Monday, June 2, 2014

Monthly Muse: Faith Bacon

This month's muse is Faith Bacon. Faith was born Frances Yvonne Bacon in Los Angeles, California to Francis Page Bacon and his wife Charmion, who wed in September 1909. The couple divorced several years later. Faiths career started in the 1920's when she became a dancer in Paris. While in Paris, she met Maurice Chevalier and later premiered in his revue. Faith used fans, bubbles and flowers in her dance routines. In a later interview Faith claimed that she decided to become a dancer when she visited Paris despite having no training.

Faith returned to the US and appeared on Broadway in Earl Carroll's Vanities from August 1928 to February 1929. She went on to dance in Fioretta and Earl Carroll's Sketch Book, in 1929 and 1930, respectively. In July 1930, she appeared as a "principal nude" in another production of the Earl Carroll's Vanities. She initially performed a routine in which she stood nude and motionless onstage while lights "played over" her body. At the time, indecent exposure laws prohibited dancers from moving while appearing nude onstage. According to Faith, she and Carroll tried several different tricks to get around these laws before finally coming up with the idea of the fan dance. The dance was an immediate hit.

On July 9, 1930, police raided the New Amsterdam Theatre and arrested Faith, Earl Carroll and other cast members for "giving an indecent performance". Although the show underwent some changes after the raid, Faith continued to perform the fan dance. However, Earl Carroll stated that Faith wore a "chiffon arrangement" during the performance and was not fully nude. In August 1930, a grand jury decided against indicting Faith, Carroll and her fellow cast members.

Following her performance in the Earl Carroll's Vanities, Faith appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 from July to November 1931. In 1933, she went to Chicago to perform at the 1933 World's Fair after learning that a rival dancer, Sally Rand, was also performing a fan dance. Faith, who maintained she originated the dance for Earl Carroll in 1930, billed herself as "The Original Fan Dancer".

After appearing at the World's Fair in 1933, Faith's career began to decline. Over the years, she had gained a reputation of being difficult. While working in the show Temptations in the winter of 1936, Faith cut her thighs when she fell through a glass drum on which she was posing nude. The cuts left her thighs scarred and she later sued the Lake Theater Corporation for $100,000 in damages. She later settled for $5,000 which she spent on a ten carat diamond.

In October 1938, Faith sued dancer Sally Rand for $375,000 in damages and sought an injunction barring her from doing the fan dance which Faith still maintained that she originated.

In 1938, Faith made her only film appearance in Prison Train, directed by Gordon Wiles, in which she played the role of 'Maxine'. On April 23, 1939, she was arrested for a second time for disorderly conduct after staging a publicity stunt on Park Avenue in New York City. Faith, who was scheduled to do a "Fawn Dance" at the 1939 New York World's Fair the following week, dressed in "wisps of chiffon" and maple leaves while walking a fawn on a leash. She was released on $500 bond.

 Throughout the 1940s, Faith continued to perform her act at various clubs and venues throughout the United States. In 1948, she sued a carnival promoter whom she accused of putting tacks on the stage which she was dancing on barefoot. Faith lost the case.

By the mid-1950s, Faith was unable to secure employment and was out of money. By 1956, she was living in Erie, Pennsylvania but decided to travel to Chicago to find work. Upon arriving, she checked into a hotel and looked for work but could not find any.

On September 26, 1956, Faith jumped out of her hotel room window falling two stories before landing on the roof of an adjacent building. Faith's roommate, grocery store clerk Ruth Bishop, tried to intervene by grabbing Bacon's skirt as she climbed out of the window but Faith tore free of her grasp. She died of her injuries at Grant Hospital later that night. At the time of her death Faith was deeply depressed due to the fact she had no work or money and was separated from her husband. She was buried in Wunder's Cemetery in Chicago.

Despite the tragic events that ended Faith's life her act inspires Burlesque dancers to this day. Many burlesque dancers of today state that Faith is an inspiration to them. I will leave you with this video of Faith fan dancing:

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