« The anger of the underclass » par Dirty Linen

Although Fréhel (born Marguerite Boulc’h in Brittany) appeared in many French films with co-stars like JeanGabin, her own biography practically begs for cinematic treatment. Her single mother earned her keep as a prostitute and a maid. As a child, Fréhel danced the cake-walk on the street for change wearing a pair of satin pumps she had scavenged from a dustbin and sporting a cane bedecked with ribbons. Making her way to Paris, she fell in with a group of stylish courtesons, including the « Belle Otéro », who lent her outfits to sing in cafes and music hall under the name of Fréhel. Later came a liaison with Maurice Chevalier, which was thwarted by his relationship with the equally famous performer Mistinguett. Travels to russia, Vienna, and Constantinople coincided with the development of a staggering cocaine habit. Not until the 30s, when the 36 selections on this collection were recorded, was the fiery redhead’s voice captured on phonograph. At that time, Fréhel returned to Paris to resume her commanding stage act (her songs often dealt with the anger of the underclass, and she brooked no disrespect, instructing the audience to « Shut your traps, I’m opening mine ! » as soon as she got up to sing). Besides humorous and mocking songs like « le roman d’un tricheur » (with a text by sacha Guitry) and tragic songs like « Pépé le Moko » and « La Maison du Maltais », the « Queen of the Apaches » sings popular love songs like « Chanson tendre », « Où sont tous mes amants ? », and « Comme une fleur ».