Music: Parisienne

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Six years ago a sadly disillusioned French girl packed her meagre belongings, said a bitter good-by to New York, took the first boat home. She had been in a Grade D .Shubert show. Its run was short. No one took much notice of the songs she sang. Basso Feodor Chaliapin and La Argentina, the dancer, were equally unfortunate on their first U. S. visits, but both had sensational comebacks. Last week luck had changed for Lucienne Boyer.

She arrived on the Ile de France with a manager, a pianist, a violinist, three maids, 23 trunks, 50 pieces of hand luggage, a 12th Century Buddha and a $6,000-per-week contract. Awaiting her were a Sherry-Netherland penthouse, a show called Continental Varieties, a brand new night club on the 65th floor of the R. C. A. building, Rockefeller Center. Producers Arch Selwyn and Harold B. Franklin congratulated themselves when, a week before the Varieties opened, every $8.80 seat in the house had been sold. Rockefeller Center was proud of its Rainbow Room, with its high glass walls overlooking the city, its mirrored stage, its color organ which plays a design on the ceiling, its revolving dance floor which goes two speeds in each direction.

But Lucienne Boyer was neither amazed by the splendor of Rockefeller Center nor awed by her first-night audience there which included Rockefellers, Astors, Blisses, Harrimans. Gibsons, Fields, Charles Hayden, Mrs. Dodge Sloane, Paul Drennan Cravath. Places cost $15 apiece,* the best champagne (Moët et Chandon Imperial Crown, 1921) $10 per bottle. Lucienne Boyer was unconcerned. In Paris ever since "Parlez-moi d'Amour" her songs have sold champagne.

Before 1929 her way was hard. Her father was killed in the war. Her mother worked in a munitions factory. Lucienne Boyer's first job was as stenographer to a theatrical producer. When he dictated his first letter she confessed she knew nothing about typing, wanted a part in his play. The part was insignificant but one day his assistant heard her singing in her dressing-room, suggested a cabaret. "Parlez-moi d'Amour" was a simple, fragile tune but the Boyer version was so expertly tender that she became the talk of the town, the chief attraction to many a wealthy tourist who bought drink after drink and fancied that she was singing for him alone.

Boyer enthusiasts have failed to analyze her charm. The voice is cool, remote, essentially Gallic. But a bewitching personal note persists whether she sings of love or hate, boredom or jealousy. Each song has a finely chiseled pattern, an unmistakable mood built from a variety of inflections. Like Helen Morgan she likes to sit on the piano, flutter her hands. But she is as likely to pace the stage, act out each phrase. Like Libby Holman she can get her voice down to a guttural bass. But for finesse this Parisienne, now in her early 30's, has no peer among U. S. torchsingers.

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