Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Van Duren’

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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Prunier’s, Ambassadeur’s and the New York Bar

Thursday 19h October

Monty is popping over to Paris again for a few days so I agree to join him. “It will just be us.” He says enthusiastically. “We can live it up a bit and go on  La Tournee des Grands Ducs.” 

“Aubrey mentioned that a couple of weeks ago and I still have no idea what it is.”

“Aha. It means a tour of all the night clubs in Montmartre dear boy. But the French now call it La Tournee Americaine!  I simply cannot think why! Actually, etymologically it stems from the term applied to the yearly trips to Paris by Russian noblemen and their nocturnal forays into Parisian nightlife.” Monty knows everything.

Once again, for speed, we fly from Croydon airport to Le Bourget and arrive in Paris in time for lunch. I insist on going to Fouquet’s bar at 99 Champs Elysees. There is no better vantage point for viewing the tide of elegance and fashion and its clientele is predominately of the ‘Le Monde ou l’on s’amuse.’ Needless to say we attract attention too. After all we are young, handsome and rather flush!

I should mention that Monty has private means coming from a very well-heeled New York family. He loves writing and his job as journalist and he is lucky to be able to do something he loves so much in his own time and in his own way. Since he covers society gossip and the arts our adventures sometimes feature in his various columns. And, he knows so many personalities many of whom he has interviewed. He is continually trying to get me to write and says I would do well as a restaurant critic since I know my food!

Monty disappears for the afternoon to interview someone and I make my way to Aunt Mimi’s house where we will stay this time. She is in London with Mama on her revived mission to find a new husband. She has already been through three but to be fair the last one snuffed it. And he was the nicest.

I am having a nap when there is a commotion downstairs. The commotion enters my room and pounces on me in the form of Millie my sister. Although she and Henri have their own house in Paris, she often stays here if there is a family gathering.

“Surprise” she squawks.

“Drat” I think, “that is our fun wrecked.”

“What are you doing here?” I ask clearly miffed.

“Oh Mama telephoned and told me you would be here so we came back early from the country. I simply had to see you. It has been ages. We will stay here and keep you company!

We natter endlessly as Mimi’s housekeeper brings us cups of tea and biscuits until she says “well I guess we had better get ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“I have booked the theatre and dinner. Henri will join us. And I have asked some friends. Alas, your Cécile is unavailable. But you knew that already didn’t you?” she says with a sly smile.

“ Where is Monty?”  she adds.

“He will be back very soon”  I am gutted. Monty will be livid.

“I am so embarrassed that even now my mother is trying to control my life via my sister”  I blurt to Monty behind closed doors as we change.

“We have to escape somehow”  he says “If not tonight then tomorrow night.”

We discuss strategy and come up with a few plans. But first we decide I should tackle Millie tomorrow morning. Perhaps a direct attack would work!

We meet in Fouquet’s again. As we sip cocktails, a horde of Millie’s friends arrive. Some have been clearly selected to keep us amused and occupied. But she has made a slight miscalculation with her first introduction. “Boys. This is June Day. She is THE dancing sensation of Paris at the moment. She has just done a little season at the Alhambra with Harry Pilcer and we are going to see her at Claridge’s tomorrow night.”

“Hello June” says Monty with a red face “or should….”

“Monty darling” June gushes and smothers him with kisses stopping him from saying anything further.

“Oh I should have know that all you Americans know each other” says Millie with a frown.

Even though it is close by we get a fleet of cabs to the smart little Ambassadeurs Theatre just off the southern end of the Champs Elysees on the Rue Gabriel. We are seeing the Oscar Dufrenne production of La Revue de la Femme which is drawing to a close after a few months run.

Programme for La Revue De La Femme, Ambassaseurs Theatre, Paris

Programme for La Revue De La Femme, Ambassadeurs Theatre, Paris

The French dancer and actress Paulette Duval is the star and is considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Paris. She is ravishing. “She starred in the film Poppea, a feature all about Nero, that was released in May” says Monty “it was abysmal. But she is untarnished.”

The real stars of the show are the gorgeous Guy sisters – Edmonde, Christiane and Marie – along with their incredible partner Ernest Van Duren.  They are magnificent in the scene Speed, but the most spectacular scenes are Les Ambassadeurs en 1880 and Les Mers. The latter has a stunning array of costumes by Erte representing the great seas of the world including the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Red, the Black and White sea.

“I have been trying to get an interview with that Edmonde Guy for months” says Monty.

Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren

Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren

After the show we are taken to the wonderfully fashionable Prunier restaurant at 9 Rue Duphot near the Madeleine. This is the premier sea-food restaurant in Paris and Henri of course knows the owner Emile Prunier. The oyster bar and shop downstairs is amazing and the restaurant upstairs is luxurious and full of festivity. We take a vast range of dishes from oysters, bouillabaisse and bisque soup to homard Americain, mussels ad coquilles and sole Prunier to name but a few.

The interior of Prunier's

Monty and Henri discuss the origins of the restaurant. “This is a striking example of how a big modern restaurant grows up.’ Says Henri “It was founded in 1872 and was simply a modest oyster shop patronised primarily by foreigners, since the French did not appreciate oysters at the time. One day an American came in and showed M.Alfred Prunier how to cook oysters. He swiftly added scalloped oysters and oyster stew to the menu and business boomed. Later, Emile, his son, devoted more attention to fish and sea food and expanded the menu and the restaurant and added the shop.”

Henri asks Emile over to join in our conversation and he tells us “on average we have a thousand customers per day for lunch and dinner and we open 17,000 oysters daily!”

“See what a story” says Monty “you write it up Fynes and I will get it placed.”

Monty yabbers at length to June while I have to endure one of Millie’s friend’s called Gabrielle who tells me her life story in French. Yawn. In the bathroom Monty tells me about June. “I was her escort for a while a few years ago in New York when she was called Billy Raymond and in the chorus of a cabaret. I guess she wants to keep her real identity a secret for some reason.”

After dinner some of Millie’s guests vanish and there is a big debate about what to do next. Luckily, Monty and June win the day and we make our way to the famous New York Bar at 5 Rue Daunou – one of the most popular rendezvous in Paris. It is heaving with people who have come to see and listen to the legendary Les Copeland who plays the piano and sings nightly from 10-2am.

Les Copeland

“As an entertainer Copeland stands alone. He is a bohemian and has rooted objections to working unless he needs the money.” says June.

“I guess he must be broke then” says Millie with a grin.

“Yes” June replied with a laugh “which means we get the chance to see his amazing talent! You know Gershwin regards him as one of his favourite pianists and he has even privately entertained the Prince of Wales!”

“I have written about him before” says Monty  “He grew up in rural Kansas, made his name on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, became famous as a pianist for Lew Dockstader’s ministrels and then had his own room at Reisenwebers’s cabaret in New York before he moved here.”

Les Copeland’s thoroughly original songs express the spirit of American folklore in a spontaneous and humorous style. His rendition of some new songs including The Finest Thing in London is the Bobby and You Can Call That a Perfect Day provoke a rapturous reception. But that is not all. Copeland has also engaged some friends to sing and Harry MacHenry and Al Brown also delight with double and single character songs.

After a spot of dancing Millie decides it is time to call it a night. We are not in the mood to argue. We drop June off at her Hotel and return to Mimi’s home for an early night.

We drink a lot of brandy in my room. For some reason Monty is seemingly reluctant to leave. I am being blunt to the point of being rude when he passes out on my bed. I am rather squiffy too but can only think of taking off his tux and putting him under the bedclothes.

When we wake up in the morning all he says is “blimey.”


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