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Posts Tagged ‘Dolly Sisters’

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.

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The Ritz Hotel, Ouistiti Roof Garden, New York Bar, L’Ours and Champs Elysees Restaurant

Sunday 1st July

Like any good visitor to Paris who is in the know, the only place to be on a Sunday night at this time of the year is the Ritz. Well, this is the official statement from Papa, hence his insistance that we all go. Instead of Fouquet’s all the family, along with Cecile, meet up in the Ritz bar for cocktails situated on the discreet side of the Ritz Hotel on the Rue Cambon. However, the ladies are not admitted into the main the bar, and have to sip their drinks in an adjoining annex. This of course is not appreciated by our lady-folk who are of the more strident kind. Without doubt, the bar we are in is one of the most select watering holes in the world and Frank Meyer who is in charge is the best-known drink shaker anywhere.

We collect the disgruntled ladies. “It is the last time I do that” says Mama indignantly.

We make our way into the stupendous Grill Room with its restaurant, gallery and dance floor for over 400 covers. The world that counts gathers here and it is regarded as the place for diplomats, foreign princes, newspaper proprietors, great dressmakers and American millionaires. Indeed, tonight there is a reigning King and Queen, the heir to a famous throne, the richest banker in the world, a once famous beauty who has just divorced a steel magnate, the head of the greatest jewellery house in the world, a dowdy old dowager, a French newspaper baron and a string of American woman who have married into French artistocracy including Princess de Polignac.

Papa tells Cecile “this is the habitat of international society. They talk a common language, wear a common livery, and they are as much at home here in Paris as in London or New York. But, they will only gather here together under this roof.” Cecile is looking a little uncomfortable. I do not blame her and squeeze her hand under the table.

It is a rarified atmosphere of polite extremes that I find very tedious. In fact it is rather stuffy. But our dinner is exceptional. Under M. Elles, the manager, the chefs have gained a great reputation and the cuisine features the best French dishes that include Poularde sauté au champagne, Caneton la bigarade (a succulent duck served cold with orange and porto jelly), Poularde Vendome (a stuffed bird with foie gras served with tarragon jelly) and vol-au-vont de sole Marquise.

Between courses we dance but there is no real excitement. I am relieved when we retire for coffee and cognac in the long narrow lounge. Afterward, Cecile and I, along with Millie and Henri, pop into the Ouistiti Roof Garden above the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees. This is our second visit to see the elegant dancing of Florence Walton and her husband Leo Leitrim, who have been dancing here for what seems like a long season. Their popularity is undiminished. Equally, this is a lovely venue and we have a marvellous time in an atmosphere much more to our liking.

Monday 2nd July

In light of poor Cecile’s ordeal at the Ritz, Millie and Henri and I decide to take her out to the Rue Daunou for a lighter, more enjoyable evening. We start by having a delightful informal dinner at Ciro’s (6 Rue Daunou). Like the Ritz this is also a society rendezvous but Millie says “this is the place where anybody who is anybody goes to see what everybody who is anybody is wearing. Far more interesting than the Ritz.”

Between the end of dinner and 11.30 when the supper-dancing establishments open there is only one thing doing in Paris and that is the cabaret underneath the famous the New York bar at 5 Rue Daunou.

Henri, who is a regular, tells us “It was first opened by Mrs Milton Henry wife of a well known jockey in 1911 but she sold out. During the war the bar became a favourite meeting place for war correspondents. In 1920 Mrs Henry returned, re-purchased the bar and installed Les Copeland at the piano as the cabaret.”

“Ah, we saw Les Copeland only the other night at the Jockey Club”
says Cecile.

“He is amazing and I used to come and listen to his singing all the time” continues Henri “anyway, in 1922 Maurice and Leonara Hughes arrived and opened the now defunct Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin. They brought with them two singers from New York’s East side – Tommy Lyman and Roy Barton. Lyman was not happy with his treatment by Maurice and so moved to the New York bar when Les Copeland quit. The boxer Jack Dempsey and Damon Runyon, who knew Lyman were then in town and made the place famous.”

