Thursday, January 29, 2015

The French wartime magazine 'Marie Claire'

1. A wartime front cover of the French magazine 'Marie Claire'
[Edition No. 156 dated 23 February 1940]
2. One of Marie Claire's thrifty wartime fashion tips:
Transforming a winter hat into the latest 'chic' fashion 
3. Marie Claire's latest story of the Hollywood stars of 1940:
The selection of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
in David O. Selznick's 'Gone with the Wind'.
4. Marie Claire's review of the latest film releases of 1940:
A mixture of Hollywood and French films
 For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

A brief history of 'Marie Claire' magazine

The fashion magazine 'Marie Claire' was first published in France in 1937 as a women's weekly by a northern industrialist and press baron, Jean Prouvost (1885 - 1970), and the French writer Marcelle Auclair (1899 - 1983). Some sources believe the publication's title was inspired by the 1910 novel 'Marie-Claire' by Maguerite Audoux (1863 - 1937).

Between 1937 and 1940 the magazine was edited from Paris while from February 1940 until May 1941 the editorial office transferred to Lyon. The front cover of the magazine seen above (No 156, dated 23 February 1940) dates from the time 'Marie Claire' was edited from Lyon [Photograph No 1]. The price at that time was 1 Franc 75 centimes (in old French Francs).

In 1942, during the German Occupation, the magazine was suspended for a time. An edition was then published about every ten days until 1944, the year when the war was again being fought on French soil. The cost of the magazine also more than doubled at this time to 4 Francs (old French Francs).

In October 1954 'Marie Claire' reappeared in France but this time as a monthly magazine. In the years since the title has been adopted under licence in a number of countries and in many different languages. For example, there are separate English language editions of 'Marie Claire' published in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Jean Prouvost retired from the Marie Claire Group in 1976 when the Group presidency passed to his granddaughter, Evelyne Prouvost - Berry. In 2004 control of the Group was passed to her son, Arnaud de Contades. Interestingly, the general content of 'Marie Claire' has changed little since its first appearance in the late 1930s: fashion, cosmetics, household and cookery advice, cinema, celebrity portraits, literature, music, tourism, exhibitions, quizzes and horoscopes.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

'Marie Claire' adapts its stories to fit the 'Phoney War'

The issue of 'Marie Claire' seen above [Photograph No. 1] was published during the period of the 'Phoney War' (in French, the « Drôle de guerre »). At first glance the front cover and the content of the magazine is not very different from the issues produced before the war or since its reappearance as a monthly in 1954.

Yet, a closer examination of some of the articles reflect what was happening in the lives of its readership, mainly women, in February 1940. Let us look at three of the articles and place them in the context of the time they first appeared during the 'Phoney War'. The first article is about fashion tips, the second about the latest world-wide Hollywood celebrity and the third article about the latest film releases in French cinemas.

(i) Fashion tips

One article gives the French woman of 1940 thrifty fashion tips of how to transform a featureless winter hat into four different stylish fashions [Photograph No. 2]. Thus, for a very small outlay, 'Marie Claire' advises French women who wish to remain 'chic' how to transform a drab hat into four different and stylish hats.

(a) The flowery hat (top left in photograph No. 2)
The plain hat is transformed by purchasing two bouquets of Parma violets or other small flowers of a similar size. Made into a nested form on top of the hat, an added feature is the veil partially covering the lady's face. Another feature of this transformation is the scent of the lavender.

(b) The pointed hat (top right in photograph No. 2)
This time make a red cone as seen in the photograph and fix in the middle of the hat by an invisible stitch. To complete the transformation fix two pieces of ribbon (1/2 a metre in length) with the same shade of red as the cone to the hat. This allows an attractive bow to be made and transforms a drab looking hat to become fashionable.

