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by Zsolt Szemerszky

Zsolt Szemerszky

Glamour and Fascination

Glamour and Fascination

The Principality of Monaco has always represented elegance and luxury dating back hundreds of years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Monaco was an attraction for Russian nobility. The Principality’s prosperity, and particularly that of the casinos, was in large due to the Russian community.

Since 1909, the Principality of Monaco has hosted its world famous “Russian Ballet”. Since then, it has been through several rebirths to maintain its notability, and with the arrival of Jean-Christophe Maillot in 1993, the Ballets de Monte-Carlo joined the ranks of the world’s most renowned ballet companies.

The Place du Casino in Hollywood in 1922
The Place du Casino in Hollywood in 1922 | © Courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM

One of the most amazing fascinations of the Principality was glorified by actor and director Eric von Stroheim, who built a perfect replica of the Place du Casino in Hollywood at the Universal Studios in 1922. His attention to detail thoroughly captured the atmosphere of Monte Carlo for the movie Foolish Wives (Folies de femmes).

The movie stirred up an American fascination with Monte Carlo, thirty years before the legendary royal marriage linked the two nations in April 1956. The marriage which was Monaco‘s own fairy tale.

Since then, Monaco has become the location of choice for many film directors searching for genuinely dreamlike and elegant settings.

Yves Montand, scene from the movie Grand Prix in 1966
Yves Montand, scene from the movie Grand Prix in 1966 © Courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM

The Principality has had a long relationship with the brightest celebrities and sports personalities.

The building of the legendary Monte Carlo Country Club was inspired by Suzanne Lenglen, who was the number one ladies’ tennis player in the world in the 1920s, dominating the sport by having only lost 4 sets during her 7-year career.

Suzanne Lenglen in Monaco in 1921
Suzanne Lenglen in Monaco in 1921 | © Courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM

And the Principality cares for its celebrity visitors. Josephine Baker was one such recipient, who was a huge star and possibly the world’s first African-American celebrity.

Grace Kelly and Josephine had a strong friendship, which began in 1951, when the future princess of Monaco bore the title of a rising star of Hollywood.

The meeting of Josephine and Grace took place in the glamorous Stork Club restaurant in New York. Josephine Baker returned to the States, where the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named her the Woman of the Year.

Ironically, Josephine’s visit to New York was marred by an incident: the Stork Club staff refused service to the famous dancer. Being a witness to the outrageous scene, Grace Kelly unceremoniously left the restaurant with the black star and never returned there.

Even after Grace married Prince Rainier III, becoming the princess of Monaco, their relationship remained the same.

After great success, Josephine had greater bad-luck and racial issues and by the mid-1960s, she had used up her entire fortune.

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker in 1932 | © Courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM

A period of dark days overwhelmed her and her children, when Brigitte Bardot and Princess Grace personally came to her help.

Bardot helped her financially, and following that Princess Grace invited her to Monaco, helping with funds raised at galas held in the Principality, offering her a home for life.

Josephine’s Parisian concert dedicated to the 50th anniversary of her career was financed by the Prince of Monaco, Jackie Onassis and Princess Grace.

Josephine died a few days after her last concert from a brain hemorrhage. After the ceremony in Paris, she was buried in the cemetery of Monaco.

Princess Grace also attended the funeral of Josephine, who found her final resting peace in the Principality of Monaco.

Amongst the most famous and internationally recognised people to be connected to the Principality was Sir Winston Churchill, who loved Monaco and visited it often. As early as 1945, he regularly enjoyed staying at the Hôtel de Paris for Monaco‘s famous New Year festivities.

Sir Winston Churchill in Monaco in 1958
Sir Winston Churchill in Monaco in 1958 | © Courtesy of Monte-Carlo SBM

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