Gaby Deslys

Gaby Deslys (born Marie-Elise-Gabrielle Cairo , November 4, 1881 – February 11, 1920) was a singer and actress of the early 20th century from Marseilles, France.It is an abbreviation of Gabrielle of the Lillies . During the 1910s She was exceedingly popular worldwide, making $ 4,000 a week in the United States alone. During the 1910s she Performed Several times we Broadway , at the Winter Garden Theater , and Performed in a show with a young Al Jolson . Her dancing was so popular that The Gaby Glide was named for her. [1] [2]

Renowned for her beauty she was courted by several wealthy gentlemen including King Manuel II of Portugal . She eventually made the leap to silent movies , making her only US film Her Triumph with Famous Players-Lasky in 1915. She would make a handful of movies in France before her death. In 1919 she contracted “Spanish” influenza and underwent several operations trying to cure a throat infection caused by the disease. She died from complications of her infection in Paris in 1920, at the age of 38. [3]

Early life

Most notably King Manuel II of Portugal , and his origins became the subject of dispute. A private detective Claimed her true Name Was Hadiwga Nawrati , gold Hedvika Navratilova , and That She was a Czech peasant girl born in the village of Horní Moštěnice , Then share of the Kingdom of Hungary . The investigator reported that he had his mother claiming to be at large when he brought her to see the dancer, paying attention to a large amount of money to leave. Deslys replied the story was ridiculous and that she was French , not Czech. [4]

After Deslys’ death, at least two dozen persons with the supernames Navratil / Navratilová attempted to claim her fortune. In January 1930 the French foreign minister said he had settled the dispute about Deslys’ birthplace and origins. According to him, Deslys had been born at Marseilles on November 4, 1881, daughter of Hippolyte Caire and his wife, Mathilde (nee Terras). [4] This study found that the claim of the Naval family was incorrect and that it was a kind of look-alike of Gabrielle Cairo, who later adopted the stage name Gaby Deslys. [4]



Deslys rose in popularity in dance halls around Paris and London . She was a practitioner of several types of dance such as the Ju-Jitsu waltz , [5] Ballroom , Grizzly Bear , Turkey trot and her most famous The Gaby Glide . [1] Her appearance at the Liverpool Olympia was also received. She had been to the United States where she had earned $ 4,000 per week. She was dedicated to the art of dancing. At least a part of her success was a result of the audience who came to watch her perform. quote needed ]

While she was dancing at the Hyperion Theater at Yale University , in November 1911, students rushed the stage. The Yale News has been raised to $ 2. The performance followed the Yale – Princeton University football game played earlier the same day. The inflated price of admission is thought to be triggered by the outbreak. Deslys retreated to her room while internships used fire extinguishers to subdue the students. The same month Deslys performed at the Winter Garden Theater in a production of Vera Violetta . In 1913 Deslys appeared with Al Jolson (inblackface ) in the musical comedy The Honeymoon Express .

We have a number of occasions she appeared at the Grand Casino in Marseilles. Her final performance was there in 1919. Her passion for Marseilles was matched by her animosity towards her critics among French editors. One of her most prominent detractors was Ernest Charles. She sued him for $ 50,000 francs in August 1912. She was first considered hiring a groom to horsewhip Charles before her lawyer advised against it. quote needed ]


In 1910 Deslys recorded two songs in Paris “All in Rose” and “Philomene”. Both are released on phonograph by HMV and are still available. Another song, “La Parisienne” was recorded at the same time but rejected for an unknown reason, and thus never released. [6]


She began her movie career in 1914 with Rosy Rapture , a short film based on the play of the same name she appeared in England. This film according to IMDb had a scene with George Bernard Shaw in it. Her American feature film debut came in 1915 with Her Triumph costarring her dancer boyfriend Harry Pilcer . The film was presented by Daniel Frohman and produced by Famous Players-Lasky . Her Triumph featured Deslys doing one of her famous dances with Pilcer. The film is lost but surviving stills A scene with Deslys and Pilcer in Daniel Blum’s Pictorial History of the Silent Film, see picture in the credits. She made only two more silent films in 1918 and 1919, both with Harry Pilcer in the cast, before the illness that would take her life. quote needed ]