(c) The pink satin bow hat (bottom left in photograph No. 2)
This transformation is quick and simple to make. It is necessary to buy two metres of red No. 12 satin. Drape this diagonally across the hat as seen in the photograph. Tuck the ends inside the hat and attach by an invisible stitch. Tie the ribbon on top of the hat into an attractive bow, leaving a little so that it is seen from behind. Toe ensure the folds of the bow retain their height, fix a buckle inside with a piece of silk ribbon of the same shade.

(d) The straw boater hat (bottom right in photograph No. 2)

To make this transformation, firstly obtain about 5 metres of matting straw or ordinary straw. Next, make the brim by twisting the straw on to itself into a spiral form, beginning with one that goes next to the hat. Fix the spirals together by using an invisible clasp wire the same colour as the straw. To strengthen the edge of the brim, fix another piece of wire underneath a second length of straw. Finally, to complete 'the look', fix a ribbon with a matching colour around the hat and tie it into a bow at the back.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(ii) The latest Hollywood star: Vivien Leigh in the role of Scarlett O'Hara

The Hollywood film 'Gone with the Wind' (in French, 'Autant en emporte le vent') had been released in the United States in 1939. An epic historical romance set during and immediately after the American Civil War of the 1860s, the film was based on Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel of the same name. The novel had won the Pulitzer Prize of 1937 and had become a best seller even before work began on the film.

In 1940, the film had yet to be released in France although this article anticipated its arrival in the near future. It would certainly have generated a keen interest in the film and its stars. Yet, principally due to events that would soon unfold in France, it would be many years before 'Gone with the Wind' would be shown in French cinemas.

If this was the most widely anticipated film of its day, perhaps even of all time, it was due in no small part to the way that the film's producer, David O.Selznick, selected his leading actress for the film. Most of the other main parts in the film were cast within a matter of weeks: most notably Clark Gable as the lead actor in the role of Rhett Butler. The main supporting actor, playing the role of Ashley Wilkes, was to be Leslie Howard. The main supporting actress, playing the part of Melanie Hamilton, was to be Olivia de Havilland. But who would play the part of Scarlett O'Hara, the main female role?

For about two years David O. Selznick embarked upon a search throughout the United States and further afield for the actress who would play Scarlett O'Hara: 'Searching for the role of Scarlett'. The story of the search for Scarlett and the actress who was eventually chosen for the part was one of the main features in this February 1940 issue of 'Marie Claire' [Photograph No. 3].

More than 1,400 'unknowns' had been considered for the part in addition to some of the better known Hollywood and international actresses of the day. Among the established stars who were believed to have been considered for the role of Scarlett were Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, Paulette Goddard and Claudette Colbert. Hollywood's final choice, according to the 'Marie Claire' article, was one of these relative 'unknowns': the British actress Vivien Leigh.

The double page feature seen in 'Marie Claire' [Photograph No. 3] shows Hollywood's newest big star in a number of past and current roles. The question is, why was David O. Selznick's final choice the relatively unknown British actress Vivien Leigh? 'Marie Claire' provides the answer, apparently given to the magazine by David O. Selznick which can be translated into English as:

"Even before the screen test, he had noticed her narrow and passionate face, the dark hair that fell on frail shoulders and a combination of grace, beauty and vanity."

How long after reading this article in 1940 would a French woman have to wait to see 'Gone with the Wind' in the French cinema? It would be ten years before she would be able to watch it in a French cinema. Because of the war - and especially due to the German Occupation of France between 1940 and 1944 - the film did not premiere in France until 1950.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(iii) The latest film releases in French cinemas

If 'Gone with the Wind' was not one of the films currently being shown in the French cinema in February 1940, what then were the new releases? 'Marie Claire' reviews four of the latest releases: three from Hollywood and one from France [Photograph no. 4].

The films reviewed in this issue are as follows:

(a) 'Nurse Edith Cavell' (in French, 'Miss Edith Cavell')
This 1939 Hollywood film is a dramatisation of the true story of the British nurse Edith Cavell, matron of a small private hospital in German Occupied Belgium during the 1914 - 1918 war. She went on to form an organisation helping prisoners of war and other soldiers escape. She was arrested, tried, convicted and executed by the Germans. Shortly before her death, Nurse Edith Cavell spoke the following words:

"Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."

