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Posts Tagged ‘Edward Dolly’

Islington Film Studios (The White Shadow). Ciro’s, Piccadilly Hotel, Embassy, Ciro’s and Grafton Galleries

Wednesday 13th June

I almost forget my new role as a film extra in Graham Cutts’ second film with Betty Compson. If it was not for Mama I would not have got up at 6am. I missed appearing in the filming of Woman to Woman and so Dolly Tree persuaded me to register with the production office for this new film and I have several appearances to fulfil. I have strict instructions from her for what I must wear. It is strange arriving at the rather dreary and grubby surroundings of the New North Road and Poole Street in Islington and see the huge old power station which is now a film studio. I meet Monty in the foyer and we are given full instructions of what we have to do by an energetic little man called Alfred Hitchcock and a charming lady called Alma Reville.

We are to be extras in the important Montmartre cabaret scenes. Dolly Tree and her team tweak our outfits before we enter the studio itself to be transported into an illusion of Paris.

“Boy oh boy this is magnificent.” I exclaim to Monty as we walk onto the set of a life-sized reproduction of a Montmartre boulevard. We stroll with others through a big arched door into a long gallery, down stairs onto the main floor of a cabaret with drinks bars in big alcoves beneath the gallery. We take our places at one of the tables with two spectacularly attired young ladies amidst dozens of other characters.

“Blimey this is like the real thing.” Says Monty. “The bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre is all pervasive. Look at the mix of people they have assembled. We are typical British Tommies, but there are French habitues, artists, nondescript dilettantes, sailors, waiters, flower sellers and of course delightful specimens of Parisian femininity.”

We do several rehearsals under the instruction of Graham Cutts before the sequence is filmed by Claude MacDonnel the cameraman. I am in awe watching Betty Compson, Clive Brook, Henry Victor and other leading players doing their stuff against the backdrop of us riff-raff. It is a fascinating experience. Monty has already interviewed Miss Compson, and during a break, she recognises him and blows him a kiss.

Later, we all meet for drinks at the Criterion. Dolly tells us the ins and outs of the film. “It was to be called The Awakening but now it looks like it will be the White Shadow. There is a little grumbling because various people think the entire process is being rushed. Let’s hope it will be as good as Woman to Woman which was a joy.”

We go to Ciro’s for dinner and once again are entertained by Billy Revel and Floriane giving their wonderful exhibition of burlesque dancing.

Thursday 14th June

Despite the fact it is summer time, the London dance clubs are not suffering from any depression in trade despite the time of year. I have been visiting the Embassy, Ciro’s, the Grafton Galleries and Murray’s, rather frequently and they are all crowded.

Tonight I am out again with Eva at the Piccadilly Hotel for the Soiree des Fleurs. The décor in the ballroom is amazing and the entire room is awash with flowers of all kinds. I see many of my old friends including Aubrey who buzzes around Eva like a bee around a honey pot. Eva is entranced by the Piccadilly but I am eager to visit the Embassy where I have agreed to meet Dolly and Monty and others to watch a special cabaret appearance.

When we get there the place is crowded to overflowing. Luckily Dolly has secured seats around a very good table with Eddie Dolly and Velma Deane. The legendary Irene Castle is dancing with a young man called Billy Reardon for a short season to Ambrose’s band.

Irene Castle & Billy Reardon

“It is said that she is receiving £350 per week for the two weeks. It was clearly a shrewd move on the part of Luigi as the place is packed.” Says Monty. “She is rather snooty though and refused to let me interview her because I once made a remark about her that she did not like.”

“What was that?” Asked Eva, who normally just smiles.

“I said that she was a better screen actress than a dancer.”

Nevertheless, Irene has a tremendous reputation as a dancer by reason of her brilliant partnership for so many years with her late husband Vernon Castle. Sadly I never saw them dance but have heard all about them. I have to say her performance was disappointing. And yet she received standing ovations.

“Though she showed much vitality and personality, it must be confessed that judged purely as a dancer she left much to be desired.” Said Monty.

“I agree.” I said. “There was a great sameness about all her movements.”

Eddie is more specific “Her abrupt kicks with a straight leg, though amusing in a foxtrot or one step are quite out of place in an exhibition valse.”

Eva says. “Her frock is divine. I am told it is from Edward Molyneaux just like mine!”

We had not noticed that near to our table was a large throng fronted by Fred and Adele Astaire. Irene and Billy emerge from behind the scenes and are greeting warmly by them. When asked how she was finding her trip to London I overhear her say loudly “the English are doing nothing new in the way of dancing, but they are doing their dancing decently.”

Friday 15th June

I am spending the evening with Priscilla Fry and we have decided to decamp to the Grafton Galleries. She is wearing a baccante dress in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves. Another very alluring gown from Elspeth Phelps-Paquin.

I love the expansive nature of the Grafton which creates a comfortable sense of space with its big hall. I have never spent the entire evening here but have always arrived from somewhere else.

“Our evening will be a joyous, long drawn out affair in three acts: dinner, dancing and a great cabaret floor show.” Priscilla insists.

We arrive at 8pm to the wonderful sound of Paul Whiteman’s wonderful band on the orange and blue striped dias. Dinner is at 8.30pm and we dance in between courses. When Paul Whiteman’s band retires at about 10pm to rush off and play in the show Brighter London at the Hippodrome, an English band takes their place. Monty and Dolly join us and a little later the cabaret begins. A bevy of gorgeous girls arrive from behind the curtain and sing and dance. More ladies arrive clad in Trouville bathing costumes and sing along with a beautiful creature called Fayette Perry. Then Vanda Hoff (Paul Whiteman’s wife) with the Tomson Twins perform in a crazy trio of mirth.

“The Tomson Twins – Randolf and Jack are interesting.” Says Monty. “I met them in New York in 1921 when they were appearing in Two Little Girls in Blue. They are British but of Portuguese descent and were pilots in the Royal Air Force during the war. They are a very original act and their dancing antics very clever.”

Paul Whiteman returns from the Hippodrome at 12.15 and now the place is completely full as people have drifted in from dinner parties and the theatres and other clubs and we carry on dancing and having fun until 2am.

Tuesday 19th June

I am going to Paris tomorrow but have to take Eva once again to the Piccadilly Hotel. It is the start of Ascot week and the Piccadilly are conducting a Fete des Oiseaux all week. The ballroom has been transformed into an aviary with fake birds and feathers everywhere. Eva is in her element and loves it.

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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.

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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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