Maxime de la Falaise

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Maxime de la Falaise
Maxime de la Falaise.jpg
Born Maxine Birley
(1922-06-25)June 25, 1922
West Dean, West Sussex, England
Died April 30, 2009(2009-04-30) (aged 86)
Provence, France
Known for Model, actress, author
Spouse(s) Count Alain Le Bailly de La Falaise
John McKendry
Children Loulou Le Bailly de La Falaise
Alexis Le Bailly de La Falaise
Parent(s) Sir Oswald Birley
Rhoda Vava Mary Lecky Pike
Relatives Mark Birley (brother)
Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart (sister-in-law)
Hugh Hornby Birley (2x great-grandfather)

Maxime de la Falaise (25 June 1922 – 30 April 2009)[1] was a 1950s model,[2] and, in the 1960s, an underground movie actress.[3] She is also remembered as a cookery writer and "food maven"[4] and a fashion designer for Blousecraft, Chloé and Gérard Pipart [8].[5] In her later years she pursued a career as a furniture and interior designer.[6]

Early life[edit]

She was born 25 June 1922 in West Dean, West Sussex as Maxine Birley.[7] Maxine Birley was born into a family of successful artists, businesspeople, and academics. She grew up in Hampstead, and later at Charleston Manor in Sussex. Her father, Sir Oswald Birley (1880–1952), was a celebrated portrait painter known for his portraits of royalty and others.[8][9] Her mother was Rhoda Vava Mary Lecky Pike (1900-1981), of County Carlow, Ireland, a celebrated gardener and successful artist in her own right. Maxine's brother, Mark Birley (1930–2007), became an entrepreneur known for his investments in the hospitality industry.[10][11]

She changed her first name to Maxime after her first marriage, to Alain R. Le Bailly de la Falaise, in 1946.[12][13] She was known as Maxime de la Falaise McKendry, for a while, after her second marriage to John McKendry, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum.[3][14]).


During the Second World War, she worked as a minor codebreaker at Bletchley Park, before being invalided out after developing kleptomania.[15][12]


In the 1950s, Maxime de la Falaise worked for Elsa Schiaparelli as a vendeuse mondaine which she explained as "a sort of muse who was supposed to encourage sales to the rich English".[15] She modelled for photographers such as Georges Dambier, Jack Robinson, and Cecil Beaton.[16]

She "dressed with uninhibited chic"[2] and according to The Independent, Cecil Beaton once called her "the only truly chic Englishwoman".[17]


While living in New York Maxime de La Falaise wrote a food column for Vogue magazine.[12] In 1980, she published a collection of these columns, with her own illustrations, under the title Food in Vogue. In 1973 she published Seven Centuries of English Cooking: A Collection of Recipes.[12] She also wrote the foreword to My Kingdom of Books (1999) by Richard Booth.[18]

Andy Warhol[edit]

Andy Warhol envisioned Maxime de La Falaise as part of Andy Warhol's Nothing Serious, his 1971 video project designed for television.[14] Warhol included her along with such personalities as Candy Darling and Brigid Berlin in his 1973 black-and-white video Phoney (later incorporated into the 1991 Andy Warhol's Video & Television Retrospective),[14] and in his 1974 film Dracula.[12]

According to the New York Times in 1977, Warhol had La Falaise design a menu for Andymat, Warhol's version of the automat, which included onion tarts, shepherds' pie, fish cakes, Irish lamb stew, key lime pie and a "nursery cocktail" of milk on the rocks. Her association with Warhol was such that one source called her "The Factory mother".[19]

Personal life[edit]

On 18 July 1946, Maxine Birley became the second wife of Count Alain Le Bailly de La Falaise, (1905—1977). They divorced in 1950, following a series of her infidelities, including an affair with British ambassador Duff Cooper.[9] A writer and translator, he was a younger brother of Henry de La Falaise, a film director and third husband of American actress Gloria Swanson, and a son of an Olympic gold medallist in fencing, Louis Venant Gabriel Le Bailly de La Falaise, Georges, Count de La Falaise (1866—1910).[7] They had two children:

  • Louise Vava Lucia Henriette ("Loulou") Le Bailly de La Falaise (1948—2011), who also became a fashion model and, later, a muse to Yves Saint Laurent and a fashion designer herself.[2] Loulou de La Falaise's first husband was Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, with whom she had no children; they married in 1966, separated in 1967, and divorced in 1970. In 1977, she married the writer Thadée Klossowski de Rola, a son of the painter Balthus, by whom she had a daughter:
    • Anna Klossowski de Rola[20]
  • Alexis Richard Dion Oswald Le Bailly de La Falaise, (died 2004) was a furniture designer who also appeared in the Warhol film Tub Girls. Alexis' had two children:
    • Daniel de La Falaise, is a chef, food writer, and photographer, and is married to Molly Malone.
    • Lucie de La Falaise, is a model, and is married to Marlon Richards, son of Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg.

Maxime de La Falaise married, as her second husband, John McKendry, curator of prints and photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who died in 1975. During the marriage it has been suggested that he had an affair with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe,[21] while she had one with J. Paul Getty III, artist Max Ernst, and film director Louis Malle.)[10][11][12][12] La Falaise is said to have aided Mapplethorpe's entry "into high society, European and American."[22]

Maxime de la Falaise died of natural causes, aged 86, at her home in Provence, on 30 April 2009.[1]


  1. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (1 May 2009). "Maxime de la Falaise, model, Designer and Muse, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Little Extras – The Runway Divas". 
  3. ^ a b Steger, Pat (28 May 1974). "Those European Prices". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  4. ^ The Jack Robinson Gallery and Archive
  5. ^ "The Condé Nast Store". 
  6. ^ "Style Court: Maxime de la Falaise". 
  7. ^ a b Burke's Landed Gentry. 1952. p. 186. Archived from the original on 23 February 2005. 
  8. ^ [1] Charleston Manor
  9. ^ Biography of Oswald Birley at the Wayback Machine (archived 24 August 2004)
  10. ^ Zoon Info: Mark Birley at the Wayback Machine (archived 24 February 2008)
  11. ^ [2] Mark Birley: Daily Telegraph obituary
  12. ^ a b c d e f Veronica Howell (9 May 2009). "Obituary:Maxime de la Falaise". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  13. ^ Husband's full name, Alain R. Le Bailly de La Falaise, is cited on his September 1946 marriage license, accessed on on 7 November 2011
  14. ^ a b c "Andy Warhol's Nothing Serious". 
  15. ^ a b "Maxime de la Falaise". London: The Telegraph. 3 May 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  16. ^ [3] Michael Hoppen Gallery
  17. ^ [4] The Independent, 10 September 2004 excerpt re Cecil Beaton quote
  18. ^ [5] My Kingdom of Books by Richard Booth (author), Maxime de La Falaise (foreword)
  19. ^ [6] A Lucid Spoonfull
  20. ^ [7] New York Times
  21. ^ "Robert Mapplethorpe, 'John McKendry' 1975, printed 1992". Tate. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "Drummer magazine". Retrieved 10 September 2016. [dead link]

External links[edit]