Fifi D’Orsay Makes A Scene In Woodstock

The 1930s were an interesting time in Hollywood. While motion pictures and their actors were very popular, the Great Depression was taking its financial toll on the industry. Movie stars would go on tours to perform and meet up with fans at popular locations such as theaters or dance halls. One such place was McHenry’s own the Fox Pavilion. Before it became, the Just For Fun Roller Rink, the Fox was one of the best places to be in McHenry. Its main business was a dance hall, but it also served as a place for church, community, and political events. Another form of entertainment the Fox was tapping into was radio. On certain evenings, famous local radio personalities would broadcast one of their shows at the Fox.

Advertisement for Fifi’s performance in Girl From Calgary, a movie from 1932. Compliments of the 31 Dec 1932 Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, IL.

On Saturday, June 10, 1933, the Fox brought out a famous Hollywood actress to be the main attraction for the evening. Fifi D’Orsay was famous for playing the French flirt and worked with some very famous actors, such as Will Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, and James Cagney. Interestingly, Fifi was French….French Canadian and was born Marie-Rose Angelina Yvonne Lussier in 1904. She took the name “Fifi” from a director and “D’Orsay” from a perfume that was popular at the time. Oddly enough, some promotions had her down as the “Girl From Calgary.” She was a talented actress and was regarded as a very entertaining singer and skilled dancer. In 1933, Fifi had a traveling orchestra and went on tour, and was set to perform around the country. When she performed at the Fox there was a huge crowd and Mademoiselle D’Orsay was great on stage.

Still of Fifi with Bing Crosby in Going Hollywood from 1933. Taken from the 25 Apr 1934 Brownsville (TX) Herald.

However, toward the end of the evening, Fifi was served a warrant to appear in court by Constable Vogel from the McHenry County Court. Her press agent, Jerre Perrau, was suing her for $425 in past wages. Mademoiselle D’Orsay appeared in court in Woodstock on June 20, 1933. Before the proceedings, Fifi started with a 15-minute tirade protesting her innocence, at one point seeming almost incoherent. After calming down, the trial was able to proceed. Perrau claimed that he was only paid $465 of the roughly $900 that was agreed upon. He was hired by the Amusement Service Corporation of Chicago to set up a tour in ten mid-west states. On the stand, Fifi admitted that the tour had “been a bust” and that nobody had really made any money. Also, she noted they owed many of their creditors, so Perrau was lucky to get what he had. After several hours, the hearing was concluded with a judgment of $298 in favor of Jerre Perrau. It was reported that everyone was “happy” with the verdict.

After Fifi’s day in court, she continued to have a successful film career for a few years. However, in 1936, she broke her contract with Fox and was blacklisted, pretty much derailing her film career. Coincidentally, that year she also became an American citizen. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, her career was revitalized with supporting parts in movies and television. As for McHenry, I’m sure they remembered Mademoiselle D’Orsay’s performance at the Court House for a long time.

  • “Constable Serves Papers On Fifi.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 Jun 1933, 1. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Fifi D’Orsay, Well Know French….” The Daily Sentinal. (Woodstock, IL) 21 Jun 1933, 4. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Fifi D’Orsay Stages Show In Courtroom.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 22 Jun 1933, 1. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Big Attractions Coming To “Fox”.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 18 May 1933, 1. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Fifi D’Orsay On Road Back.” The Decatur Review. (Decatur, IL) 11 Sep 1950, 1. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “French Bombshell.” The Decatur Review. (Decatur, IL) 14 Jun 1961, 18. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Miss D’Orsay Visits Office Of Movienews.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 21 Apr 1933, 2, 10. Web. 25 Apr 2022.
  • “Constable Serves Papers On Fifi.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 15 Jun 1933, 1. Web. 25 Apr 2022.