A to Z Challenge

#AtoZReveal! What’s the Theme This Year?


Theme Reveal Badge

My sixth year doing the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This is probably the highlight for my blog each year, and, as many of you know, I start planning for the next year as soon as the current year wraps up. Sometimes a theme is just in my head, but I do a lot of planning (I learned how important it is during the 2012 Challenge, when I had not written my blog posts in advance).

In 2012, I focused on writers (novelists, poets, lyricists, essayists). 2013’s theme was Oh! The Places I’ve Been! In 2014, I titled my posts with Smile and Say….. – yes, the A to Z of cheese. In 2015, it was Listen Up! and featured musical instruments.

Last year’s theme was Paris Between the Wars and each day featured someone who was part of that twenty-year span (1919-1939) in Paris, when the city experienced a cultural and intellectual boom.

So you may have guessed that I like to blog about food, books, music, and travel. I’d had a few ideas about my 2017 theme, but in the end, I’ve decided on something I hope is uplifting, fun, a little bit educational. This year’s theme is…..

 

♫ BROADWAY MUSICALS!!! ♫

Some of these musicals you’ll know well, some you may not be familiar with. I had tough choices to make! And with each post I’ll include a clip that features a song from that show.

Hope you enjoy! And if you’re blogging in April, let me know so I can be sure to check in.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of What the World Needs Now from Broadway for Orlando:

 

 

A Reflection of the 2016 A to Z Challenge


A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Thank you for following me this year as I weaved my way through Paris Between the Wars! As some of you know, this was my fifth year participating in the challenge, and I was better prepared this year than in the past.

Last October, while on vacation in New Hampshire, I visited the Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith, along Lake Winnipesaukee. There I discovered a book called Paris Between the Wars. I had my theme!

 

Paris

With my sixth novel published in November, I was free to start plotting out my A to Z blog posts. During December and January, I pored through the book and chose my topics. In February I added research and began writing the posts, keeping each post under 300 words. I finished them in March and set each post to publish at 4:00am, in order to have a uniform publication time, and one that would have the post delivered to each follower’s mailbox (plus Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) early in the morning. This is what kept me sane! I’m already planning next year’s theme.

I added probably two dozen blogs to my follow list, but tried to visit another three to four dozen. Some of the posts just weren’t for me, so if I followed that blog, it was because the content was easy-to-read and either entertaining, educational, or both. A couple of bloggers posted incredibly long posts, and there just wasn’t time to read 800+ words.

The Challenge has grown! So much so that I can’t possibly visit every blog, as much as I’d like to. I’m grateful for my new followers, and very much appreciate all the positive feedback I received on my theme this year. Onward!

Paris Between the Wars – “Z” is for Jean Zay


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Jean Zay

Jean Zay

Jean Zay (1904 – 1944) was a French politician. Between 1936 and 1939 he served in several governments, including the Popular Front government, as Minister of National Education and Fine Arts. Zay’s actions as minister deeply influenced the way in which France educated its youth and cultivated its arts. Upon taking office, Zay acted upon his belief that the public schools shaped youth into citizens. He increased the period of required schooling from 13 to 14 years and created “bibliobuses” (library buses) that brought books to working class and immigrant neighborhoods

The specter cast by Nazi Germany led Zay to create the Cannes Film Festival. During the period between the wars, Italy was home to the greatest of film festivals, La Mostra de Venise. When Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion” won the festival’s top prize in 1937, Hitler was incensed: not only was the film French, but it was also pacifist. The following year, as a result, Hitler conspired with Mussolini to guarantee that Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” receive top honors. Zay rebelled at the news and set out to create a counter festival the following year in Cannes. As fate would have it, the opening date for the festival was September 1: the same day that Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Zay enlisted in the army and served until the summer of 1940. He was arrested aboard the passenger ship Massila by Vichy officials and was imprisoned. Just weeks before France’s liberation Jean Zay was murdered in his cell by the French fascist militia.

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Between the Wars – “Y” is for Maurice Yvain


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Maurice Yvain

Maurice Yvain

Born in Paris in 1891, Maurice Yvain was a French composer noted for his operettas of the 1920s and 1930s. The son of a trumpet-playing musician, young Maurice excelled as a pianist, and co-wrote the song “Mon Homme” (My Man) – you probably know the English version sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

In the 1920s, he began to compose operettas, 18 in all; his satirical “Ta Bouche” (Your Mouth) of 1922 was a particular success. The sequels which followed were the “Pas sur la Bouche” (Not on the Mouth) and the “Bouche a Bouche” (Mouth to Mouth) and both further established the musical virtuosity of Yvain.

Thanks to his success in the United States, several of his pieces appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

Paris Between the Wars – “X” is for Xenophobia


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Refugees-Of-History_Horo-1-e1448075679214

Xenophobia: n., fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

After the end of World War I (1918), immigration to France was encouraged. The country had lost thousands of men to the war, and able-bodied workers were needed. Paris became a safe haven for immigrants. The 1920s was a time of governmental tolerance too: in 1927 naturalization procedures were relaxed and many immigrants became French citizens – 270,000 between 1927 and 1930 alone.

