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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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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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Poccardi, Club Daunou, Fysher’s, Le Perroquet, Caveau, Zelli’s, Larue Restaurant, Mitchell’s, Theatre de Vaudeville (Rip Revue), Trix’s Blue Room (Abbaye de Theleme) and Jardin de Ma Souer.

Saturday 21st April

It is almost time for Aunt Mimi’s wedding so on that pretext I go to Paris early on my own. This time I take the usual transit by train and boat. I conspire to help aunt Mimi with her wedding arrangements and Papa is fine about my missing work days. Lorenzo is in Paris for business and pleasure and staying at Claridge’s. After depositing my suitcase at aunt Mimi’s, who is out, I head straight there. We have a rather pleasant re-union. But there is no time for extensive pleasantries. The night is beginning. We meet Gabrielle and Cécile in the foyer. They are thrilled to see us and look incredible – Gabrielle in a blond lace gown by Patou and Cécile in a Calvarrac dancing gown of lemon georgette decorated with silver ribbon and rococo roses. We wander to Fouquet’s for cocktails and Mimi and Sir Oliver are there with a big group of friends.

“Fynes darling. There you are.” Exclaims Mimi engulfing me with a big hug and kiss before she introduces everyone. Sir Oliver orders more champagne and we have a jolly hour before the four of us head off to eat.

Lorenzo has decided to visit an Italian restaurant called Poccardi situated rather appropriately I thought, at 9 Boulevard des Italiens. I am told it is highly regarded and it certainly appears to be very popular because it is overflowing with people. We immediately begin with a range of hors d’oeuvres washed down with a sparkling Lacrima Crisiti Rose. Moving onto the Chianti we devour a rather extensive menu of minestone soup, lobster Fra Diavolo, linguine with red clam sauce, thick country bread and shaved Parmesan cheese, mini Calzones, eggplant Parmigiana, grilled Italian sausage and Veal Sorrentino. Lastly, a simple zabaglione and then cheeses with some delightful dessert wine.

I have chosen a rather interesting route for our Tourne Du Grands Ducs. We start the night at the Club Daunou where Ted Trevor and Dina Harris perform their wonderful dances. We then visit Nilson Fysher’s spot on Rue d’Antin for the exquisite singing of Yvonne George and Dora Stroeva.

Yvonne George is a Belgian blonde sensation, who, over the past few years, has been making a big impression in Paris and has just returned from appearing in the Greenwich Village Follies in New York. She is tall and beautiful with an expressive pale face and unusual violet coloured eyes. With her bobbed and slicked back hair with a single lock over her forehead, she gives off an air of utterly natural feminity. But her ‘look’ is also intense and ‘wild’ a little like her songs and her voice. She gives an emotive performance channelling what must be her own pain into her delivery with a series of tragic songs about real life but then lightens the mood with parodies of Russian and Spanish songs displaying a sophisticated sense of humour.

Yvonee George

Yvonee George

The exotic gipsy singer Dora Stroeva, the latest star of Paris cabaret, sings her songs in Russian or French accompanying herself by guitar. She commanded complete silence when she mounted her high stool to begin. She had a white face, scarlet lips and black hair like a painted skull-cap and was dressed in a simple black skirt and jacket, a low cut white shirt and bright scarlet scarf wrapped about her throat. She is wild and quiet all at the same time with a masculine edge to her voice.

We then move on for an extended stay at Le Perroquet and dance for what seems like hours. Finally we climb the hill to Montmartre and visit the Caveau at 54 Rue Pigalle. This spacious haunt was famed in revolutionary days and currently has two artists who have an equal genius for casting a spell. Mme Efremova sings strange gipsy songs in the dim lamplight conjuring up love and romance while the beautiful Cora Madou sings deeply moving songs with an amazing voice accompanied by a piano only. We then pop into Zelli’s for a spot of cheek to cheek dancing before ending up at Mitchell’s at about 5.30am.

Cora Madou

Cora Madou

As a regular habitué of Le Perroquet, Cécile tells us all about Louis Mitchell. “He is an American singer and drummer who came to Europe in 1912 with James Reece Europe supporting the dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. After the war he returned with a 7 piece band called Mitchell’s Jazz Kings and performed at the Casino de Paris and later at Le Perroquet. Now he has opened his own club here.”

Gabrielle adds. “You always come here on at the end of a Paris night out. It is the last resort. We are told by our American friends that it is Harlem transplanted to the Place Pigalle.”

“By the look of it, I am sure Monty would agree if he was here.” I say.

It is a tiny place with a small dance area and it is packed solid but we do get a table, drink the usual fizz, nibble on the house specialities of hot cakes and sausages and listen to a trio bang the piano and sing and then we dance on the 2×4 floor space.

“This place is so small that it has the air of always being overcrowded and therefore highly successful!” Says Cécile.

Monday 23rd April

I assist aunt Mimi with her wedding preparations and post a series of After Dark pieces to my newspaper. By the way, my weekly column is being received well.

Tuesday 24th April

All the family have now arrived and we meet in the drawing room of Mimi’s house for cocktails. We then go to the Theatre de Vaudeville on the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee – d’Antin and the Boulevard des Capucines to see the new Rip revue. Rip, whose real name is George Thenon, is a French institution and a famous cartoonist turned revue writer and satirist.