Starring Anna Neagle in the title role and also featuring ZaSu Pitts, Edna May Oliver, May Robson and George Sanders, 'Marie Claire' gave 'Nurse Edith Cavell' a rating of 14 / 20. The two images seen in photograph No. 4 are stills from the film and show Anna Neagle as Edith Cavell remaining stoic just before her execution.

It would not be long before, yet again, the Germans occupied Belgium. This time the Germans occupied much more of France than they had between 1914 - 1918. Nor would it would be long afterwards that underground organisations sprang up to assist prisoners of war and other soldiers and airmen to escape from Belgium and France.

During the Second World War many Belgian and French women would follow the example of Nurse Edith Cavell in nursing wounded soldiers and helping to run escape lines. It is interesting to note at this stage that this issue of 'Marie Claire' is part of the archive of documents that belonged to Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville, who became a Red Cross nurse in a hospital for wounded British soldiers later in 1940. Like Edith Cavell, Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville went on to become a key member of an escape and evasion line, but fortunately never captured by the Germans.

(b) 'Mr Smith goes to Washington' (in French, 'M. Smith au Senat')
This was another Hollywood produced film of 1939 and directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur. According to the the 'Marie Claire' review, the film is full of humour, emotion and a deep philosophical satire. It was given the highest of rating of the four films reviewed for this issue: 18 / 20.

(c) 'From Lenin to Hitler' (in French, 'De Lenine à Hitler')
This early 1940 French documentary film was directed by Georges Rony. The commentary was provided by André Maurois, a member of the 'Académie française'. Lasting one hour and ten minutes, the film traces the main events of modern history from Edwardian times to the present day (i.e. 1940). The 'Marie Claire' review says that it is "Interesting and captivating" and gives it a rating of 13 / 20.

(d) 'When Tomorrow Comes' (in French, 'Veillée d’amour')
Starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer this is another 1939 Hollywood film directed by John M. Stahl, who 'Marie Claire' mentions was the creator of a previous film, 'Back Street'. It is another dramatic comedy about a waitress (Irene Dunne) who falls in love with a man (Charles Boyer) who later turns out to be a concert pianist who also happens to be married. 'Marie Claire' gives this film a rating of 12 / 20.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Brief biographies of Marie Claire's co-founders

As referred to earlier, the co-founders of 'Marie Claire' in 1937 were Jean Prouvost (1885 - 1970) and Marcelle Auclair (1899 - 1983). Let us have a brief look at each of the co-founders of 'Marie Claire'.

(a) Jean Prouvost

In some respects, the appearance of 'Marie Claire' can be regarded as the beginning of a new era for the French press, and the first appearance of the 'modern' magazine in France. For many, Jean Prouvost became the real life "Citizen Kane" of the French press: one if its greatest press barons.

Jean (Jehan) Prouvost was born at Roubaix in the French 'Nord' department on 24 April 1885. His parents were Albert-Félix Prouvost and Marthe Prouvost (née Devémy). As he was not the eldest son he would not therefore be due to inherit the major part of the family textile business. His first marriage, to Mlle. Germaine Lefebvre, also took place at Roubaix in 1905 and they had one surviving son, Jacques Prouvost (1906 - 1960) who went on to be the father of five daughters. After his first wife died in 1973, Jean Prouvost married Elisabeth Danet as his second wife in January 1974. He died at Yvoy-le-Marron (Ardennes) on 18 October 1978.

The road to Jean Prouvost becoming a press baron can be traced to 1917 when at the request of Georges Clemenceau (French Prime Minister 1917 - 1920) made and another French Government minister and fellow citizen of Roubaix, Louis Loucher, they bought a French 'defeatist' newspaper « Le Pays ». Initially the idea had been to put it out of circulation but it proved to be the catalyst for Jean Prouvost to become a press baron.

