Today is the birthday of Raquel Meller (1888-1962). Born Francisca Romana Marques Lopez, she became a star of Spanish cabaret and music hall when still a teenager. In 1919, she began to conquer the rest of Europe, with appearances in Paris, then London, and starring roles in European silent films (the most famous of these would be Carmen in 1926). In 1926, she embarked on a highly successful tour of American vaudeville and starred in two Fox Movietone talking shorts. Critics were transported by her singing; she seemed to be a sort of embodiment of the spirit of Old Spain. Bernhardt, Chaplin and George Jean Nathan were among her influential fans. Civil War in Span and the Second World War resulted in many displacements for her. She retired from performing in 1946.
Here she is singing Jose Padilla’s “La Violetera”, a piece of music Chaplin loved so much he essentially plundered it for his soundtrack to City Lights
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc