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Oct. 31, 1947: Welcoming Piaf

WWD covered the magnetic singer's stateside debut.

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WWD was there when Edith Piaf made her stateside debut at New York’s Playhouse cabaret in 1947. “The petite mistress of what we know here as the torch song,” reported our theater critic on Oct. 31, “won her audience through the magnetism of her personality, through the unaffected and yet lyrical manner of her feelingful delivery, and through the heart tug she puts into every song.” The article added that Piaf’s hard-knock life only added to her total command of song and stage. “From her street singing days as a Paris gamine she learned the heartbreaks of life,” he continued, “and hence she packs a great deal of personal conviction and passion into her songs.…She can become dramatic without slobbering over on the passionate side.”

Tempering the somber crooning that night were the rest of the acts, which included a slew of vaudeville entertainers. There were acrobats, unicycle specialists, and “an amazing group of nine singers who are specialists in the droll ballad, in mimicry and in pantomime,” WWD wrote. “They are especially droll when they give their conception of an American jive band, when they give a brilliant imitation of how a Cossack troupe would render one of the popular French songs or when they play their merry pranks during an orchestra rehearsal with a famous tenor.”

Then there was Georges Andre Martin, who specialized in what the paper called “digital dancing” — and, no, this wasn’t a precursor to Dance Dance Revolution. It was “digital,” as in your 10 digits. “M. Martin dresses up two fingers on each hand,” continued the reporter, “and these digits become the legs in miniature of dancers.”

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