09 March 2008

Yes You Can Can Can



When Mo declared that today's word was "CAN", my comment was, "Drat you've done it to me again! If you say "can" twice, you end up chasing your tail all over the internet to come up with Offenbach, The Merry Widow, Toulouse-Lautrec, August Renoir, Jean Renoir, Moulin Rouge, La Goulue, Jane Avril, and movies in 1952, 1954, 1960 and 2001. A little narrowing down may be in order."

Well I narrowed it down. When you say "can can", you are talking about one dance in one place in one city performed by two women painted by one genius. The can can was first made famous at the Moulin Rouge in Paris as performed by La Goulou and her successor Jane Avril both of whom were imortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec. Since then there has been a broadway play at least four motion pictures: Moulin Rouge 2001, Moulin Rouge 1952, French Can Can by Jean Renoir 1955, and Can Can the 1953 Broadway musical and 1960 motion picture. The Renoir film is the most accurate as to the history of the can can and its place in the history of art and society.

La Goulue or "the glutton" (Louise Weber, 1870-1929) was the dancer who first brought the then scandalous dance to the Moulin Rouge nightclub. Born in poverty in Alsace she moved to Paris with her laundress mother, but at 16 became the ruling talent of Montmartre, often without underwear under her ruffled skirts. Her favorite partner was Jacques Renaudin who was known as Valentin le Désossé, literally translated as "Valentin the boneless."

She fell in love with the painter Auguste Renoir (father of Jean Renoir who made the movie listed above), who introduced her to a group of models who posed nude for many artists. Through these connections she found her way to increasingly more fashionable clubs. When Joseph Oller met her, he immediately engaged her to dance at the Moulin Rouge.

Some of her famous moves included dancing on tables, displaying the heart embroidered on her drawers, and removing gentlemen's hats with her toe. Her earnings from her appearances and touring the countryside made her wealthy woman with a home in Montmartre. In 1895 she resigned the Moulin Rouge to set up her own business as a belly dancer. She believed her audience would follow her, but La Goulue without the Moulin Rouge was a failure. She lost the rest of her fortune in foolish investments and evenually became a homeless alcoholic. She returned to Montmartre in 1928 selling peanuts, cigarettes, and matches on the streets near the Moulin Rouge where she died in 1929, telling a priest that she was "La Goulue."

La Goulou was replaced by Jane Avril as the Queen of the Moulin Rouge, again imortalized by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec through his paintings. She was born Jeanne Beaudon in the Belleville section of Paris, the daughter of the passing mistress of Count Luigi di Font who was never involved in her life. Her alcoholic mother often beat her and when she ran away from home the authorities declared her insane and she was sent to Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital. Under kind care, she improved and started dancing for the hospital employees.

At the age of 16 she was released from the hospital and began working during the day and dancing at the Latin Quarter at night. Using the stage name Jane Avril, she built a reputation that eventually allowed her to make a living as a full time dancer. In 1885 she was hired by the Moulin Rouge to replace La Goulue and became a star of the cafe concerts in the area. The popularity of her can can was so great that Jane Avril travelled to perform in London.

Jane Avril gave a more graceful and quieter version of the can can of La Goulue. She became one of the most recognizable names of the Parisian nightlife, and remained a star for many more years. At 42 she entered into an unhappy marriage and exhausted her savings. Without any financial support following his death in 1926, Avril lived in near poverty on what little was left of her savings. She died in 1943 at the age of 75, and was forgotten until portrayed by Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 1952 film and reborn in a fictional form in 2001 played by Nicole Kidman.

So there you are from movies to movies and real to reel. Now that you know about a dance done by two women who were loved by Paris, I'll end with a pretty Cole Porter song from Can Can.




27 comments:

Travis said...

I signed Mr Linky although my post won't be up until tomorrow.

My first thought was Can Can, the 1960 movie starring Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, and Juliet Prowse. But I don't recall if it was based on anything factual.

Happy MM!

Jamie said...

Can Can the 1960 movie was the film version of the Cole Porter broadway musical.

crazy working mom said...

I can can dig this post! :)
Great job, here.
Happy MM.

Steven said...

Wow! I ended up thinking in the same direction. Not as intellectually stimulating, for sure, but in the same direction! :-) Great MM!!

Ian Thomas Healy said...

Sorry...you said Moulin Rouge and then all I could think about was hockey. LOL

I wouldn't have minded the 2001 movie so much if they hadn't used music from MY GENERATION, dammit.

Ian

Cheerio said...

Can Can! I still can picture films my parents used to watch with can can dancing. I find it very awesome. Great post.

Mariposa said...

Nice Manic Monday! ;)

Gattina said...

At the entrance of the "Moulin Rouge" there are still copies of Toulouse paintings. The originals are of course in a museum. I have seen them in an exposition, it's a pity that they lost quite a lot colors. Nice post !

Ivanhoe said...

What a clever idea - can can! Thanks for sharing the history and happy MM!

BBC said...

Love is an interesting insanity.

Lois Grebowski said...

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.... *sigh* one of the fathers of modern advertising. Made wonderful poster advertisements. And his drawings were awesome!

Not many people are ware of the Some of his life "challenges," so to speak. He died young at 36 from alcoholism and syphilis.

he surely did a wonderful job of capturing the time and joie de vivre of Gay Paree!

Sarge Charlie said...

excellent and informative post, thanks

Nancy Lindquist-Liedel said...

I love the Belle Epoch!!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Another great history lesson. I didn't know any of this. Love the video. Have a great MM Jamie. :)

Marilyn said...

What tragic endings to exciting lives.... Another great post.

Mo said...

I've had the 'can-can' song from Moulin Rouge stuck in my head ever since I posted this blasted word on Friday!
;)
Great post - you always do such great research!
Have a great Manic Monday!
cheers,
manic mo

trying said...

wow... what an interesting post! happy manic monday!

Laura said...

Thanks for the history. A sad history for such lively women.

Dixie said...

Thanks for the interesting post about the Can Can.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy MM.

Desseys said...

My goodness... I never new this. Do you remember the movie Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston? That's where I remember seeing the can can. Perhaps it shows my age.
Thank you for sharing such wonderful information!
Happy MM!

Stine said...

Wonderful take on Can(Can)! Lautrec had some great motifs in the characters of his day...

anthonynorth said...

Now that is a 'can do' essay. Excellent.

Neila said...

Wow! I had no idea about all of that. But I'm not much of a dancer so I don't think I would recognize if someone were actually doing the Can Can.

Congrats on winning the first MM post of the week!

Marilyn said...

Congrats on getting post of the week. It's well deserved!

Mo said...

Congrats on Post Of the Week ~ as Marilyn said, it's well deserved!
I appreciate your continued excellence in your Manic Monday posts!
cheers,
manic mo

crazy working mom said...

Congrats on the post of the week. :)

This was a great post for sure.

E Cigarette Review said...

Awesome post! Keep up the good posts.