“One particular night last year” says Millie “Irving Berlin was playing at the piano and Jenny Dolly was asked to dance. She persuaded Dempsey to join her and they performed a rather spirited jazz dance that they called Chicago’ on top of the piano.”

“I believe Mrs Henry has now sold the bar to a Scottish gentleman called Harry McElthone, who used to be head bartender at Ciro’s in London. I guess it may well be renamed Harry’s Bar.” Says Henri.

Moving on we visit L’Ours cabaret at 4 Rue Daunou. Small and intimate it is nevertheless luxurious and caters for a very ‘Daunou’ smart crowd. Tonight the cabaret features the dancing of a rather wonderful English couple called Sielle and Mills. I have heard of them but Millie knows a little more.

Robert Sielle & Annette Mills

“Robert Sielle is rather fun and cheeky. He had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the war and had also entertained the troops. After being demobbed he found he could dance, met Annette Mills and they formed an act. One of their first sets was at the Criterion Roof Garden in 1921 but since then they have performed on the continent as well as in London. Their great strength is that they can do the usual dances exceptionally well but they introduce an element of humour by clowning around.”

They are very polished and accomplished and their novelty numbers that included a golliwog dance were wonderfully funny. They introduced little bits of fantasy by wearing extra items of clothing over their evening clothes, which was particular effective. They remind me of Fred and Adele Astaire, but actually I think they are better.

Wednesday 4th July

Monty and Dolly Tree are in town and we meet at Fouquet’s. Dolly is very animated and orders champagne “we need to celebrate. I have become sole designer for Peron Couture. My first collection will be unveiled later in the year. I am so excited.”

She kisses both of us and we congratulate her effusively.

I have got tickets for Harry Pilcer’s Independence day fete at the new Champs-Elysees restaurant which opened a few weeks ago on 63 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. An array of French and American stars will appear as the entertainment with the proceeds going to blinded war veterans. So we continue our celebrations. We have drinks first in the bar in the basement which is the largest in Paris, and the most comfortable, before moving upstairs to our table.

The restaurant is owned and run by an American called Jules Ansaldi. Monty tells us “He was well known in New York and was considered to be one of the originators of the cabaret on Broadway. He first operated Louis Martin’s club then the Sans Souci and launched the careers of the dancers Maurice Mouvet, Joan Sawyer, Florence Walton and the Castles. After the First World War he ran the Grande Bretagne Hotel on the Rue Caumartin and in 1920 changed the restaurant into Maurice’s club.”

Dolly Sisters in Paris Sans Viole (Paris, 1923)

We have an amazing dinner and the cabaret is superb, the highlight of which was the dancing of Harry Pilcer and the gorgeous Dolly Sisters, who are still appearing in Paris Sans Viole at the Ambasadeurs. It is delightful to cause such a stir with onlookers when both of them take turns to dance with me afterward. I am indeed very lucky.

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Ambassadeurs (Paris Sans Viole), Weber’s, Ouisiti Roof Garden, Acacias, Ciro’s, Club Daunou, American Midnight Frolics and Abbeye Theleme.

Friday 31st May

We are in Paris again with Monty and Dolly. Lorenzo is on his way back home to Italy and we have all been given special preview seats to see the Dolly Sisters debut. We settle in at Claridge’s since Aunt Mimi has a houseful of guests and meet Cécile and Gabrielle at Fouquet’s for cocktails. They both look ravishing as always. Cecile had taken Gabrielle to Paul Caret’s and they were wearing their purchases: Cecile in a sleeveless dancing gown of lemon georgette, belted with double silver ribbon strewn with rococo roses and Gabrielle in a low cut, backless taffeta gown with shoulder straps of flowers in soft glazed red and silver. They immediately start talking frocks to Dolly.

