Thursday, October 26, 2023

Biana Duhamel: a star at 15 years of age, then ...


C19th France (and her paedophilic neighbours) loved and lusted after young actresses who seemed even younger than their years.

Rather like the 21st century sex-internautes of all persuasions.

Biana Duhamel was an outstanding example.

Le Petit Poucet

DUHAMEL, Biana [Louise Jeanne Bibienne] (b Rouen, 19 April 1870; d Paris, 26 October 1910). 

Palely pretty ingénue who scored one huge Parisian musical theatre success as Audran's Miss Helyett.

The 15-year-old Biana Duhamel (looking ‘no more than 12 or 13’) made her first recorded appearance as Petit Poucet (Tom Thumb) in the féerie of the same name at the Paris Gaîté in 1885, but she made herself into a star five years later when she appeared at the Bouffes-Parisiens in two new pieces, firstly as Phrynette in André Wormser's pantomime L'Enfant prodigue and then, in another adolescent rôle, as the heroine of Audran's vastly successful and 'scandalous' Miss Helyett.

She took leading rôles in the Bouffes-Parisiens' following productions -- Audran's next and slightly more musically demanding work, Sainte-Freya (1892, Freya), Paul Lacôme's Le Cadeau de noces (1893, Geneviève), and yet another Audran work, Madame Suzette (1893, Suzette) -- without finding another rôle like Miss Helyett in which her super-youthful charm and limited vocal talents could shine. Her Miss Helyett, repeated as late as 1900 at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, remained a performance of choice spoken of with special warmth by old theatregoers for many years, yet the little ingénue who had enchanted le tout Paris was soon forgotten: she died destitute at the age of just 40. 


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