Personal life

Deslys’ celebrity rose following newspaper stories which is king King of Portugal’s infatuation with her. During the King’s visit to Paris in December 1909, he was introduced to Deslys and immediately began a relationship with her. [7]

It was thought that after this first meeting the King feels Deslys a pearl necklace worth $ 70,000. Their relationship was anything but discreet (she would arrive before night at the Palacio de Necessidades and would pass through Portugal unnoticed); abroad, meanwhile, they were on the front page of the newspapers in Europe and North America, especially after he was deposed in 1910. citation needed ]In public interviews, usually on trips, Deslys never negated the obvious, but always refused to the king. After his exile, they would continue to meet, especially while they had their internship commitments in London. When Deslys moved to New York in the summer of 1911, their relationship cooled off; Despaired Harry Pilcer , and Manuel married in 1913. Despite this, she maintained her contacts with Manuel’s personal secretary, the Marquês of Lavradio . quote needed ]

Death and legacy

Deslys contracted a severe throat infection caused by the Spanish influenza pandemic in December 1919. It was operated on multiple times in an effort to eradicate the infection, on two occasions without the use of anesthetic . Surgeons were inhibited by Deslys’ request that they do not scar her neck.

She died in Paris in February 1920. In her will, Deslys left her villa on the Marseilles Corniche Road, and all of her property in Marseilles, to the poor of Marseilles. The property was valued at half a million dollars.

Her carved and gilded bed was inspired by the boat in the “Grotto of Venus” scene from the opera “Tannhauser”. On its bow, there are two woodwork with images from Boucher’s “Cupid’s Target”. The bed was bought by Marseilles by Metro Pictures. It was used in the 1922 movie “Trifling Women”, starring Barbara La Marr. Later, it came into the possession of the Universal Studios prop department, and it was used in the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera . [8] In 1934, it was used as Lily Garland’s bed in Twentieth Century and in 1950, it was in Sunset Boulevard as the bed of Norma Desmond . In 1964, it appeared in a dream sequence in the film ”

In 1943, his life story was bought by MGM as a potential film for Judy Garland to be produced by Arthur Freed , but it was eventually shelved. In 1986 James Gardiner wrote a biography of Deslys Life, Gaby Deslys: A Fatal Attraction . quote needed ]


(all are believed to be lost movies)

  • The substitute (short film, 1914)
  • Her Triumph (1915, only American film)
  • Rosy Rapture (1915)
  • Bouclette (1918)
  • Infatuation (1918)
  • The God of Chance (1921)


  • The Review of Journals (September 27, 1911 – November 11, 1911)
  • Vera Violetta (November 20, 1911 – February 24, 1912)
  • The Honeymoon Express (6 February 1913 – 14 June 1913)
  • The Belle of Bond Street (March 30, 1914 – May 9, 1914)
  • Stop! Look! Listen! (25 December 1915 – 25 March 1916)


  • Philomene (1910, HMV)
  • All in Rose (1910, HMV)
  • The Parisian (Unreleased, 1910)


  1. ^ Jump up to:b The Gaby Glide ,; accessed 6 May 2014.]
  2. Jump up^ Gaby Deslysat theInternet Broadway Database
  3. Jump up^ “Gaby Deslys Dies After Operation”. New York Times. 12 February 1920. p. 11.
  4. ^ Jump up to:c Marie Elise Gabrille profile at Cairo , Valentine Theater website, accessed 15 April 2012.
  5. Jump up^ National Portrait Gallery profile of Deslys,; accessed 6 May 2014.
  6. Jump up^ “The Only Known Recordings of French Star GABY DESLYS” . 4 November 2010 . Retrieved 13 February 2012 .
  7. Jump up^ Breyner, Thomaz de Mello,Diário de um Monárquico 1908-1910, Lisboa, Edição do Autor (May 1993); Nobre, Eduardo, “Peaceful Reais”, Lisboa, Quimera Editores Lda. (2002).
  8. Jump up^ Hall, Mordant, MOVIE REVIEW / THE SCREEN, New York Times, 7 September 1925.

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