Bacon in the late 1920s
Frances Yvonne Bacon
July 19, 1910
|Died||September 26, 1956 (aged 46)|
|Cause of death||Suicide by jumping|
|Resting place||Wunder's Cemetery|
|Known for||Burlesque dancing|
In 1945, she and Sanford Hunt Dickinson—a Buffalo businessman and songwriter—applied for a marriage license. As Bacon was rumored to be gay, she may have sought a marriage of convenience. It is unknown whether they ever actually married; they never lived together, but also never divorced. According to Tullah Innes, a burlesque dancer who crossed paths with Faith frequently, Faith was a lesbian out of necessity as her mother kept her from men.
Later in her life, as her work dried up, there were reports of heavy alcohol and drug use.
Bacon's career in burlesque began in the 1920s in Paris. In a 1930 interview, Bacon stated she decided to become a dancer when she visited Paris despite never having had any training. While in Paris, she met Maurice Chevalier and later premiered in his revue. During her career, she used bubbles, flowers and fans in her nude dance routines.
After returning to the United States, Bacon appeared on Broadway in Earl Carroll's Vanities from August 1928 to February 1929. The program listed her performance as "Fan Dance - Heart of the Daisies." She went on to dance in Fioretta and Earl Carroll's Sketch Book, in 1929 and 1930, respectively. In July 1930, she appeared as a "principal nude" in another production of the Earl Carroll's Vanities. She initially performed a routine in which she stood nude and motionless onstage while lights "played over" her body. At the time, indecent exposure laws prohibited dancers from moving while appearing nude onstage. According to Bacon, she and Carroll tried several different tricks to get around these laws before finally coming up with the idea of the fan dance. The dance was an immediate hit.
On July 9, 1930, police raided the New Amsterdam Theatre and arrested Bacon, Earl Carroll and other cast members for "giving an indecent performance". She was appearing in a scene entitled "A Window at Merls". Although the show underwent some changes after the raid, Bacon continued to perform the fan dance. However, Earl Carroll stated that Bacon wore a "chiffon arrangement" during the performance and was not fully nude. In August 1930, a grand jury decided against indicting Bacon, Carroll and her fellow cast members.
Following her performance in the Earl Carroll's Vanities, Bacon appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 from July to November 1931. In 1933, she went to Chicago to perform at the 1933 World's Fair after learning that a rival dancer, Sally Rand, was also performing a fan dance. Bacon, who maintained she originated the dance for Earl Carroll in 1930, billed herself as "The Original Fan Dancer".
After appearing at the World's Fair in 1933, Bacon's career began to decline. Over the years, she had gained a reputation of being difficult. While working in the show Temptations in the winter of 1936 at the Lake Theater in Chicago, Bacon cut her thighs when she fell through a glass drum on which she was posing nude. The cuts left her thighs scarred and she later sued the Lake Theater Corporation for $100,000 in damages. She later settled for $5,000 which she spent on a ten carat diamond. The accident left her with scars and pain in her legs which diminished her dancing abilities.
In October 1938, Bacon sued dancer Sally Rand for $375,000 in damages and sought an injunction barring her from doing the fan dance which Bacon still maintained that she originated. Bacon accused Rand of stealing the dance. Rand denied Bacon's accusations, claiming jealousy. Rand stated, "The fan idea is as old as Cleopatra. [...] She can't sue me for that."
In 1938, Bacon made her only acting film appearance in Prison Train, directed by Gordon Wiles, in which she played the role of 'Maxine'. She did appear on film in 1942 in two short recordings: "Lady with the Fans" and "Dance of Shame". On April 23, 1939, she was arrested for a second time for disorderly conduct after staging a publicity stunt on Park Avenue in New York City. Bacon, who was scheduled to do a "Fawn Dance" at the 1939 New York World's Fair the following week, dressed in "wisps of chiffon" and maple leaves while walking a fawn on a leash. She was released on $500 bond. A review of her dance at the time stated, "Faith Bacon parades through a moth-eaten fan dance that has lost its punch long ago."
Throughout the 1940s, Bacon continued to perform her act at various clubs and venues throughout the United States. In 1948, she was hired to headline in a girl review, however on the last day of the performance she claimed she was owed $5044.00 in back salary. She claimed the owner tried to have a campaign of terror and sued the carnival promoter for $55,444, accusing him of putting tacks on the stage on which she was dancing barefoot. Bacon lost the case.
