French Naughtiness, General Pershing, and inspiration
There is an image, here on my desktop, I’ve been hoping to use as an inspiration for a short story for quite a while.
It’s called Les Surprises de la Vie de Chateau: La Revue Nocturne, that is Surprises of the Life in the Castle: The Night Review.
It’s a host of ghostly dames, in gorgeous Medieval dresses, examining with curiosity and bafflement the lingerie of a flapper girl as she spends the night in a castle’s bedroom.
It was drawn by Chery Herouard for a magazine called La Vie Parisienne, somewhere in the 1920s.
La Vie Parisienne became quite popular with the American troops in Europe during the Great War, when General Pershing warned the servicemen of the bad consequences that reading the magazine could have for their morale.
La Vie Parisienne was, you see, quite naughty.
It was, after all, French.
It had not started like that.
Founded in 1863, it was originally a generalist magazine covering sports, culture and leisure for the upper classes. The subtitle was “Elegant Mores, Things of the Day, Fantasies, Travels, Theaters, Music, Modes”. It did have some risque contents, as the man behind the magazine, Emile Planat aka Marcelin was a caricaturist and illustrator well acquainted with the world of theatres and dance-halls.
In 1905, everything changed, censorship rules slackened and under the new director La Vie Parisienne took a far sexier turn, and became a more explicitly erotic magazine. It published girly art, but also Colette’s first novel.
According to various sources, the magazine also had an ample female readership, and often reinforced fashion trends it was supposed to mock or satirize.
Often described as “erotica for intellectuals”, by today’s standards the illustrations of the magazine are quite tame, but back in the day they were, evidently, hot enough to cause the preoccupation of General Pershing.
What stands out today is the overall quality of the artwork from the issues published between 1905 and the 1940s (the magazine folded in 1970) – artwork that is highly collectable.
There was a guy selling old copies of La Vie Parisienne, under the arches in Via Pietro Micca, in Turin, when I was a student. But I never bought a copy.
I do maintain a Pinboard collecting images from the mag – with its weird obsession for carnival costumes, mermaids and other oddities. I collect these images for documentation purposes only, of course.
As for Cherì Herouard’s Night Review, after about six months I finally found a way to employ it, and it will be the basis for a one-sheet scenario in my next Hope & Glory project. The delivery date for the manuscript looms closer, and I thought it’s time to give the members of the Society for Psychical Research & Development something different to investigate.
Yet I still fancy the idea of writing a short story based on the print, but I realize it would require a much deeper knowledge of lingerie in the 1920s than I can honestly boast.
Maybe I should get me a few issues of La Vie Parisienne, and take some notes.