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French Stars: Mistinguett

educational resource
posted on 2019-09-30, 00:00 authored by Victoria DuckettVictoria Duckett, Richard Abel
French Stars: Mistinguett is a program of films that, for the first time, collectively reveal the work that this famous ‘Queen of the Paris Night’ undertook on film. What is significant is not only that visual proof is offered of film’s early and close relationship to the theatre, but the fact that this is the first time that these four feature films could be seen together. Moreover, the notes that were researched and written to accompany the screenings were conducted historically and with much effort: beyond the inclusion of Mistinguett’s films in Henri Bousquet’s filmography of Pathé films (1988), there is no mention of Mistinguett in film history, theatre history, or related fields. Hence, primary research was conducted at the performance collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), at Richelieu (Paris) and through Gallica (BnF; online). For those who do not know about theatre or film history, Mistinguett is important as she was globally famous in a period when France dominated the world markets in film (pre WW1). In this context, we are not only demonstrating that the popular music hall materially impacted the development of the longer narrative film. We also show that women brought global audiences together around films that feature sexualized street dances, female athleticism, and portrayals of popular street characters in Paris.









This program was discussed in Italian papers: Il Messaggero, 6/10/2019 Corriera Quotidiano 5/10/2019: And in some leading international blogs: Silent London (UK,

Research statement

Background There is scant literature or integrated history on the fundamental role that women from the popular stage (the music hall, the variety stage) enjoy as pioneers of early cinema and global media culture. Through the curation of a film programme of overlooked and little-known films, the researcher draws attention to the relationship between the female stage star and her role in the promotion of film as a global media at the opening of the twentieth century. Furthermore, the programme also establishes the relationship between Theatre and Film history – disciplines often separate in the academy Contribution ‘French Stars’ is a curated film programme for renowned festival, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (Italy) The researcher, with collaborator R Abel (Prof Em Int Cinema and Media Studies, U. Michigan), engaged some of the most prestigious film archives in the world (the Cinémathèque Française, the CNC (Centre national du cinema et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy), EYE Filmmuseum Amsterdam) to restore and release their films featuring the French performer Mistinguett – the most famous international music hall actress of the early twentieth century (and probably ever). For the first time since their original circulation 100 years ago, Mistinguett’s works were collectively located, restored, and shown to audiences, redressing gendered inequity. This programme prompted archives to restore significant historical artefacts that recuperate a lost history. Significance At this festival scholars, archivists, collectors, journalists and musicians from across the world gather to reassess and re-write film history. The international forum in which this program was featured indicates its significance. The collaboration of France’s leading archives and EYE filmmuseum evidences the calibre of this work. Moreover, the French film industry was the most important film industry in the world pre-WW1. This work proves that women were not peripheral but central to its global reach.

Publication classification

JC3 Curated Exhibition or Event – Festival


NTRO Medium


Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

Place of publication

Rome, Italy


Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

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