nudges Henri in the ribs. Eva scowls. Mimi is smiling. Cecile is frowning, and Dolly is laughing.

Saturday 12th August

Today is my birthday. I am glad it falls on a Saturday. I have a lovely birthday breakfast with all the family at the Normandy. I spend the rest of the morning with Monty and Dolly at the Potinaire. We have a small private family lunch at Ciro’s. Finally, my birthday party dinner is in the Ambassadeur’s restaurant at the Casino which is a rather elaborate affair in a large private room for 60 guests.

A cake is wheeled in on a trolley by the Dolly Sisters who sing happy birthday!

Mama kisses me. Mimi kisses me. Millie kisses me. Eva kisses me. Cecile kisses me. The Dolly Sisters kiss me, one on each cheek. And, finally Dolly kisses me on the lips but lingers… hmm that is interesting.

Papa stands up and bangs his glass until everyone is quiet and says “congratulations Fynes. Now that you get your allowance I can take you into the Casino.’

Read Full Post »

The Normandy Hotel, Ciro’s and the Casino

Wednesday 9th August 1922

I am over the moon. Mother and Father decided I could accompany them on their annual two-week soujourn in Deauville. We arrive from London via Southampton and Le Havre. My friend Monty says it is ‘the city of spectacular sin’ and he should know since he is a journalist and American to boot. He says I am going to have a whale of a time and that he will pop over and see me to ensure that I do. But, I have been told that I must behave, act sensibly and entertain. In return I have my own room adjacent to my parents’ suite at the rather stuffy Normandy hotel and they are organizing a special 21st birthday party for me at the Ambassadeurs restaurant.

The Normandy Hotel, Deauville

“It does have a rather quaint charm” I tell father with a sly smile as he shows me around the hotel and introduces me to everyone that matters, including the manager, a M. Wesssinger, who had been a Blue Devil during the war.

“Deauville has been the resort of the wealthy since the Second Empire, dear boy” Papa said as we wandered around “but this place was built by our dear friend Eugene Cornuche in 1913. He’s the one who put Maxim’s in Paris on the map and he always had a thing for your mother you know.’

Gosh, the things you learn about your parents when you least suspect.

The Normandy Hotel, Deauville

Monty warned me this place is infectious and that you swiftly get caught up in a delightful social whirl of nothingness. “Deauville is a true butterfly, a phenomenon of whirling colour, social high lights and unparalleled gaiety for a brief breathless period out of the heart of the summertime.” That was a piece Monty wrote for the Chicago Tribune last year. He is quite right. It is wild.

I was taken to the Potiniére café at the foot of the rue Désiré le Hoc by Mama. Apparently it is THE place to be at this hour (11am). We are sitting on the distinctive little green chairs in a big group on the terrace in the cool shade of a tiny grove of trees just behind the casino having tea and biscuits. Everyone is gossiping. My head is abuzz with all the endless chat. My, oh my, women do go on. And, why is it that they all talk at once.

Le Potiniere Cafe, Deauville

“…. Oh it is such a shame that the dapper Maurice has been taken ill with a bad lung attack… he is immensely becoming” said the Duchess of Sutherland at our table.

“Do remember dear…” said Mrs Reggie Fellowes “… he will be cited as correspondent by Thomas Furness when he divorces that dreadful Elizabeth…”

“I have never cared for her at all” added Lady Rocksavage “she gave Tommy a black eye you know.”

“Well, she is American, what do you expect!” replied Mrs FitzGibbon.

“Oh really” scolded the Comtess de Maza “Maurice is technically American and you adore him so not all Americans are hideous!”

They all giggle and then Mama says “Don’t believe a word of all this nonsense ladies… I know Maurice. He simply isn’t THAT kind of man.” She leans over and whispers to me “Maurice is the amazingly handsome and clever dancer who has been performing in the casino with his new partner Leonara Hughes – everyone is devastated. He is a darling! Take no notice…”

Hmmm, I think I would like to become “immensely becoming” especially since all the ladies swoon at the thought of him. Although I can dance of course, I am going to take lessons and become dapper too.