While the “Roaring Twenties” saw prosperity and the tremendous influx of artists to Paris (as depicted in these blog posts), the 1930s was a period that brought about the end of tolerance and freedom of immigration, especially for Jews. The Depression changed this tolerant atmosphere.  Rising unemployment and the influx of Jewish and Eastern European refugees revived old prejudices.  Antisemitism resumed a prominent place in political discourse.  And, with the invasion of Paris by German forces, many of the Jewish artists who contributed so greatly to Parisian life fled to Switzerland, Israel, or America.

Paris Between the Wars – “V” is for Madeleine Vionnet


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Madeleine Vionnet

Madeleine Vionnet

A French fashion designer who trained in London, Madeleine Vionnet established her first fashion house in Paris in 1912. She was one of the leading fashion designers in Paris from 1919 to 1939. Called the “Queen of the bias cut” and “the architect among dressmakers”, Vionnet is best known for her elegant Grecian-style dresses.

Vionnet evening gown, 1931

Vionnet evening gown, 1931

Vionnet gowns

Vionnet gowns

Vionnet’s bias-cut clothes dominated haute couture in the 1930s, setting trends with her sensual gowns worn by such internationally known actresses as Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo. Vionnet’s vision of the female form revolutionized modern clothing, and the success of her unique cuts assured her reputation. She fought for copyright laws in fashion. She instituted what, at the time, were considered revolutionary labor practices: paid holidays and maternity leave, day-care, a dining hall, and a resident doctor and dentist for her workers. The onset of World War II forced Vionnet to close her fashion house in 1939, and she retired in 1940. Over the course of her career, Madeleine Vionnet created some 12,000 garments.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “U” is for Maurice Utrillo


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) was a French painter who specialized in cityscapes. He was the son of artist Suzanne Valadon and an unknown father (although Spanish painter Miguel Utrillo y Molins claimed paternity in 1891 and offered the young boy his name).

Shy and withdrawn, Utrillo painted very few portraits. He usually portrayed—often using picture postcards as sources—the deteriorating houses and streets of Montmartre, its old windmills, and its cafés and places of amusement. He was also inspired by trips to Brittany and Corsica.

At 21, Maurice was plagued by mental illness, and his mother encouraged him to paint. Self-taught, he painted what he saw in and around his home in Montmartre. By 1920, he was internationally acclaimed.

La Rue Norvins, Montmartre, by Maurice Utrillo circa 1910

La Rue Norvins, Montmartre, by Maurice Utrillo circa 1910

 

 

Paris Between the Wars – “T” is for Tristan Tzara


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Born Samuel Rosenstock in Romania, Tristan Tzara was an avant-garde playwright, poet, essayist, performance artist, journalist, art director, composer, film director. He is best known for being one of the central figures of the Dada movement, formed during WWI in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors of war.

He moved to Paris in 1919 and joined the staff of Littérature magazine, bringing a skill in managing events and audiences, which transformed literary gatherings into public performances that generated enormous publicity. As the cohesiveness of the Dada movement in Paris was disintegrating, Tzara published Le coeur à barbe (The Bearded Heart).

From 1930 to 1935, Tzara contributed to the definition of surrealist activities and ideology. He was also an active communist sympathizer and was a member of the Resistance during the German occupation of Paris.

To Make a Dadaist Poem, by Tristan Tzara

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “S” is for Elsa Schiaparelli


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937

Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, Schiaparelli is regarded as one of the most prominent fashion designers of the period between the two wars.

Born in Rome to an aristocratic family, Elsa was sent to a strict convent boarding school in Switzerland, but was rebellious and staged a hunger strike until her parents brought her home. Her life was comfortable, but unfulfilling, and to avoid an arranged marriage to a wealthy Russian, she impulsively married a charismatic con man in 1914. Elsa gave birth to a daughter, and her husband fled.

In Paris, Schiaparelli lived well, and she continued to receive financial support from her family, but she wanted to earn an independent income. She had no technical training in pattern making and sewing, and she relied on impulse and inspiration, sometimes using herself as the model. Her “pour le Sport” clothing line took off in 1927, and included bathing suits, ski-wear, and linen dresses. A darker tone was set when France declared war on Germany in 1939. Schiaparelli’s Spring 1940 collection featured “trench” brown and camouflage print taffetas.

 1937 | Elsa Schiaparelli shoe-hat Drawing by Marcel Vertès Source: Archivio Alinari

1937 | Elsa Schiaparelli shoe-hat
Drawing by Marcel Vertès
Source: Archivio Alinari

Paris Between the Wars – “R” is for Viviane Romance


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Viviane Romance (Source: Wikipedia)

Viviane Romance (Source: Wikipedia)

Born as Pauline Ronacher Ortmanns in 1912, Viviane Romance began her career as a Moulin Rouge dancer and was elected Miss Paris of 1930 (scandalous at the time because she had a child!).

She appeared in several films, including this one with Tino Rossi:

Romance was offered, and rejected, a Hollywood film contract in the 1930s. She preferred to make films in her native France. However, she also resided for many years in Italy where she made several Italian language films.

She died in 1991 in Nice, France.