We wander down the Champs-Elysees to the Ambassadeurs Theatre, tucked just off to one side. Here in this small yet perfectly appointed theatre Oscar Dufrenne, presents the Dolly Sisters in a show entitled Paris Sans Viole or Brighter Paris, a title clearly used as a reflection of the success Brighter London was having at the London Hippodrome.

Programme for Paris Sans Voiles at the Amabassadeurs, Paris, 1923

The show, also includes the home grown talents of Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren, and our friend Eddie Dolly, fresh from his London triumphs for C.B. Cochran, arranged all the dances for a troupe of 8 ‘London Boys’. The Dollies first appeared as American roses in ‘Let us make a pretty bouquet’ and then danced a rollicking mazurka in a scene depicting the Grand Prix in 1883 contrasted with the Grand Prix of 1923. Oddly they became negresses in Plantation Days, where, surrounded by growers and planting machines, they danced and sang plantation songs. By far their most important scene was Destiny, a sketch in four acts, where the Dollies dressed by Jeanne Lanvin, performed a melodramatic depiction of the life of an actress, tragically terminated by an acrobatic dance in a seedy nightclub. This apparently had been a big success in New York. The sisters alternately held the role of an artist who was reduced to the lowest ebb of misfortune by the spirit of evil in the form of a tempting man about town played by Max Berger. We are led to believe that the same woman is playing the character throughout and marvel at the quick change in costume until the couple appear together in the last act where the dying dancer sees the image of her happy girlhood being a reproduction of the first scene revealed at the back of the stage.

The Dolly Sisters in their Mazurka costumes

Monty was effusive. “Wow the Dolly Sisters were enchanting and they will have a formidable triumph on their hands I am sure.”

We take a short walk and go around the corner for dinner at Weber’s, 21 Rue Royale, regarded as a very salubrious place. It was started many years ago by an Alsatian who made a speciality of Alsatian beer and food and originally the clientele was mainly English but now it is more mixed

This is regarded as the traditional place for posh Parisians to sup after the theatre and this vast café-restaurant is crowded with actors, politicians, writers and mere theatregoers like us. We particularly like their boullabaisse which is highly recommended.

Monty then tells us about his recent interview with Edmonde Guy. “She is simply the most ravishing creature and during the run of Oh Quel Nu at the Concert Mayol earlier in the year she posed for the great Dutch painter Van Dongen. At one of his soirees she was introduced to a certain Giovanni Dal Terroni from Palermo, Sciliy. A man of means, he convinced her that he was producing a movie of Mascagni’s masterpeice called Cavalleria Rusticana which was to be staged near Palermo and he wanted her to play the part of Santuzza and pay her $1,000 per week and all expenses for her and her maid. It was a great opportunity. The only way to get out of her obligations at the Concert Mayol was to feign illness and so she vanished.”

By now we are all sitting riveted to his words.

“Arriving at Terroni’s country villa in Sciliy, he informed her that preparations for the picture were not complete and there would be a delay. She was suspicious. The next morning her maid saw Terroni beating a young servant girl and Edmonde came to the conclusion she had been lured into a trap. She decided to play Terroni at his own game in order to escape. She had lunch with him dressed seductively and he admitted his plan to abduct her because of his infatuation. Later Edmonde lured into her bedroom and managed to lock him in, while the mad did the same with the caretaker. They found the girl that Terroni had been beating who claimed he was a monster and she took them to the French consul at Palermo. Edmonde returned to Paris but the shock forced her to bed for 2 weeks. Then a package arrived from Palermo containing a diamond sunburst and a card that said “you are very clever mademoiselle.’”

After coffee we visit the Ouistiti Roof Garden at the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees and delight in the dancing of the wonderfully dainty Florence Walton and Leo Leitrim backed by the famous Red Devils band. I know she is familiar and Monty reminds us that she is American and the ex-wife of Maurice Mouvet.

