26 March 2011

La Belle Otéro

In August 1898 in St Petersburg the French film operator Felix Mesguich (a Lumiere Brothers employee) shot a one minute reel of this actress, dancer, Folies Bèrgere star/courtesan performing La Valse Brillante.

Carolina Otéro was born in 1868, in Puente de Valga, Galicia (Northwest Spain)and worked her way through cafes, bordellos and music halls to become employed at the Folies Bèrgere in Paris in 1889, creating the gypsy character La Belle Otéro.

And from there, Otéro launched herself on the world travelling and performing in all corners of the globe - Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris . And becoming, it was thought, the lover of King Edward VII, Tzar Nicholas II, the Grand Duke Peter, the Duke of Westminster.

At the height of her career, Otéro tellingly declared:" Women have one mission in life: to be beautiful. When one gets old, one must learn how to break mirrors."

She spent her last years in Nice, constantly talking about her past. It was always the same: feasts, princes, champagne. She died in 1965.

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