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PRIVATE27 037Francophone or Francophile? Little does it matter if you can’t understand the text, you can still appreciate the music! Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) spoke excellent English. He learned it as a Prisoner of War (POW)  during WWI in a German POW camp from an English fellow prisoner.

A true son of Paris, the Menilmontant (the vingtieme arrondissement), once a very tough working class neighborhood, was his home. The quartier is on the right side of the Seine River and hilly. It borders Belleville ,another tough neighborhood. One of the features of Menilmontant is the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, final resting place of numerous creative minds. Maurice Chevalier was a true chansonnier,  great movie star, and lover of all women.He made it to Hollywood, and his movies from the Twenties and Thirties are classics today. His songs and those of Edith Piaf are the epitomes of “Parisian French Songs” as we knew it from the Forties and Fifties.

The album Yesterday dates from 1958 and features some nice photographs of this elegant dandy. The unforgettable songs are themes, for the most part, of his many movies. The song “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” is perhaps the most famous one, rivaled by “Mimi” or “Hello Beautiful”.

My choice is Place Pigalle!

We find, in a generation younger, the French singer Yves Montand (1921-1991) who was born in Venice, Italy, but came to France with his politically Anti-Fascist parents in 1923. He grew up in a tough southern coastal town, Marseille.

PRIVATE27 034Soon, good fortune lighted the way for this actor and singer in Paris, in spite of the war, and in spite of the fact he was drafted in the involuntary labor service run by the Vichy Government for the Germans. Under the wings of Edith Piaf he quickly rose to become the darling of the post WWII Parisian crowd looking for entertainment and new movie stars. He starred in over twenty movies under movie directors like Costa Gravas, Claude Lelouche, Brian Hutton, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Berri.

Chevalier and Montand were two great performers from different times, but in love with their language, culture, et  LA FRANCE!

Both singers were not free from allegations about their war time conduct, and for those interested in this subject matter I would like to refer you to the excellent site with a link below explaining in great detail many surprising facts about the lives and conduct of some of the greatest stars during very difficult times. Kudos here are in order!

Here is the link to the site for Chevalier and there is a reference to Montand as well.

 

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