19 April 2013

Reda Caire

During the 1930’s and 1950’s, Reda Caire (1908 – 1963) was a popular operetta singer in France. He also appeared in six French films.

Réda Caire
French postcard by EPC, no. 28. Photo: Teddy Piaz.

The King Of The Music Hall
Reda Caire (sometimes written as Réda Caire or Reda-Caire) was born as Joseph Antoine Edouard Gandour in Cairo, Egypt in 1908. His father was Gandhour Bey, an Egyptian government official and his mother an heir to the Berner-Renoz de Walden family, one of the oldest aristocratic families of Belgium. So, Gandhour had the title of count to his disposition. His stage name was inspired by his Egyptian origins: Reda is an Egyptian first name and Caire is the French form for his hometown. In 1928, the 20-years old appeared for the first time with an operetta troupe on stage in Lyon, France. In 1930 he moved to Paris, where he became very popular. He had two hit records in 1934 with Je voudrais un petit bateau (I would like a small boat) and Les beaux dimanches de printemps (The beautiful Sundays of spring). These successes made him the king of the music hall, alongside Maurice Chevalier. Caire even surpassed him in popularity, and would remain popular until the late 1950’s. During the 1930’s, he started to appear in the cinema. He first performed as a singer in the comedy Le club des aristocrates/The club of aristocrats (1937, Pierre Colombier) with Jules Berry. Among his other films were Si tu reviens/If you return (1937, Jacques Daniel-Norman), Prince de mon cœur/Prince of my heart (1938, Jacques Daniel-Norman) with Colette Darfeuil and Claude May, and Vous seule que j’aime/You alone I love (1939, Henri Fescourt).

Reda Caire
French postcard by Viny, no. 93. Photo: Max Pardon.

Reda Caire
French postcard, no. 78. Photo: Arnal.

Dazzling Prince Danilo
Throughout his career, Reda Caire never abandoned the operetta world, where he had started his career. He was a dazzling Prince Danilo in La Veuve Joyeuse (The Merry Widow) by Franz Lehár, and also devoted himself to a modern repertoire. Shortly before World War II, he starred in Balalaika (1938) by Bernard Grun and George Posford at the Théâtre Mogador, Paris. At the outbreak of war, the Odeon of Marseille (a Mecca for the French operetta) asked him to perform in Destination inconnue (Destination Unknown), a work of one of his favorite authors, Gaston Gabaroche. During the war, he was accused of being Jewish. However, he could continue his career and also appeared in the film Six petites filles en blanc/Six Girls in White (1943, Yvan Noé) with Janine Darcey and Jean Murat. It was his sixth and final film. After the war he continued his musical career. In the early 1960’s he had another hit record with the chanson Temps du tango (Tango Time), which was especially written for him by Jean-Paul Caussimon and Léo Ferré. Reda Caire died of a heart-attack in Clermont-Ferrand, France in 1963. He was 58. A few months before, he had given his final recital at the Théâtre du Gymnase à Marseille. He is buried in the village of Saint-Zacharie, where the main square was later named after him, the Square Reda Caire. He was gay, though closeted.

Reda Caire
French postcard by S.E.R.P., Paris, no. 142. Photo: Studio Harcourt.

Reda Caire sings Quand un petit oiseau (When a little bird) in 1938. Source: Lys Gauty (YouTube).

Sources: Du temps des cerises aux feuilles mortes (French), Wikipedia (French and English) and IMDb.

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