Gaby Deslys, 1881-1920: Material Girl

Norman Douglas on the subject of Menton writes in passing that the Riviera seems to have produced no persons of note other  than Andrea Doria and Gaby Deslys.

Clearly a joke that left them in the aisles in 1922, but hers was not a name I was familiar with. My wife, given the name without context, thought she might have been be one of Yves St Laurent’s muses.   Good guess, but wrong.

She was a dancer and and chanteuse and one of the most notorious stage presences of her day.  The Madonna of the aughts and teens,  making up for modest innate talent with colossal work ethic and a flair for publicity.  A multi-millionaire at the time of her death, she hung her numerous hats on the Corniche (229 Avenue Kennedy, Marsailles) in the sort of place that might entice even Gerard Depardieu back to France. Continue reading

Isabella Andreini, 1562-1604: An Actor’s Life For Me

Cineasts may remember the film Stage Beauty all about Nell Gwynne convincing Charles II to keep Edward Kynaston from playing female roles that could be better served by first female actress Margaret Hewes (1645-1719).

Behind the times as usual.  By the time Ms Hewes was born, the Italians had already buried and praised Isabella Andreini, as one of the finest exponents of Commedia dell’Arte.

Rather modern in concept, was Commedia dell’Arte, performance art by  stock characters  – Pulcinello, Arlecchino –  often with stock masks (a throwback to Roman stage craft) and very loose scripts if scripts there were at all. Think An Evening At The Improv,  with a touch of audience participation.  You had to be quick to take on that kind of job. Continue reading