In 1924 Jean Prouvost purchased a journal, 'Paris-Midi', which had a small readership of about 4,000. By 1930 its circulation was more than 100,000. That was also the year he purchased another daily newspaper, 'Paris-Soir' transforming it by introducing American editorial and production methods. Many of France's best journalists were brought to work for 'Paris-Soir' as well as occasional contributions by many of the popular writers of the day, such as Colette, Jean Cocteau and Georges Simenon. The circulation of 'Paris-Soir' increased from about 70.000 in 1930 to 1,700.000 by 1936. As already noted, 'Marie-Claire', was first founded as a weekly magazine for women in 1937 and it eventually became a monthly when it was relaunched in 1954.

In the early summer of 1940, after the German advance into France, Jean Prouvost was invited to join the cabinet of Prime Minister Paul Reynaud as Minister of Information. General Charles de Gaulle was also a member of Reynaud's cabinet at this time. The administration lasted only a matter of days (5 - 16 June 1940). As he was in favour of signing an armistice with the Germans, Jean Prouvost became Marshal Philippe Petain's High Commissioner for Propaganda. This was the last cabinet of the French 3rd Republic.

After the French Chamber of Deputies and Senate effectively voted the 3rd Republic out of existence and full powers to Petain on 10 July 1940, Jean Prouvost resigned and he moved to Lyon in the Unoccupied Zone. For the rest of the war Jean Prouvost was distrusted by both the Petain Government and the French Resistance.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

After the Liberation and the end of the war it took Jean Prouvost until 1947 to begin rebuilding a press empire. One of the most significant initiatives from this early post-war time was the establishment of the weekly 'Paris Match'. The subject of the colour photograph of the first issue of 'Paris Match' in March 1949 was Britain's wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

With strong, sometimes sensational, stories and the impact of quality photographs 'Paris Match' became one of the most widely read weekly publications both within and outside France. Over the next few years Jean Prouvost built up his media empire, including a major part of RTL (Radio-Télé-Luxembourg) and the purchase of 'Télé 60' which was transformed into 'Télé 7 jours'. For British based readers of this article, this magazine is of a similar genre to the 'Radio Times' or 'TV Times'.

After Jean Prouvost's first wife died in 1973, he married for a second time the following January, to Elisabeth Danet. He died at Yvoy-le-Marron (Ardennes) on 18 October 1978. Many of the publications were sold off in the 1970s but the family have retained an interest in women's magazines of which 'Marie Claire' is the flagship of the group.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(b) Marcelle Auclair

Marcelle Auclair (11 November 1899 – 6 June 1983) was a French writer and author. She was born in Montluçon (Allier) in central France. Her parents were Victor Auclair and Eugénie Auclair (née Rateau). Victor Auclair's profession was an architect. In 1906 the family moved to Chile where her father was involved in a major national rebuilding programme following a destructive earthquake. Marcelle went to school in Santiago (Chile) where she learnt to speak fluent Spanish and English in addition to her maternal language, French.

Being a polyglot proved to be an advantage in Marcelle Auclair's writing career. In many ways it guide the route her career path would follow. Her first original published work, 'Transparence', came when she was just 20 years old and still living in Santiago, Chile. This was a collection of poems written in Spanish.

Marcelle Auclair returned to France in 1923 and three years later, ion 28 April 1926, married another French writer, Jean Prévost. The marriage lasted until 1938 and the couple divorced shortly afterwards. The celebrated French actress Françoise Prévost (1930 - 1997) was one of the three children of Jean Prévost and Marcelle Auclair.

By the time Marcelle Auclair began writing for 'Marie Claire' she had been a writer of note for some years, such as the 1927 novel, "Toya". In addition to writing many of the magazine's articles Marcelle Auclair was one of a team who answered letters sent to the magazine by readers.

Marcelle Auclair's former husband, Jean Prévost remarried shortly after their divorce. During the German Occupation he joined the French underground National Committee of Writers and became a Resistance fighter. Jean Prévost was killed in a German ambush at Sassenage near Grenoble on 1 August 1944.