“She only married Leo last December, and although no-one can compare to Maurice, he is a good partner for her. She always presents class and style in both her dressing and her dancing. And in my opinion she is far superior to Irene Castle in both personality and skill.”

We soon dart off to the other side of Paris to visit the Acacias, which is in essence a glorified hall in the rear of the Hotel Acacias at 7 Rue des Acacias near the Bois de Bologne. There is also a delightful garden very useful for the hot weather in the summer.

Programme for the Acacias Nightclub, Paris

Cecile tells us the history. “It was originally opened in the summer of 1921 by the legendary singer and dancer Maurice Chevalier and the comedian Saint-Grenier. Last year it was taken over by that rather obnoxious society social fixer Elsa Maxwell and the charming English couturier Captain Edward Molyneux. They re-modelled it as a Southern plantation and had Jenny Dolly and Clifton Webb as the opening act.”

“This year it has been taken over again by that wonderful American dancer Harry Pilcer.”
Says Gabrielle. “And, he has had the good fortune to get that incredible dancing team of Moss and Fontana for a 6 week season.”

“We saw them in London at Ciro’s in March.” Dolly says. “And they are magnificent.”

Monty adds. “M. Andre de Fouquieres known everywhere as the Beau Brummel of Paris society and dictator of its amusements, paid them a handsome compliment saying ‘with them it is the art of dancing seen in all its beauty’.”

Saturday 1st June

Tonight is Lorenzo’s last night and we all decide to go out with a bang and visit lots of places. First stop is Ciro’s for a spot of dinner, followed by the Club Daunou where we watch the exquisite dancing of Joan Pickering and Charlie Stewart. Dolly is entranced as are the other girls with Joan’s frock by Ninette of London in ecru lace on powder blue faille over flesh pink georgette.

“Its absence of adornment is its greatest charm which lends its wearer that coveted jeaune fille appearance.” Dolly tells us. “It is a masterpiece.”

She is so generous in her praise of others.

We move onto to the new American Midnight Frolics at 30 Rue de Grammont which is a Souer-dansant de luxe and like so many places of the same ilk, hailed as the most chic location in Paris. It is of course no better and no worse. The cabaret produced by the English-Australian Dion Titheradge has two sittings from 12.30-1am and 1.30-2am. We catch the former show. Joyce Barbour and Max Rivers (the latter we saw in Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre in April) dance nimbly and Tex McLeod is amazing replicating his act that we also saw at the Midnight Follies. There is also a West End chorus and other acts that include the singing of Winifred Roma.

“It was bright and snappy and not bad but not good.”
I say afterward. “The girls were gorgeous though…”

“The place was opened in mid-May and I thought here we go again, another attempt to imitate Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics. I also remember reading an odd comment somewhere that said ‘it had a real American atmosphere of intimicy so necessary to the proper expression of the artists talents’. What? The only American in the cast is Tex and the chorus is from the West End.”

Our last call is the Blue room on the first floor of L’Abbaye de Theleme. The Trix Sisters have now left and there is a new show with favourites Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill, who dance amazingly, the American Goode Sisters, Rene Gagan, Barry Barnard and once again, the glorious singing of Dora Stroeva.

We all retire to my suite at Claridge’s and order breakfast. Lorenzo has had a great send-off before his departure for Rome.

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Folies Bergere, Boeuf Sur Le Toit

Tuesday 6th March 1923

Monty is miffed because Edward Dolly has popped up in Paris and Dolly has gone gaga and keeps disappearing like Aunt Mimi. However, we are all terribly excited. Dolly has got us all tickets for the launch of the new show at the Folies Bergere. She has created some of the scenes. We all meet as usual for a quick aperitif at Fouquet’s.

