The prototype of the French
Charmer, Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) began his career as an
entertainer at a very early age. Singing in slummy suburban variety
theaters, and then performing at some of France's less glamorous
bathing resorts, Chevalier did his part to keep the family fed. And,
much to the delight of several future generations of fans, he was able
to discover and hone the various talents that would keep him on the
stage long after the lash of economic necessity had ceased to drive
him to the front of the crowd.
Chevalier, as they say in show business, was
"a natural," who could get a smile out of the sternest of faces. Still, it
was not until he was in his mid-thirties, that Chevalier's innate
abilities became known to a very wide-audience. Having been released,
thanks to some friendly intervention, from a Prisoner of War of Camp in
Germany during World War I, Chevalier returned to Paris, where he teamed
up with the revue star Mistinguett. Their act, at the Follies Bergere,
quickly became the rage, and established Chevalier as the most admired
performer on the scene.
He went on to win great acclaim and many new fans with a series of
remarkable one man shows, in Paris, London and New York. With his
intentionally heavy accent, his teasingly insinuating songs, and his ever
so debonair and stylish manner, Chevalier became the embodiment of things
French to English-speaking audiences.