Suzy Solidor – Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)


Who was Suzy Solidor? That’s a question many visitors to the Château-Musée Grimaldi in Cagnes-sur-Mer are probably asking themselves when they discover the impressive collection of portraits of this tall blond woman painted by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Few people may remember her name today but Suzy Solidor, who was born Suzanne Louise Marie Marion on 18 December 1900 in the little town of Saint-Servan-sur-Mer in Brittany, was a model, a popular singer, a night club owner, a writer and an actress.

Born to a 28-year-old single mother, she changed her name toSuzy Solidor when she moved to Paris in the late 1920’s to work as a model. Soon thereafter she became the lover of antiques dealer Yvonne de Bremond d’Ars. The two women who had adopted the androgynous look so popular at the time, made the covers of numerous fashion magazines such as Vogue and Fémina.

In 1929, Suzy Solidor began a successful career as a singer. In a deep, captivating and sensual voice, she sang about the sea and her love for women. “Ouvre” and “Obsession” for instance are two unequivocal lesbian hymns. Even though Solidor was openly gay, she was also rumoured to have had a liaison with famed aviator, Jean Mermoz.

In 1933, Solidor opened her first cabaret “La Vie Parisienne“, which became one of the trendiest night spots in Paris and saw the debuts of such artists as Suzy DelairColette Mars and Charles Trénet. She also wrote four novels and played in four movies between 1935 and 1940: «Escale» (1935), «La garçonne» (1936), «La femme du bout du monde» (1937) et «Ceux du ciel» (1940).

During the war, her cabaret remained opened and was very popular with the German officers. Solidor regularly sang the French version of “Lili Marlène” for her audience – probably the most famous songs of that period since the Germans could also hear it sung by Marlène Dietrich and the Americans by Lale Andersen – and attended many galas organized by Radio Paris, the German- controlled radio.

Convicted by the Épuration légale as a collaborator, Solidor was forbidden to work for a few years after the war and her cabaret was closed. After a brief stay in the States, Solidor came back to France and opened a few new cabarets, first in Paris, then in Cagnes-Sur-Mer where she moved in 1966 and stayed until her death, at the age of 82.

Despite a long and rich artistic career, Solidor’s most famous achievement was to become known as the “most painted woman in the world”, with no less that 200 portraits made of her by the like of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Marie Laurencin, Francis Picabia and Kees van Dongen. Her only requirement for posing was that she would be given the paintings to hang in her club. Her most famous portrait is probably the one that was done by Tamara de Lempicka, where she appears in the nude and is one of the paintings on display in the Château Grimaldi.


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