Bert takes Paris 1909, however gets lost in translation !!

Bert’s non-speaking act which featured him whistling on stage as he magnified his images on a screen behind provided an entrée into European theatre that was generally not offered to other English-speaking performers. Bert was able to write French and German words on his glass disk as he drew his famous characters.

Variety Magazine (USA) 1909

Now, I know some of you are semi fluent in the French language but the above exchange was explained a couple of years later in a 1911 article in Melbourne’s ‘Table Talk’ newspaper. As can sometimes happen, the Trove digitisation process gets stuck in the crease of the page but I think I’ve worked out most of this amusing story….. 

Here is the link if you’d like to see the original article…

Context, Bert was back in Australia in 1911 performing and giving the odd interview….the Table Talk reporter continues…….

‘Mr. Bert Levy has a fund of amusing stories to tell of his experiences. Some of the funniest are connected with little contretemps when he has been performing in German or French. Although he knows the language well enough for the purpose, he is not so familiar with the idioms and colloquial expressions.

At times he has had rather funny experiences. He caused dire displeasure in Paris on one occasion when he intended to be most complimentary. He wrote a series of remarks upon his glass in the course of turn, all saying nice things, and described the girls as so beautiful, so graceful and charming and, he meant to finish with ‘so dear’, but unfortunately, the phrase used meant first vernacular, “so expensive.” The papers were to account very hotly for insulting Parisian girls, and there was quite a storm’. 

By the way, it is a pity the word ‘contretemps’ has sadly disappeared from use….. we should use that word more often, ‘make a note of that, Darling’ …….. (apologies- old Blackadder line)

I know many of you are familiar with the Parisian Theatre scene but just in case you were wondering where you have heard of Folies-Bergere before.

Un bar aux Folies Bergère is a painting by Édouard Manet, considered to be his last major work. It was painted in 1882 and exhibited at the Paris Salon

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