I am amazed at the cosmopolitan crowd – every rank and nationality from royalty to mannequins. My parents know everyone and everyone knows my parents. For example, father arrives deep in conversation with Lord Beaverbook, the newspaper magnate and Baron James Henri Rothschild. I just hope he isn’t trying to get me a job.

“Oh there is Lady Diana Duff Cooper…” squeals mother as she waves furiously and beckons her to our table with her companion the French actress Polinaire.

Suddenly, there are gasps as a delicate young man turned the corner and walked past the cafe leading a very fine and perfectly well trained Persian cat on a string with a diamante collar. Puss walked along in a stately manner oblivious to the scowls and barks of the assorted nearby doggies. Polinaire, declared with an indignant wiff “Tomorrow I am going to bring a nice fresh, pink pig… I simply cannot be upstaged. Oink, oink.”

We changed for luncheon to be taken on the edge of the open terrace of the Normandy Hotel. As Papa took me to our rather large table I could see that Mama had clearly invited three debs to join us along with their equally snooty mothers. I smell a rat. I am being set up. As I bristled Papa held my arm and whispered “Fynes, this is in your best interest you know. One of them could be your future bride. Please be charming.”

“Hello ladies.” I say; as I know where my bread is buttered and let’s face it I knew they would try and marry me off. We have a delightfully boring lunch in the shade and breeze of the trees with dappled sunlight my only consolation. I quickly decide that of the three Evangaline Lampton is the best bet. At least she smiles and is pretty.

That afternoon papa takes me to the horse racing and then we move on to watch the lithe and agile tennis star Suzanne Lenglen delighting huge crowds and proving once again that she is totally invincible. Papa gives me the full background of each eligible girl and her family. I listen but I am getting weary it is time for a nap.

Cing et Sept. I love it. We are all spick and span and dressed up. Cocktails are served in our suite. The three snooty debs and their mothers are there again. Yawn. Mama is wearing a beautiful Lucile conncoction. She hates the idea that she likes Lucile because Lucile is English and not French. Hmm, perhaps I haven’t told you yet that Mama is French? Our other guests are mostly French too, including my aunt Mimi (Mama’s sister).

“I hear you have been doing the rounds today dear boy” she says affectionately “You will swiftly get used to t,he routine of all these gay-hued care free birds and their migratory flight patterns from one pleasure pasturage to another.”

Then she whispers in my ear “Eva est la meilleure” and gives me a big grin and pats me on the head!

At the door of Ciro’s Papa introduces me to the rather affable manager Julian, who sweeps us toward our table. To my surprise there is my elder sister, Millicent and her husband the Marquis de Cazes.

“Darling” she squeals “Surprise….”

She runs up and kisses me on both cheeks and hugs and kisses Mama and Papa as Henri, her husband, shakes our hands warmly in turn.

“Oh my Millie you look gorgeous and that is simply a divine frock” I say.

According to Mimi when Millie was courting she was regarded by her numerous suitors to have the narrowest hips, the reddest lips, the shortest hair and the most life of any girl in London. She is looking resplendent in a silver gown embroidered with pink and white flowers and with a startling décolletage. She is decorated with a string of pearls, some delicate matching diamond and silver earings and bracelets. Henri has clearly been taken on an expensive spending spree. She acquired him at a hunt ball and it was love at first sight, especially when she discovered he was a Marquis and heir to small fortune.

“Hmm, it is the newest thing from Paul Caret and look” she turned “… it is completely backless.”

“Divine my dear…” says Mama “but far too risqué for me I am sure” as she sat at our table, glaring at Lady Ludlow who is pouting disapprovingly and looks like she has just seen a naked harem dancer.

Millie is a darling but also a bit of a minx. I often think that she must be like Mama at that age. Her husband is a bore but very handsome and very well connected. He is also very French of course. You see it is surely no surprise that Mama encourages Anglo-French relations. I am surprised there are no French beauties for me to examine. I suspect that she may have that up her elegant Lucile sleeve.

“I’ve decided to become a dapper dancer” I say to Millie in one of our more private conversations.

