Gaby Deslys, from music hall to cinema

Gaby Deslys, from music hall to cinema

  • The God of Chance, film by Henri Pouctal.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Gaby Deslys.

    ANONYMOUS

To close

Title: The God of Chance, film by Henri Pouctal.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1919

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 16 - Width 22

Technique and other indications: Gelatin-silver print, author's print In a garden, in front of a large basket of flowers, a woman reads a letter in the presence of a servant: Gaby Deslys

Storage location: Architecture and heritage multimedia library website

Contact copyright: © Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Photographer unknown website

Picture reference: 07-533014 / 0602t00028

The God of Chance, film by Henri Pouctal.

© Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Unknown photographer

To close

Title: Gaby Deslys.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 18 - Width 24

Technique and other indications: Gelatin-silver print, author's print

Storage location: Architecture and heritage multimedia library website

Contact copyright: © Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Photographer unknown website

Picture reference: 07-533019 / 0602t00033

© Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Unknown photographer

Publication date: December 2011

Agrégée in Italian, Doctorate in Contemporary History at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Historical context

Photography in the service of new performing arts

The rise of photography accompanied in the XIXe century the success of new forms of mainstream entertainment, such as music halls and movies, and contributes to the popularity of artists. In addition to the portraits made for postcards, there are photographs taken during performances and filming.

The French music hall owes its fame to Gaby Deslys, who represents the link between the Belle Époque and the Roaring Twenties. Born in Marseille on November 4, 1881 into a bourgeois family, she studied piano and singing but refused to comply with the social conventions of the time. Like other women of the time such as Liane de Pougy or Émilienne d'Alençon, she decided to emancipate herself through the theater. She realizes her limits, but also her eclecticism, which makes her choose the music hall path: "I felt that I will never be a tragedian or an actress [...] My genre was a kind salad of genres that had no place in classical theater. So I calculated my possibilities, and my common sense encouraged me to move away from the theater to go to the music hall ”.

Gabrielle begins under the name of Gaby D'Elys, before becoming Gaby Deslys, She shows a real passion for the theater and does not shy away from the fatigue of rehearsals, which Colette describes in 1913 in The back of the music hall (1913). In 1906, after having triumphed at the Olympia, she achieved great success in London. Like the Belle Otero, she can claim the status of an authentic theater artist and stands out as the embodiment of French charm in Europe and the United States. It began in 1918 in Curl, a film by René Hervil and Henri Mercanton and shot in 1919 in The God of Chance, film by Henri Pouctal, one of the most active directors of the period.

Image Analysis

Portrait of a beauty of the time

The God of Chance features Gaby Deslys, Félix Oudart, Georges Tréville and Harry Pilcer, Gaby's partner on the music hall scene and in life. Produced by the Eclipse Company, the film takes its title from a statuette that a wealthy American, Harry Duncan (Pilcer), gives to the beautiful Gaby, wife of a financially in bad position. The first shot shows a scene from the film, in a situation typical of equivocal comedies: the beautiful protagonist, standing in the garden of her wealthy home, reads a letter under the gaze of a servant. The presence of peacocks, an emblem of beauty and coquetry, testifies to the elegance of the setting. The second photo shows a foreground of Gaby Deslys in profile. The actress displays a seemingly messy, angel-like blonde hair, and a veil of sadness on her childish face who, in reality, is approaching forty. Gaby's beauty and freshness are maintained by a clever make-up, but the men, dazzled by the charm that the actress gives off, do not want to unlock her secret. “I have never seen Gaby Deslys naturally. But I have seen so many photographs of her that I have no desire to know more. […] She is grace and elegance and beauty. She is seduction. She is the Woman ”, writes André Negis. The woman of male dreams combines innocence and malice: with her childish and mischievous appearance, Gaby Deslys embodies this impossible pair.

Interpretation

An artist in step with the entertainment industry

The film career of Gaby Deslys ends abruptly barely started, since the actress dies shortly after the release of Pouctal's film. 1er December 1919, invited by Léon Volterra to the Théâtre de Paris at the general Mad Virgin, Gaby, braving the cold, shows off her famous neckline adorned with the jewels offered by King Manuel II and falls seriously ill. A purulent pleurisy was diagnosed and she died two months later, on February 11, 1920. Shortly before, her rival Liane de Pougy had noted in her Notebooks : "His fate will perhaps spare him old age, this retreat for actresses which looks like a funeral". Maurice Sachs echoes him: “Gaby Deslys is dead. Sarah Bernhardt on stage again in Athalie : a very old lady, crippled, decrepit, exhausted, who still wants to show herself. Atrocious spectacle ”. The day of his burial in Marseille, The God of Chance is screened in Paris. Despite her turn of the century look, Gaby Deslys is a model of modernity for women performing in the early twentieth century.e century, to which it shows the importance of always keeping pace with the entertainment industry. “In this blessed time of happy carefree carelessness, when women still had grisette souls, Gaby kept a cool head. Neither his heart nor his senses seemed to speak very loudly. She was ahead of her time, and perhaps that is one of the reasons for her success, "writes Jacques-Charles.

To learn more about the technique of the silver bromide gelatin test, go to the website Arago, the portal to photography

  • music hall
  • cinema
  • Belle Epoque
  • actor

Bibliography

CHARLES, Jacques, From Gaby Deslys to Mistinguett, Paris, Gallimard, 1933.CHARLES, Jacques, One hundred years of music hall: General history of music hall, from its origins to the present day in Great Britain, France and the USA, Paris, Jeheber, 1956. FESCHOTTE, Jacques, History of the music hall, Paris, PUF, 1965.MANNONI, Laurent, The great art of light and shadow. Cinema archeology, Paris, Nathan, 1994.SADOUL, Georges, General history of cinema, Paris, Denoël, 1984.SIRKIS, Jean-Jacques, The Deslys years, Marseille, Éditions Jeanne Laffitte, 1990.Gaby Deslys singing Philomene, by Henri Christiné, and Everything in pink!, by Vincent Scotto / William Burtey / Lucien Boyer (1910)

To cite this article

Gabriella ASARO, "Gaby Deslys, from music hall to cinema"


Video: Gaby DESLYS et Villa GABY