“Hello boys.” Dolly says slightly sheepishly.
“Hi guys.” Says Eddie with his beaming smile. “How are you doing?”
“We are all just dandy.” Says Monty rather pointedly.
“What are you up to?” I ask Eddie politely.
“Well I am just having a break and then I am off to London to attend to some business. I am staging the dances for C.B. Cochran’s show Dover Street to Dixie. My sisters will help when they return but they are still currently working on the Riviera. I am also engaged in negotiations for the debut of the Dolly Sisters here in Paris. All hush hush of course. ”

With this exciting news, we head off to the Folies Bergere but have to take several taxis. I am with Henri and Millie and Millie says rather sweetly “That Eddie is quite a ladies man you know. I have had a quiet word with Dolly in case she gets too involved.”

As we arrive it is clearly a very glamorous affair with a glimpse of who is who in Paris streaming into the Music Hall. Besides the usual programme they have now produced a rather glamorous fully illustrated souvenir brochure which is a really smart idea.

Paul Derval’s show En Pleine Folie stars Yane Exiane, Nade Renoff, Miss Flo, Nina Payne, Constant Remy, Madeleine Loys and the John Tiller Girls in 3 acts and 32 tableaux. There are a host of incredible scenes that would take ages to describe including Les Frivolities du Second Empire with frivolous Victorian fashions and Au Pays de Lotus D’Or with oriental splendour dressed by Brunelleschi; Les Frivolities du Second Empire (Montedoro); the exotic Les Grottes de Crystal (Georges Barbier) and the sumptuous finale Les Grands Fleuves du Monde or the greatest rivers, dressed by Erte.

A scene from the Folies Bergere with a sketch by Dolly Tree

A scene from the Folies Bergere with a sketch by Dolly Tree

Dolly Tree’s first scene Les Nuits du Bois (Night in the Woods) was meant to be representative of the nocturnal “goings on” in the Bois de Bologne and was, I have to say, rather audacious. Several walkers stroll through the woods in the autumn moonlight, including Mlle Yane Exiane. The wood becomes alive with mytholgical satyrs and nymphs dressed in beautifully flowing gowns and dryads perched in the bough of the trees presumably meant to represent tree spirits. The scene ends when the Police arrive and everyone vanishes.

Nuits de Bois scene in the Folies Bergere show

Nuits de Bois scene in the Folies Bergere show

Monte La Dessus (climb up there) was a symbolic scene about Montmarte which capitalised on the view that the area was the home of the real Parisian underworld and featured a chorus in traditional French country costumes with striped bouffant skirts and French caps in red, white and blue. The scene progressed into Tu Verras Montmartre with a depiction of showgirls wearing totally bizarre costumes representing a range of drugs such as L’opium, L’Ether, La Morphine and Le Coco, with each ‘drug’ being revealed by means of colour back-cloths.

The Monte La Dessus scene from the Folies Bergere with sketch by Dolly Tree

The Monte La Dessus scene from the Folies Bergere with sketch by Dolly Tree

It is a magnificent production and seemingly the most ambitious show being staged in Paris.

We decide to have supper at the night-club and restaurant of high repute called Boeuf Sur Le Toit situated at at 28 Rue Boissy Anglais just of the Place de Concorde. This is the creation of Louis Moyses and opened in late 1921. It is sponsored by the great avant-garde artiste Jean Cocteau and here the most extravagant fancy is found side by side with the best old tradition. It is one of the smartest rendezvous in Paris with an atmosphere all its own. Le Boeuf is a melting pot of lively and entertaining discussions and one comes across the very latest developments of the artistic, cultural and literary worlds. In short it is terribly bohemian and very a la mode where high society mingles with artists, business men, actors and writers.

It is in fact two large rooms on the ground floor. We have dinner first in the restaurant and the cuisine was surprisingly good for a night club of snob repute. Since the cooking is Alsatian, the foie gras in pastry was particularly good. We also sample le Sole Maison and Crepes Flambees (Pancakes in hot caramel sauce made with blazing brand).

