Until the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (or Amélie, as it was known in English), Montmartre was a mix of blue-collar workers, shopkeepers, artisans and a few of the rest of us. You could easily find a plumber or an electrician, and food stores were way more numerous than clothes shops.But Montmartre has always been a neighborhood of choice for artists and those in show business.
Way back in the 17th century, Claude de la Rose was a famous actor in the Comédie Française, the troupe of the great Molière. As a matter of fact, Rosimond - his stage name - took over the troupe when Molière died. In 1680 he bought a country home with a vineyard on the north slope of Montmartre. The vineyard is still there - or more accurately there again - and the house is now the Musée de Montmartre, although connoisseurs still call it Rosimond’s House.
Montmartre also had dancers galore - still does, and they rehearse endlessly in big cold rooms with huge north-facing windows on the boulevard that marked the border with Paris until 1870, and still is the boundary of the 18è arrondissement. Among the most famous dancers, were ballerina Ludmilla Tcherina and the multi-talented Jean-Pierre Cassel, discovered by Gene Kelly, and the father of actor Vincent Cassel of Black Swan fame. Both followed upon the heels of the famous Nijinsky, who is buried down the street in the Cimetière de Montmartre.
Some actors, like Mme. Casadesus, went back and forth between stage and screen. Sacha Guitry was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and became a sought-after French theater and movie actor famous for his melodious baritone voice and his many wives. There was also Guitry’s eternal rival Louis Jouvet, one of the most famous of all stage and screen actors before and after World War II. But Montmartre’s constellation of movie stars stretched over many different eras. There was Jean Marais of La Belle et La Bête fame, who turned sculptor in his later years and built a statue of "The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls" to further immortalize a character from the pen of Marcel Aymé, another Montmartre resident.
|Théâtre de l'Atelier|
|The Man Who Could Walk through Walls|
P.S. The opening line of Marcel Aymé’s Le Passe-Muraille is one of my very favorite ever:
"In Montmartre, there lived an excellent man named Dutilleul
who had the singular gift of being able to walk through walls
without being indisposed."