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Mimi warns us beforehand. “The show will display all the wit and malice in which Rip excels but to fully appreciate a Rip revue one has to be acquainted with all the current potins of Paris so as to follow the allusions.” She pauses. “Ah, potins means gossip darlings. I will try and fill you in as we progress.”

The stars of the show are Marguerite Deval and Gaby Montbreuse. We had the joy of hearing the latter sing at Chez Fysher’s last September. It is sumptuously staged and costumed with an interlude showing the latest creations of Madeleine and Madeleine each baptized with a name. However, the most intriguing portion for me was the ballet ‘Arlequin et ses Poupees’ performed by Robert Quinault and Iris Rowe with the theme of the illusion of a harlequin who takes a doll for a woman. Quinault uses his acrobatic skill intelligently to express a beautiful conception. They both also appear in Les Pirates, the finale of the revue.

They are an amazing combination and in the interval I overhear someone talking about them. “Iris Rowe is English and a pupil of Margaret Morris. Quinault is French and was a performer for the Opera Comique. They met when he made his debut in Cochran’s London, Paris and New York in 1920 and she danced Columbine to his Harlequin. They have been dancing partners since.”

After the show we congregate at the famous Larue Restaurant at 27 Rue Royale for dinner. It is amusing to be given a royal salute by the three smart chasseurs on the door step. Regarded as one of the gastronomic delights of Paris all the treasures of the earth are perfectly prepared by an illustrious chef. It is indeed delightful with its little tables with rose coloured lamp shades and pink satin seats and we are surrounded by famous writers, foreign princes and charming women. I am told that much wit sparkles here and though I am unable to deny or confirm that rumour I can assure you that the multitudinous diamonds, sapphires, pearls and rubies, beyond price, sparkle here nightly. We indulge in the house specials of Caille a la Souvaroff, Becasee Flambee and Crepes Suzette.

I am allowed to leave early and meet Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile at Le Abbaye de Theleme to see the lovely Trix Sisters once again in their Blue Room cabaret. This time they have the added bonus of the singing and dancing of Josephine Earle. She spots me, waves and blows me a kiss. Later she comes over and I introduce her to everyone.

“What is happening with that Dolly Tree?” She asks. “Still engrossed with that cad Mr Dolly I guess.”

“Yes, Jo.” I say “She is as busy as ever.”

“Well, I will see her in a few weeks time. I have fittings. Oh I guess you do not know. I have a big part in the movie that she is dressing called Woman to Woman. We start filming shortly.”

Thursday 26th April

Today is Aunt Mimi’s wedding. It is rather auspicious because it is also the day of the marriage between Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and the Duke of York in London.

Mimi’s wedding gown is from Lucile of course and she looks divine. It is of soft silver tissue cut on straight Grecian lines. Gracefully draped at the back with a large bustle bow and the two ends forming narrow trains. Plus an enveloping veil of Brussels lace secured with clusters of orange blossom.

The simple ceremony is in the town hall with just close family. Sir Oliver has quiet a following but they are a very cosmopolitan crowd that fit in with us terribly well. Perhaps I have forgotten to tell you, like Mimi, Sir Oliver had been married before but his wife had died. Included in this throng is one of his son’s called Julian who is slightly older than me who is rather tall, slender and delicate but very handsome. He is an artist like his father and works in London and Paris.

We all swiftly decamp to Ciro’s on the Rue Daunou for lunch. This is followed by a vast evening dinner and party at a private room in Claridge’s to which Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile have been invited. I am thrilled that there is an exquisite series of exhibition dances by Samya and Sawyer who are also appearing in the ballroom. Needless to say my father is pleased too.

Much later as the mmod gets quieter we scoot off in our finery to visit Le Jardin De Ma Souer at 17 Rue Caumartin on the suggestion of Cécile. This resort, also called The Embassy, was opened in late 1922 and managed by Oscar Mouvet.

“Why on earth have we not been here before Cécile?”
I ask. “This is incredible.”

We are in, what I consider to be, the smartest and most beautiful room in Paris. It is spacious and airy and the general décor and ambiance is delightful.

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

“I have been keeping it a secret.” Says Cecile slyly with a grin. “I have brought you here because tonight the cabaret features a special act!” I am intrigued.

After a lot dancing to an excellent band, the cabaret begins. The first dancers are sisters – Ethel and Marion Forde – who are dressed beautifully and give a spirited repetoire of dances.

“They are American and arrived in Paris late last year making some appearances at Le Perroquet. We saw Marion Forde in En Douce at the Casino de Paris.” Cécile says.

However, the real stars of the night were the imcomparable Maurice Mouvet and Leonara Hughes. Cécile smiled when they came on. Partly because she knew about my lessons with Leonara in Deauville last year and the fact that I have been wanting to see Maurice dance. They were sensational and received the most rapturous applause I have ever known.

Afterwards, Leonara came up to us and asked me to dance.

“My oh my Fynes, you have progressed rather well. In fact you are quite simply marvellous.” She said. I was very happy.

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