Mama and Papa and Mimi and Sir Oliver leave and the rest of us carry on drinking champagne. There is a small gipsy band and we can dance on the small dance floor, but it is not long before we are tempted next door to the bar and for the next few hours we switch back and forth. In the bar the walls are hung with photos by Man Ray of some of the celebrities that frequent Le Boeuf and we listen to the French pianists Wiener and Doucet who have made an international reputation jazzing the classics.

Since Dolly is stuck like glue to Eddie, Cecile dances alternately with Monty and I. She is so charming and so easy-going. I dance with Millie at one point.

“That Cecile is quite delightful.” She says.
I know.” I reply

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The Ambassadeurs Restaurant and the Casino

Saturday 3rd February

The week has flown by. We are now three sets of couples. Cécile and I , Monty and Dolly and Lorenzo and Gabrielle. At first Monty was a little frosty with Lorenzo but they now appear to be getting on. One day we visit Lorenzo’s family villa which is delightful and other days we play tennis, take delightful walks around the Crossiette, the Casino gardens and the town and harbour, watch horse racing, polo and dance each night. We even spot Winston Churchill being chased by photographers as he tried to play golf.

cannes-croisette177
Jean Gabriel Domergue has transformed the Ambassadeurs Restaurant into a courtyard of an old inn in Seville, decorated with whitewashed and pink walls under a blue sky for the Gala Seville sprinkled liberally everywhere with flowers. He implored all the diners in a neat little invitation booklet to wear appropriate dress for each gala occasion but let’s face it who could ever get self-conscious British aristocrats to wear anything but ultramodern raiment? However, some dress up in Spanish colours of yellow, red and gold, including Dolly and Cécile.

For the entertainment, musicians who looked as if they had just come back from a bull fight, play popular Spanish songs of the 18th century as a background for the Spanish artist Argentinita whose castanets gave point and rhythm to her excellent dances.

“She is known as the Flamenco Pavlova and the Queen of Castanets”
says Monty.

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The Spanish dancer Argentinita

That night when we are on our own, Lorenzo says “Gabrielle tells me that she and Cecile are rather hoping they might become sister-in-laws.”

Saturday 10th February

The next gala at the Casino is the Enchanted Garden fete and the Ambassadeurs has become a garden festooned in flowers and fruits of every hue. The roof is covered with interwoven leaves and branches and huge dragonflies of all colours are suspended from the ceiling. The walls have been transformed with panels of climbing white roses and pergolas of red jasmine.

As we take our seats, Mama, pointing to a rather excitable group says “Prince George is over there. He motored over from Beaulieu just for the night!”

Argentina provides a wonderful new set of dances and the cabaret is augmented by an hilarious interlude when members of Billy Arnold’s orchestra appear dressed in rather airy costumes and perform a dance of the wood nymphs. This is followed by Chris Lee dressed as a Spanish dancer doing a burlesque of Argentina..

After Papa returns from the Casino itself he says “Our royal guest is causing quite a stir. He tried to get entry to the Casino but was refused because of his age and it has not got down very well!”

I danced the night away, predominately with Cecile, who like all the girls had been propelled into a world of gushiness by the enchanted garden and was becoming rather lovey-dovey.

Monday 12th February

I spend the day with Papa exploring land and properties for sale first in Cap Ferrat and then Cap d’Antibes. The latter looks more promising because it is nearer Cannes which we all prefer.

Tuesday 13th February

It is a good job we are not superstitious and thank God it is not a Friday. Just south of the sleepy little port of Antibes amongst the pine clad slopes of the peninsula, we find and buy a rather magnificent, large plot of land with a run-down villa and its own bit of coastline. There was a sense of remote tranquillity at this spot that will be a welcome relief to the usual hustle and bustle of city life and yet even here, Cannes and Nice are very accessible.

We are not far from the Hotel du Cap at Eden Roc where we take afternoon tea to finalise the deal. Although it will take a while to finalise everything we see a variety of people over the next few days to plan the renovation work.