Marcelle Auclair's post-war literary works include important biographies of the following historical figures (listed in chronological order):

1950 - St Thérèse of Avila, the Spanish Catholic mystic, writer and Carmelite nun.
(Marcelle Auclair later published a complete Spanish to French translation of the writings of St Thérèse of Avila);

1953 - Jesus of Nazareth (for children), later translated into English;

1954 - Jean Jaurès, the French Socialist and anti-war politician who was assassinated in 1914;

1957 - St Bernadette of Lourdes, the French Catholic visionary and nun of the Sisters of Nevers;

1968 - Federico García Lorca, the Spanish poet, playwright and theatre director who was executed by Spanish Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

In the 1950s Marcelle Auclair also wrote two important books in French about personal well-being and happiness:

1951 - 'Le bonheur est en vous' ("Happiness is within you");

1956 - 'La Pratique du bonheur' ("The practice of happiness").

In 1978 Marcelle Auclair published her autobiography, in collaboration with her daughter Françoise: 'Mémoires à deux voix' ("Memories of two voices").

Marcelle Auclair died at Paris on 6 June 1983 at the age of 83.

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


In many respects, the wartime weekly 'Marie Claire' of 1940 is not that different from its modern day monthly successor of the same name. The format created by Jean Prouvost and Marcelle Auclair was evidently one that had worked and it is a format that still works in the modern age.

Some of the stories in this February 1940 issue of 'Marie Claire' reflect the situation of its readership during this period of 'Phoney War'. For example one of the recent film releases reviewed by the magazine is about Edith Cavell, the British nurse executed by the Germans during an earlier war 25 years earlier.

Another article advises readers living in apartments with window balconies to replace the flowers cultivated in window boxes last year with a kitchen garden (i.e. a 'potager'). In the middle of the first winter of the most recent war against Germany tomatoes, radishes, green beans, carrots and spinach were likely to be in short supply in the spring and summer. Then, why not grow your own in the window boxes on your balcony? But if you do cultivate your own tomatoes, 'Marie Claire' ends the article with this good advice:

"Do not forget to water them."

Some things changed a little during the war, some things changed a lot while others changed hardly a jot. With this glimpse back in time at one France's iconic women's magazines from the war years it is possible to see so many things that are familiar in similar publications of the modern era.

Cumbria County Archives,
Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre,
Scotch Street,
Cumbria. CA28 7NL
Ref: YDX 207 / 4
[Part of the printed material collection of Sister Olga Baudot de Rouville (1891 - 1979), WW2 nurse and member of the French Resistance]

Thursday, 29 January, 2015  
Blogger Cathie said...

What a fascinating post! The pictures are amazingly moving. It is good to know that the magazine still exists, within a major press group that includes titles dealing with many aspects of our everyday life, such as style and food.

Friday, 30 January, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

I thought this was a really interesting document, Cathie. It gives an insight into what was current at a particular time.

The film review article about 'Nurse Edith Cavell' in 'Marie Claire' also made me think about the head of the 'Marie-Claire' escape and evasion line. She was Mary Lindell, Comtesse de Milleville and her 'nom de guerre' was 'Marie-Claire. She was a British woman who had married a French count. During the 1914 - 1918 war Mary Lindell had been a volunteer Red Cross nurse (V.A.D.) and awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

During the Occupation of France in WW2, Mary Lindell helped British soldiers escape from Occupied France before being arrested by the Gestapo, tried and spent several months in prison. After her release she made her way to London and was the first woman specially trained by Jimmy Langley and Airey Neave of M.I.9's Room 900 in escape and evasion work before returning to France. According to Airey Neave in his classic work about the WW2 Allied escape organisations Mary Lindell told him that her favourite author was Rudyard Kipling and her heroine was none other than Edith Cavell.

So the life and heroism of Edith Cavell provided a role model for Mary Lindell, if any were needed. Later, Mary Lindell was again arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the notorious Ravensbrück camp for women, but survived the war.

Saturday, 31 January, 2015  

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