L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, July 24, 2020

All out - Dinarzade in The Greenwich Village Follies, photographs by Nickolas Muray, 1922

"Go big or go home" is the rather tired phrase but, golly, this costume wouldn't give up without a fight! The gown - a mad confection draped over a crinoline the size of a tank - was designed by James Reynolds and was worn by the model Dinarzade in the role of the Duchesse in a ballet based on the poem by Oscar Wilde, “The Nightingale and the Rose.” Completely ridiculous, of course but, described as “sea-green net with a scarf of lilac taffeta and garland of flowers in various shades of pink and mauve, jewels of emerald, diamonds and pearls,” it sounds rather... I don't know... heavenly.

The Greenwich Village Follies was a musical revue that played for eight seasons in New York City from 1919 to 1927. Launched by John Murray Anderson, and opening on 15 July 1919, at the newly-constructed Greenwich Village Theatre near Christopher Street, the show's success has been credited at least in part to the timing of its debut: as a non-union production, it was unaffected by the then-current actors' strike. Though considered a pioneer in the history of Off-Broadway musicals, this annual revue actually spent very little time in its original downtown home. The first edition moved uptown soon after its opening, as did the second. By the third year, the revue simply skipped its native venue and opened at the Shubert Theatre. Typically, after a run in New York, an adapted version of the show toured the country. Like Ziegfeld’s famous Follies, Anderson’s revue featured lavish curtains, sets, and costumes, with original scores by the most popular composers of the day - including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers - comedy sketches and, of course, a bevy of beautiful girls. In addition to Ziegfeld, Anderson's other peers in this theatrical genre included George White with his Scandals, and Earl Carroll with his Vanities. True to its bohemian roots, the revue came to be distinguished by its socially and intellectually provocative content. Even so, the productions provided more than their share of visual appeal, being especially noted for their striking stage pictures and novel lighting effects. Something referred to as a "ballad ballet" - a sort of very grand pantomime - became a staple of the revue. Popular stories, such as Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose” and Edgar Allan Poe's “The Raven,” provided inspiration for these wordless interludes. But by the late 1920s, the Broadway revue was losing patrons to story-driven book musicals like "Show Boat". Anderson left the show after 1924, and the franchise went into hibernation during the seasons of 1926 and 1927. The last year the revue was produced on Broadway was 1928. And at the onset of the Great Depression, the revue's original home, the modest and short-lived Greenwich Village Theatre, was demolished. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

This photograph is credited to James Abbe.

Dinarzade, née Lillian Fischer (or Mulligan, sometimes listed as Petra Clive, later Mrs. Frank Farley; frustratingly, I haven't been able to find any dates for her), was born in Tennessee, received theatrical training in Cincinnati, and was a struggling actress in New York when she was hired as a model by Lady Duff Gordon, the internationally famous dress designer Lucile. On learning of the very sleek brunette's given name the designer declared, "What were they thinking of? Anyone with that name should be blond and fluffy haired!" and quickly renamed her Dinarzade after Scheherazade's sister in the Arabian Nights. Dinarzade went on to become one of the most photographed and most highly paid models of the era. Later, in 1926, she became a Paris-based buyer for Bergdorf Goodman's, then the representative of Bonwit-Teller there, then assistant to the editor at Vogue and, later still, she served as the Paris editor of Harper's Bazaar. She married Frank Farley (circa 1890-1951), the American representative in Europe for Paramount Pictures. But by the 1950's, a widow, she was reportedly working in a Manhattan department store in order to support her elderly mother.

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