Adelaide Hall and the Blackbirds take the Moulin Rouge!
1929, with photos by Eli Lotar and Germaine Krull
The beautiful Adelaide Hall and the cast of Blackbirds backstage at the Moulin Rouge, in the German magazine Das Leben.
Blackbirds 1926 was first produced in London with Florence Mills in the lead. Mills fell ill and died before preparations began for the Broadway revival of the show. Eighteen year old Adelaide Hall succeeded Mills as the lead. The cast included Elisabeth Welch, the Berry Brothers and Bill Bojangles Robinson.
In 1929 Blackbirds travelled to Paris for an extended engagement at the Moulin Rouge. The Paris show with a cast of more than 100 African American artists was accompanied by the jazz band of the Plantation Club.
Adelaide sang biggest hit of the show "I can’t give you anything But Love, Baby".
At the end of the summer season of 1929 Blackbirds closed and the Moulin Rouge closed it doors after the last performance to begin its new life as a cinema.
Adelaide Hall settled in London in the 1930s. She had a very popular radio show and became the first Black artist to have a long term contract with the BBC. She was hugely popular during World War II and was one of the highest earning entertainers in the country.
Hear an interview with Adelaide Hall when she was in her 80s, she reflects on her experiences as a star at the Blackbirds, having her full body portrait painted astride the box office of the Moulin Rouge (!) and choses her Desert Island Discs.
**A hugh thanks to digital archive supremo holdthisphoto for making sure I saw these photos.
These costumes are all *very* similar…
Looks like Josephine may have worn it first (and topless) around 1927 in the Folies Bergere show “Un Vent de Folie”. George Barbier was most likely the costume designer.
But what do you think… are they recycling old costumes or is Josephine the trendsetter?
top: Josephine Baker by Walery, c1926. To promote her appearance in the Folies Bergere revue ‘Un Vent de Folie’ 1927
middle: Adelaide Hall by Walery, c1928. A publicity shot for the Paris run of “Blackbirds of 1928”
bottom: the chorus line at Club Prudhom , Washington DC by Scurlock Studio c1930
Adelaide Hall in Blackbirds of 1928
Adelaide Hall jazz singer and entertainer, was born in Brooklyn, New York. A self-taught tap dancer, Hall began her long and eventful stage career in Broadway musical 'Shuffle Along' (1921).
She worked with Duke Ellington recorded one of the first scat vocal in jazz on Ellington’s 'Creole Love Call' in 1927. In 1928 she co-starred with Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson in Blackbirds of 1928, Broadway’s longest-running black-cast revue. In the show Adelaide introduced the classic song ‘I Can’t Give You Anything But Love’.
In the 1930s Hall headlined at New York’s famous Cotton Club and opened a nightclubs in Paris and London. She remained in London during WW2, between 1939 and 1945 she made over seventy recordings for Decca. After her nightclub was bombed during the London Blitz, Hall spent the remainder of the war broadcasting for the BBC and entertaining troops.
Adelaide’s 1947 performance in "Variety in Sepia" is the earliest surviving BBC television recording.
American-born jazz singer Adelaide Hall was named Britain’s highest paid female entertainer in 1941.
(publicity shot for Broadway revue “Blackbirds of 1928”)