Saturday, 26 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday 1938-39

My last post on Janet Flanner's articles on Paris in the 20s and 30s for Paris in July. We have reached the last two years and are also getting closer to the World War II. There are several articles on the situation and uncertainty at the time. They are rather long and difficult to just make a small extraction, so I leave them out.

The articles posted here are just a few of what the book contains. If you are interested in Paris during these years you should read the book. Flanner has a sharp eye and ear for things and it is interesting to read. So, here we go...!


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

"With the death of Maurice Ravel, France has lost its greatest petit maitre of modern music. He was still a prodigy pupil at the Conservatoire when he composed two of the three works for which he was most famous - the 'Pavane pour une Infante Défunte' and 'Jeux d'Eaux,' regarded as the most perfectly pianistic piece since Liszt. The hypnotic Iberian quality of 'Boléro' is partially explained by his having been born at Ciboure, near the Spanish border. "

Susanne Lenglen (1899-1938)

"For fifteen years Suzanne Lenglen, the champion tennis player, was one of the few female public figures of France. She was respectfully admired as being typically French - hard-working, frugal-living, obstinate, given to making occasional scenes, authoritative, capricious, expert at her job. Her premature death was regarded here as a national loss, as if she had been a general, or an homme d'état, or a big man in science. ..."

Wonder what today's women
players would say playing
in these clothes!

Stein Art Collection

"Since Miss Gertrude Stein's collection of pictures practically ranks as one of Paris's private modern museums, it is of interest to report that she and her canvases have moved from her famous Montparnasse salon on the Rue de Fleurus to a remarkable seventeenth-century Latin Quarter flat formerly occupied by Queen Christina of Sweden and still containing her original wall boiseries and her reading cabinet. The move was a good thing, since the moving men had to count up for Miss Stein what she had never bothered to inventory. Her collection today includes one hundred and thirty-one canvases, including five Picassos which are still in the china closet. Ninety-nine of the pictures are hung. The salon alone contains four major masterpieces - A Cézanne, Picasso's portrait of Miss Stein, Picasso's 'Full Length Nude' (rose period) and his famous 'Girl with Basket of Flowers.' It also has two
natures mortes by Braque and nineteen smaller Picassos, including four perfectly matched heads of the 1913 Cubist period, rare in their unity. The only new painter whose works Miss Stein is enthusiastically acquiring is the young English artist Sir Francis Rose, who has been recently working in China and is now in New York. "

Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

"Georges Bizet, the composer of Carmen, would have been one hundred years old last month if he
hadn't died at the green age of thirty-seven - of 'an insidious and undefined disease,' which was a broken heart. Bizet's centenary has just been celebrated at the Opéra-Comique in a gala 2,271st performance of Carmen, attended by President Lebrun, Emma Calvé, and governmental, literary, and musical bigwigs. The night Bizet was dying, the opera was fighting through its thirty-third performance, for Carmen was then regarded a failure; in the fortune-telling scene, Mme. Galli-Marié (the original Carmen) read Bizet's death in the cards and fainted. The music critics, who succeeded in killing Bizet, had nearly killed his work. ..."



"Owing to the super-instability of European affairs and the super-sensitivity of Europeans just now, the Suez Canal and Hollywood are suddenly in trouble. Italy is demanding more Italian directors for the Canal, and France and England are protesting against the Darryl Zanuck film Suez. The London Daily Telegraph complains that Hollywood has taken an important chapter from Empire history and 'treated it as if it were a fictitious story of a job of large-scale plumbing.' The French weekly Match acidly asks if cinéastes can thus travesty reality, pointing out that when de Lesseps was twenty-five (about Tyrone Power's age), the future Empress Eugénie was a tot of four, hardly ripe to rouse romance. Furthermore, it wasn't Emperor Napoleon who sent de Lesseps to Egypt, but King Louis-Philippe. And what is worse, as the many de Lesseps descendants cry, their distinguished ancestor, far from being in love with the Empress, was happily married twice, had seventeen children by his two devoted wives, and was sixty-four when he and Her Highness met - to open a canal, not to conclude a flirtation. By the de Lesseps clan here the film is considered' an offence to the memory of a great man' - and to a big family, since it puts de Lesseps's children in the awkward position of apparently never having been born.

In London, an indignant cinema critic wrote: 'What would Americans think of a British film of old Kentucky, with Lincoln as a plantation owner courting Harriet Beecher Stowe to the theme-song of "Alexander's Ragtime Band?"' Lots of Americans would probably think it was grand."

Pablo Picasso

"For the first time in three years a representative show has been held of Picasso's latest paintings, and for the first time in his career the show, which is at Paul Rosenberg's is full of pretty Picassos. Critics are in a stew, for this time the public doesn't have to be lectured on modern art, since any ignoramus can see it's full of beautiful flowers. Except for one canvas, which features a frying pan, and two that depict Picasso's window-casement theme, most of the twenty-odd pictures displayed concentrate on flowers in a vase. No other great European painter could risk so much on still lifes. Everything about the new Picassos is new to Picasso: the luscious palette of purple and white, the upholstered romanticism, even the composition. Rumour says that what Picasso has been privately painting for the past three years is wonderfully ugly roosters, and that he painted the pretty flower pictures only to please Rosenberg, who is selling them at one hundred and fifty thousand francs each, probably only to please Picasso."

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