By the mid-1950s, She attempted to start a dance school in Indiana but that failed and she was found unconscious after reportedly trying to overdose on sleeping pills. After that, Bacon was unable to secure employment and was out of money. Elaine Stuart, a dancer who had previously worked with Bacon, was with her husband when she recognized Bacon in an alley as the couple were leaving through a stage door at a theatre in Seattle, Washington. In Burlesque: Legendary Stars of the Stage, Elaine's husband, Lee Stuart, described the encounter:
We came out the stage door of the Rivoli Theatre in Seattle after the midnight show. Off to one side in the alley, in the shadows, stood what we would now call a bag lady. We started past her when my wife pulled up short and said, 'My God, Faith?' Needless to say it was Faith Bacon. She was down on her luck and needed a handout. My wife gave her some money and talked with her a few minutes, but [Faith] seemed to be in a hurry. [She] shuffled away, after promising to drop backstage the next day to visit. We never saw her again.
On September 26, 1956, Bacon jumped out of her hotel room window, falling two stories before landing on the roof of an adjacent building. Bacon's roommate, grocery store clerk Ruth Bishop, tried to intervene by grabbing Bacon's skirt as she climbed out of the window but Bacon tore free of her grasp. She suffered a fractured skull, perforated lung and internal injuries and she died of her injuries at Grant Hospital later that night.
Bishop later said that Bacon appeared to be depressed prior to her death. Bishop stated, "She wanted to get back into the spotlight. She would have taken any work in show biz." At the time of her death, Bacon had no money and was estranged from her husband, songwriter Sanford Hunt Dickinson. The inventory of her possessions included clothing, one white metal ring, train ticket to Erie, Pennsylvania, and 85 cents. The American Guild of Variety Artists claimed her body and arranged for burial. She is buried in Wunder's Cemetery in Chicago.
- "Faith Bacon Held Over For Week at Holland". Eugene Register-Guard. May 22, 1943. p. 5. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Faith Bacon genealogy reference
- Genealogy research on Faith Bacon at www.123people.co.uk
- Zemeckis, Leslie, Feuding Fan Dancers: Faith Bacon, Sally Rand, and the Golden Age of the Showgirl, 2018, Counterpoint Press. ISBN 1640090606.
- Goodman, Jonathan, 1996, "The Passing of Starr Faithfull", p. 207.
- Zemeckis, Leslie, "Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America", 2013
- Zemeckis, Leslie, 2013, "Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America".
- "Faith Bacon, Facing Trial For Nude Dancing, Boasts Religion". Lewiston Morning Tribune. August 6, 1930. p. 5. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- Gaines, William, 1933, "About New York - Asbury Park Press", p. 6.
- "Faith Bacon Charges Sally Stole Her Stuff-Two Fans". Youngstown Vindicator. October 11, 1938. p. 4. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- Shteir, Rachel (2004). Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show, p. 148. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-12750-1
- "Earl Carroll's 'Vanities' Raided As Indecent, Nine Members of Cast Arrested". The Evening Independent. July 10, 1930. p. 4. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- "Carroll and Nine of Cast Arrested", Asbury Park Press, July 10, 1930, p. 2.
- "Jury Decides Not To Indict Carroll". Ottawa Citizen. August 13, 1930. p. 7. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- "Sally Stole My Fan Act, Faith Says". The Pittsburgh Press. October 11, 1938. p. 12. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- "Faith Bacon, Coming Here Friday, Claimed She Was The Original, Sally Rand Objected And Then the Fun Began". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 21, 1934. p. 21. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- (Shteir 2004, p. 240)
- (Briggeman 2004, p. 152)
- Zemeckis, Leslie, 2015, "Goddess of Love Incarnate: The Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr."
- "'Inventor' Faith Sues Sally for Swiping Her Act". St. Petersburg Times. October 11, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- "Dancer Says Sally Rand Stole Dance". The News-Sentinel. October 11, 1938. p. 3. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- Newsom, Phil (October 13, 1938). "Sally Defies Foe to Fight 'Like a Man'". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 26. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- (Hanson 1993, p. 51)
- (Langman 1995, p. 209)
- "Faith Bacon Jailed for Scanty Costume". Lawrence Journal-World. April 25, 1939. p. 2. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- "Fawn Dancer Opens Silly Season". The Miami News. April 24, 1969. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
- Stencell, A.W., 1999, "Girl Show: Into the Canvas World of Bump and Grind", p. 70.
- "Bubble Dancer of 1930 Glory Leaps To Death". The Gettysburg Times. September 27, 1956. p. 10. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- "Famed Stripper Leaps To Death". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. September 27, 1956. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
- "Faith Bacon Dies Penniless and a Suicide". Chicago Daily Tribune. September 27, 1956. p. C10. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Briggeman, Jane (2004). Burlesque: Legendary Stars of the Stage. Collectors Press, Inc. ISBN 1-888-05494-8
- Langman, Larry; Finn, Daniel (1995). A Guide To American Crime Films of the Thirties. Greenwood Publishing. ISBN 0-313-29532-8
- Hanson King, Patricia (Ed.), Gevinson, Alan (Ed.) (1993). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1931-1940. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07908-6