11 August 2012

Sacha Distel

French chanson singer, composer and entertainer Sacha Distel (1933 - 2004) had a string of hits in the 1960's and 1970's, like Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Scoubidou and La Belle Vie (The Good Life). Considered a heart-throb around the world, he was well known because of his much publicized affair with Brigitte Bardot. 'Monsieur charme' also appeared in a number of French films and television programmes.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 180. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 122. Sent by mail in Belgium in 1961. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sacha Distel
Spanish postcard by Postal Oscar Color, S.A., Hospitalet (Barcelona). no. 385.

Jazz Guitarist
Sacha Distel was born Sacha Alexandre in Paris in 1933. His father, Léo Distel, was a White Russian soldier who fled the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and walked all the way to Paris. He established himself in an engineering firm, and married Andrée Ventura, a talented pianist and sister of Ray Ventura, who, with his group Les Collégiens, was one of the top bandleaders in France before the second world war. At age 16, Sacha became a professional jazz guitarist. Over his career he worked alongside Juliette Gréco, Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie. He appeared as a musician in the film Femmes de Paris/Women of Paris (1953, Jean Boyer).

Sacha Distel
French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 995.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 83. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sacha Distel
Dutch postcard, no. 362.

Brigitte Bardot
A shortlived romance with Brigitte Bardot in 1958 put Sacha Distel's photograph on the cover of every French fan magazine, and shortly afterwards he began his career as a vocalist. One of his first singles was a tribute to Bardot, entitled Brigitte À Jamais. It was the French version of an American hit, Scoubidou, in 1959, that catapulted Distel to the top. He starred in the film Les Mordus/The Fanatics (1960, René Jolivet), and had cameos appearances in Zazie dans le métro (1960, Louis Malle) and Goodbye Again (1961, Anatole Litvak). In 1963, he married the alpine ski champion Francine Bréaud, and the following year composed and recorded one of his greatest successes, La Belle Vie. At first only the B-side of a single, it was taken up by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett as The Good Life. It became Distel's signature tune. He appeared in more films, including La bonne soupe/Careless Love (1964, Robert Thomas) starring Annie Girardot and Franchot Tone. On French television, he had his own variety show, the Sacha Show. In 1967, he recorded Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine with Brigitte Bardot, as Le Soleil De Ma Vie.

Sacha Distel
German postcard by Franz Josef Rüdel, Filmpostkartenverlag, Hamburg, no. 4739. Photo: Polydor / Kühn.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 1124. Photo: Sam Lévin.

Sacha Distel
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 5469, sent by mail in 1965.

Miss World Contest
During the 1970’s, Sacha Distel became also popular outside France. With his boyish grin and courteous charm he appealed not only across the generations but to audiences in Britain and America. He scored a megahit in Engeland, with a cover of Burt Bacharach's Raindrops keep falling on my head (1971), in duet with Petula Clark. He appeared in another film, Sans mobile apparent/Without Apparent Motive (1971, Philippe Labro) with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Dominique Sanda. He also hosted the Miss World contest in London, and in 1980, in honour of Queen Elizabeth, Distel performed at Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen Mother's 80th birthday. Later he appeared in the Paris episode of the TV-series Absolutely Fabulous, where he confuses Daphne Selfe with Patsy.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by La Roue Tourne, Paris. Autographed in 1970.

Sacha Distel
French postcard by PSG, no. 1282 A.

First Love
In the 1980’s Sacha Distel returned to his first love, the guitar, and recorded Ma Premiere Guitare, and, in 1983, Ma Guitare And All That Jazz. Distel remained reasonably popular in France in the 1980’s and 1990’s, including a new show named after his song La Belle Vie. In 1997 he was honoured with the Légion d'Honneur. In 2000, he made his British theatre debut as the crooked lawyer Billy Flynn in the West End production of the Bob Fosse musical Chicago. He did have an ambition to make a musical about the life of Maurice Chevalier, but this remained unfulfilled at the time of his death. After a long illness, Sacha Distel died in 2004 in Rayol-Canadel, south-east France. He was 71. With his wife Francine Distel, he had two sons, Julien Distel and Laurent Distel.

Sacha Distel, Mireille Matthieu
With Mireille Mathieu. Rumanian postcard by Acin.

Sacha Distel
French card by G.R. Joly, Paris for Pathé Marconi / EMI, no. 10/74. Photo: Georges Dombier.

Sources: Patrick O'Connor (The Guardian), Ruud van Capelleveen (Absolute Facts.nl) (Dutch), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


Hugh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hugh said...

Hi! I've been enjoying the faces of old-school European stars digging this site, but it's a bit disappointing to find out that some I know are missing. Are you still digging apart from the names on this blog? If you are, I wish I could find these names after the re-construction. Thank you & Happy New Year.

Jeremy BRETT (acting performer, England)
Ian CARMICHAEL (acting performer, England)
Susan HAMPSHIRE (acting performer, England) 
Muslim MAGOMAYEV (opera singer, USSR/Azerbaijan)
Andrey MIRONOV (acting performer, USSR/Russia)
Robert MORLEY (acting performer, England)
Susan STEPHEN (acting performer, England)
Terry-Thomas (comedian, England)

Paul van Yperen said...

Hi Hugh,

Thanks for stopping by and your comment. Yes, we continue to collect postcards and make new blogs each day. We are interested in every European film actor of whom postcards are produced. If you have vintage postcards of the actors you mention in your comment, please send us the scans and we will use them for a post. Best wishes for 2016!

Hugh said...

Sorry. Since I currently live in South Korea it's impossible to get actual postcards of European stars. (Old-school *Koreans* were rather of goers of American stars. The only European name I could hear from my parents was well, Audrey Hepburn and Alain Delon and most recently Adamo.)
(Yes, in South Korea - alone, without anyone at my age bothering to know about old-school European stars)