Le Folies Bergère is perhaps the most famous music hall in Paris after the Moulin Rouge. It has served up nearly 150 years of entertainment and sparkle to the City of Lights, and was a major inspiration for many modern live performance acts, including Ziegfeld Follies and the famed revues of Las Vegas.
It began its life as La Folies Trevise in 1869, patterned after the famous Alhambra music hall of London. Originally home to mostly comic operas and operettas, it slowly evolved into a variety show-style revue, and as a result, the Duc de Trevise objected to his name being sullied, and it was rechristened Le Folies Bergère.
The show always appealed to popular taste and offered more than its share of prurience in the form of burlesque and bawdy jokes. In 1926, Joséphine Baker and her banana skirt became the talk of Paris and highlighted the era of negritude in Europe at the time. Other performers include Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, Cantinflas, Stan Laurel, Edith Piaf, and the great mime Pierre Legrand.
The Folies-Bergère's reputation is not limited to its location. In 1882, the great painter Edouard Manet painted "A Bar At The Folies-Bergère", which featured one of the dance hall's girls looking into a mirror. In 1906, a facsimile of the cabaret was opened in New York City. In 1935, the great Chevalier starred in Folies-Bergère, in which he plays a dual role of entertainer at the music hall and a local baron, in a tidy little sex farce (for 1935, anyway.) And in 1957, French filmmaker Henri Decoin directed and co-wrote a completly different Folies-Bergère, which starred Eddie Constantine as an American GI who inadvertently falls in love with one of the dancing girls at the cabaret. Even today you can see a tribute to the Folies Bergère revue at the Tropicana on the Vegas Strip. And of course, the Bergère itself is still open for business, putting on numerous plays, musicals, revues, and other performances.