“But you are a wiz already Fynes.” she says kissing me on the cheek leaving a big red mark.

“I need to brush up. I have heard all about Maurice and I have decided that I need his allure.” I laugh.

“Well…” Millie says “You have given me the perfect idea for THE most superb birthday present… Leave it with me” she giggles.

We leave Ciro’s early and miss the dancing. We approach the vast Casino, a huge white stone building with a façade reminiscent of Versailles fronted by a wide formal park, green lawns and flower-patterned terraces. It was all lit up and glittering like a magnificent jewellery box and you could hear the music of Billy Arnold’s American band.

The Casino at Deauville

We headed straight toward the music in the crowded ballroom adjacent to the Ambassadeurs restaurant, the only other smart place to be beside Ciro’s. Places had been reserved for us on the edge of the dance floor and we were surrounded by a plethora of familiar faces that we had to greet. We drank champagne and enjoy the music, conversation and the lively dancing. The fashions are astounding.

Mama sniffs and says to Millie “Our cousins from over the herring pond are trying to prove that the American woman is the smartest in the world; but there is no comparison with Parisian chic and English distinction.”

Then, to my great surprise, Eva runs up and grabs me. “Come and dance” she instructed. She led me to the densely packed dance floor.

I have to say she is looking quite ravishing. Her pale skin, bright blue eyes and short wavy blond hair was framed by an amazing dress of pale green chiffon covered in a flutter of bright pink and blue butterflies. It had a gentle simplicity of line that belied the frivolity of the butterflies and made it appear quite appropriate. And, more to the point, I rather like her brashness. I think she may well do.

Millie talks to a rather demure yet beautiful blue-eyed blonde lady who is immaculately dressed and has the most radiant smile I have ever seen. They keep looking at me. Their conversation is short and the blonde is whisked off to dance. Boy oh boy is she a dancer. Who on earth could she be I wonder? Eva has no idea and is a little annoyed that I am looking at her looking at me. But the blonde is causing a sensation.

I sit down next to Millie. “That was Leonara Hughes, Maurice’s dance partner” she says with a grin knowing that I was miffed. “… and more to the point she is going to give you dancing lessons at 2pm for the next few days as your birthday present. How’s that!”

My sister is well and truly adorable and as I kiss her on both cheeks, the orchestra stops playing, trumpets blare, the dance floor empties and a hush falls over the crowd. A spotlight appears on an extremely smart gentleman who says “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Casino! Our night of frivolity begins with the dancing of the extremely elegant Fay Harcourt with her dashing partner Harry Cahill. They have very graciously stepped in at the last minute due the indisposition of poor Maurice.”

I guess this is the cabaret. The elegant looking programme says Miss Harcourt is British and Mr Cahill, American. They enter with a flourish causing gasps of delight from the audience as she is wearing a most extraordinary gown. A faintly flesh pink bodice had a bouffant skirt of massed mauve and purple flowers over a filmy fullness of tulle frills, shading from mauve to pink accentuated with silver sparkling diamanté and silver accessories.

Next up is the dancing of Mitty and Tillio. I remembered seeing them in the production of the Golden Moth at the Adelphi late last year. However, this time, I was unprepared for Mitty’s brief, nay almost non-existent outfit, which caused a ripple of excitement throughout the room. She certainly wore more on her hair than on all of the rest of her combined. And, what infinitesimal cobweb she wore, was perforated, cut out and ventilated almost out of existence.

Mitty and Tillio

These remarkable acrobats are described as the premier dancers of France and I am really not surprised. The man appears to do just what he likes with her and tosses her around without a care in the world. But it is not so much what they do but the remarkably neat and clean way in which it is done.

Harcourt and Cahill give another two performances with two more stunning dress creations, designed I am told by Miss Dolly Tree. A name that is familiar to me since Monty has recently made her acquaintance in London, although we have not met. She is supposed to be quite a gal!

Needless to say the rest of the evening was spent in a haze of music and dancing. I am pleased that beside Eva, I know I caught the eye of several other rather interesting gals. I crawl into bed at 2am my mind buzzing with excitement.

Read Full Post »