Deslys, Gaby (1884–1920)

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Deslys, Gaby (1884–1920)

French actress and danseuse. Born Marie-Élise-Gabrielle Caire in 1884 in Marseille, France; died on February 11, 1920.

Around the turn of the century, Gaby Deslys was a well-known vaudeville star in Paris, appearing in the Folies-Bergére and at the Olympia where she introduced American dancing with her partner Harry Pilcer. In 1906, she made her first appearance in London as the Charm of Paris in The New Aladdin. She was first seen in New York in 1911 in Les Debuts de Chichine. Deslys' successful career afforded her a luxurious lifestyle which included a suite in the Rue Villebois-Mareuil, a private hotel in Paris, and a London residence in Kensington, where, according to Janet Flanner , "the bed lay on a dais beneath an arch of black marble supported by marble pillars." The actress eschewed marriage, claiming that no amount of money could buy her liberty. Unfortunately, her career was cut short by her untimely death at the age of 36. Her estate, estimated at nine million francs, was divided between Pilcer, the poor and tubercular of Marseilles, and her family, the Caires. However, distribution of the estate was contested by a Hungarian family who insisted that Deslys was really one of theirs, a woman by the name of Hedwige Navratil of Hatvan, Hungary. Subsequently, two other women bearing this name appeared in the Paris courts, further complicating the issue.

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Deslys was portrayed by Tamara Toumanova in the MGM musical Deep in My Heart, 1954.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts