Georges Feydeau

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Georges Feydeau (pronounced: [ʒɔʁʒ fɛ.do], 8 December 1862 – 5 June 1921) was a French playwright of the era known as the Belle Époque. He is remembered for his many lively farces. He wrote over sixty plays and was a forerunner of absurdist theatre.[1]

Biography[edit]

Georges Feydeau was born in Paris, the son of novelist Ernest-Aimé Feydeau and Léocadie Boguslawa Zalewska. At the age of twenty, Feydeau wrote his first comic monologue in earnest. He found his first success four years later with Tailleur pour dames (Ladies' Dressmaker, 1889). That same year Feydeau married Marianne Carolus-Duran, the daughter of the famous portrait painter Carolus-Duran. To Feydeau, the marriage brought wealth that would sustain him until he found greater success. The marriage lasted 15 years after which the couple underwent a judicial separation and were formally divorced in 1916.

Georges Feydeau

Feydeau began investigating the great farces in 1890, studying the works of Eugène Labiche, Henri Meilhac and Alfred Hennequin. This study inspired him to write his acclaimed play Champignol malgré lui (Champignol in Spite of Himself, 1892). Following this, Feydeau made a name for himself both in France and abroad, some of his plays opening overseas and in other languages before they opened in France.

These farces often involved Paris' demi-monde. They are noted for great wit and complex plots, featuring misunderstandings and coincidences, and what one critic called "jack-in-the-box construction".[this quote needs a citation]

Among his 60 plays, his most famous are: Une puce à l'oreille (A Flea in Her Ear, 1907), Le Système Ribadier (1892), La Dame de Chez Maxim (The Girl from Maxim's, 1899), and Hortense a dit: "Je m'en fous!" (Hortense says, "I don't give a damn!", 1916). Other notable Feydeau farces include L'Hôtel du libre échange, Le Dindon (Sauce for the Goose, 1896) and the series of plays he wrote after 1908 grouped under the title "Du Mariage au Divorce" ("On purge bébé", "Feu la mère de madame", Léonie est en avance" and "Mais ne te promène donc pas toute nue").

Though critics at the time dismissed Feydeau's works as light entertainment, he is now recognized as one of the great French playwrights of his era. His plays are seen today as precursors to Surrealist and Dada theatre, and the Theatre of the Absurd. They have been continuously revived and are still performed today, 17 of which have been performed on Broadway from 1895 to 1992.[2]

Despite being a phenomenally successful playwright during his lifetime, his propensity for high living (he had a table permanently reserved for him at Maxim's), gambling, and the failure of his marriage led to financial difficulties.

During the winter of 1918, Feydeau contracted syphilis and slowly descended into madness to his death three years later at age 58. He is buried in Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.

Works[edit]

Name Year Other/Translated Names
Eglantine d’Amboise 1873
Par la fenêtre 1882 "Through the Window"
Amour et Piano 1883 "Love and Piano"
Gibier de potence "Fair Game"
Fiancés en herbe 1886
Tailleur pour dames "A Fitting Confusion"
La Lycéenne 1887 "The Schoolgirl"
Un bain de ménage 1888
Chat en poche "Pig in a poke"
Les Fiancés de Loches
L’Affaire Édouard 1889
C’est une femme du monde ! 1890 "She is a woman of the world!"
Le Mariage de Barillon "The Marriage of Barillon"
Monsieur chasse ! 1892
Champignol malgré lui "Champignol in Spite of Himself"
Le Système Ribadier "Where there's a will", "Every trick in the book"
Un fil à la patte 1894 "Cat Among the Pigeons", "Get Out of My Hair!"
Notre futur "Our future"
Le Ruban "The Ribbon"
L'Hôtel du libre échange "Free Exchange Hotel", "Paradise Hotel"
Le Dindon 1896 "Sauce for the Goose"
Les Pavés de l’ours "A Rough Diamond", "The Boor Hug"
Séance de nuit 1897
Dormez, je le veux !
La Dame de chez Maxim 1899 "The Girl from Maxim's"
La Duchesse des Folies-Bergères 1902
La Main passe 1904
L'Âge d'or 1905
Le Bourgeon 1906
La Puce à l'oreille 1907 "A Flea in Her Ear"
Occupe-toi d'Amélie 1908
Feu la mère de madame
Le Circuit 1909
On purge bébé 1910 "Baby Won't Sh*t"
Mais n'te promène donc pas toute nue ! 1911
Léonie est en avance ou le Mal joli
Cent Millions qui tombent (unfinished)
On va faire la cocotte (unfinished) 1913
Je ne trompe pas mon mari 1914 "I Don't Cheat on My Husband"
Hortense a dit : "Je m'en fous!" 1916 "Hortense says, 'I don't give a damn!'"

Theatrical adaptations[edit]

The Party's Over, a one act play by Jay Parker is loosely based on Feydeau's one act Par la Fenêtre.

Feydeau's one-act farce "Mais n'te promène donc pas toute nue !", translated by Olivier Bernier as "Please don't walk around in the nude" was produced at Harvard in 1960. It is the funniest play ever written. - Rol Maxwell

Paxton Whitehead and Suzanne Grossman adapted three of Georges Feydeau's plays: There's One in Every Marriage for the Broadway stage in 1971, Chemin de Fer in 1974 and A Flea in Her Ear in 1982.[3][4]

Charles Morey's English adaptation of Tailleur pour dames, titled The Ladies Man, was first performed in 2007.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 365. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  2. ^ The Broadway League. "The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  3. ^ Simonson, Robert (2010-08-25). "Suzanne Grossman, Actress and Writer, Dies at 72". Playbill. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  4. ^ Guernsey, Otis L. (1983). The Best Plays of 1981-1982. Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-396-08124-1. 
  5. ^ Morey, Charles. "The Plays: The Ladies Man". Charles Morey web site. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 

External links[edit]