Thursday 15th February

We have a family day out to show everyone the villa and there is much excitement and discussion about décor, furnishing and the garden as we have a picnic on the Plage de la Garoupe. Aunt Mimi has bought Sir Oliver.

“I have an announcement” she says “Sir Oliver and I are engaged. We are planning the wedding for late April.”

We all burst into guffaws of congratulations and hugs as Sir Oliver says “and I have arranged a special dinner party on Friday evening at the Carlton in celebration.”

Friday 16th February

I am having a quiet lunch in the Carlton with Cecile, Monty and Dolly when suddenly I hear familiar voices and in come the Dolly Sisters accompanied by a very tall and handsome young man. When Dolly waves they come over to our table and introduce us to their brother Edward, or as they call him Eddie.

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The Dolly Sisters

“We have been in America since we saw you last in Deauville.”
“We have done a long vaudeville tour with Eddie and a great singer called Harry Richman.”
“And, now we are here for our debut on the Riviera tomorrow night.”
“We hope we will see you.”

Saturday 17th February

The gala at the Ambassadeurs has a winter theme as “The Kingdom of the Queen of Winter’. The huge chandeliers were half covered in cotton wool cut out in shapes of large holly leaves. There was a giant snowman in one corner and little leafless trees covered in crystallised imitation snow dotted around the room. The lights were turned down for the entry of the Dolly Sisters who appeared in white tulle frocks. At the same time waiters handed out paper bags filled with imitation snowballs and everyone pelted each other while the Dollies skipped daintily out. They returned dressed as jet black ponies with high head-plumes and other jingling equine paraphernalia driven by their brother Eddie with a cracking whip and hard bowler hat as he directed them at a gallop round and round till the entry of a reindeer, more snowballs and a walking snowman drew their prancing pony trot to a close.

The evening was a huge hit. The Dollies are unique and amazing and their dancing so different from anything ever seen before. We dance all night and the rather dashing Eddie monopolises Dolly who looks as if she is being swept off her feet. I of course have several dances with each of the Dolly Sisters.

Saturday 24th February

The Dolly Sisters have been such a success at the Ambassadeurs that dancing managers along the coast are offering large sums of money to lure them away.

The gala evening tonight has the theme of ‘The Venice of Casanova.’ The Dolly Sisters dressed identically in Venetian gowns are once again escorted by their brother Eddie and give another unbelievable performance.

I am still quite alarmed when I overhear embarrassing comments at a nearby table.
“The Riviera is not what it was. It is different and it is not better. I am not concerned to maintain that is less attractive than the Spring of 1914, say, but it is certainly a very much less attractive, less amusing and less intimate place than it used to be 20 or more years ago. It has become democratic, for one thing and full of these Americans.” Says a very pompous older English lady in a very loud voice to other members of her table “Take these dancers, for example: they are brash in a new and rather disconcerting way. They are far too modern and indiscreet and quite unbearably nouveau rich.”

Monty is not amused and says equally loudly “It is interesting that with the Russians banished, it is us Americans that are keeping the Riviera afloat you know.”

Dolly is clearly enamoured with Eddie and I say to Monty “So are you or are you not together?”

“We are not” he says gruffly.

I dance again with Jenny and Rosie and they both tell me that they have accepted a very lucrative offer to dance at the new Casino in Juan-les-Pins. Apparently Édouard Baudoin a restauranteur from Nice purchased a dilapidated and almost bankrupt casino there and rebuilt it believing that this area, mid-way between Cannes and Nice, had great potential. The Dollies were going to star in his opening-night gala to be held in early March in an attempt to put his casino and Juan-les-Pins on the map.

I am really amused given that we have just purchased a villa nearby. I think we might have chosen wisely.

Wednesday 28th February

Monty and Dolly have already left for Paris. All too soon our soujourn on the Riviera also comes to an end and are forced to leave and return home. I have an emotional farewell with Lorenzo, who promises to visit London and Paris soon.

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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.’

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