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It seemed that Sacha Guitry would never rival his father, Lucien, France’s greatest actor, but in 1905 Nono, a play about a young man who has tired of a jealous mistress older than himself and gets rid of her, made Sacha the new idol of Paris.  It was the start of over fifty years in which Sacha was the uncrowned king of the boulevard theatre. 

By the nineteen thirties, Maurice Chevalier was an established figure in the Parisian music hall.  In 1935, Jacques Tati, the young man with those legs that slipped and slid and tied themselves in knots, appeared on the same programme as Chevalier – low down in the order of billing, but nonetheless clearly visible.  After weary years of trailing the provinces and of one-night stands in obscure theatres and casinos, Tati had arrived.      

When Chevalier opened a new season of one-man shows in 1950 at the Théâtre des Variétés and played over a hundred and thirty consecutive performances, the printed programme contained a flattering testimonial from Sacha Guitry.  “You have known how to please women – whilst not displeasing men – and I think that must be unique,” wrote Sacha, “You were acclaimed at your entry on stage, and – a very rare privilege! – the ovation you received at your exit was no less enthusiastic.” 

At this time, Sacha Guitry’s own successes were confined to colourful extravaganzas in which he recounted picture-book tales of Versailles and Paris and Napoleon, whilst Tati entered popular mythology with his film Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot.  


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