Jeanmaire, Zizi


In person signature of the 1940s-60s French ballet dancer, singer, actress, and fashion icon


Type: Signature
Description:  (1924-2020) French  ballet dancer, actress, and singer, became famous in the 1950s after playing the title role in the 1949 London ballet Carmen, appeared in several Hollywood films and Paris revues. Her husband, dancer and choreographer Roland Petit, created ballets and revues for her.

She met future husband and long-time collaborator Roland Petit at the Paris Opera Ballet when they were both 9. She danced in 1944 in the Soirées de la danse at the Theater Sarah Bernhardt and became a ballerina of the Nouveau Ballet de Monte Carlo in 1946. She danced during the last season of Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in London in 1947. From 1949, she was the star of the Ballets de Paris directed by Petit, known for her energy and passion. She created her most famous role, Carmen, to a musical arrangement of Bizet’s opera. For the role, she had her hair cut to boyish shortness, copied by many women. The ballet premiered in London in 1949 to rave reviews, the performance had an extended tour on Broadway, repeated the next year. 

Jeanmaire first appeared as a singer in Petit’s 1950 Croqueuse de diamants in 1950. In Hollywood, she appeared in the 1952 musical film Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye, and in 1954 starred on Broadway again in the musical The Girl in Pink Tights. She returned to Paris 1955 and married Petit. Jeanmaire appeared in film again in Cole Porter’s 1956 Anything Goes with Bing Crosby but otherwise focused on dance, including Petit’s La Rose des vents in 1958 and Cyrano de Bergerac in 1959. Beginning in 1961, she made a career in revues at the Alhambra Theatre, with hits such as “Mon truc en plumes” performed in a dress by Yves Saint Laurent, who became her chief designer for stage and private clothes, and a friend. The number became a signature tune, repeated in other revues by Petit who produced 60+ shows with her. Her fame garnered her press attention and preferred seating at fashion shows; almost 50 years later, Vogue viewed Jeanmaire and her peers as a guidepost of fashion week celebrity culture.

Condition: Very good, yellowing at top in photo image is highly exaggerated.

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