Historical Dictionary of the French Second Empire, 1852-1870

By William E. Echard | Go to book overview
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LABICHE, EUGENE ( 1815-1888), dramatist, master of the vaudeville form (short comedies using popular songs); born 5 May 1815 in Paris. Labiche's bonhomie and gaiety afforded him easy access to theatrical circles at an early age. Two one-act vaudevilles, Major Cravachon and Deux papas très bien, presented at the Théâtre du Palais Royal in 1844, met with relative success. A third, Frisette ( 1846), depicting the proletariat, also belongs to this period of apprenticeship.

In 1851 Labiche experienced his first major triumph with Un chapeau de paille d'Italie ( Palais Royal). The following year he wrote six one-act plays for Paris theaters, among which was his famous satire of vanity and hypocrisy, Le misanthrope et l'Auvergnat ( 1852, Palais Royal). By the mid 1850s he was well on his way to becoming the "king of Vaudeville." In 1860 he wrote his first major comedy, Le voyage de M. Perrichon. A year later he was named to the Legion of Honor. In 1864 his comedy in three acts, Moi, was presented at the Théâtre Français, and in the same year Le point de mire, a comedy-vaudeville in four acts, was staged at the court theater at Compiègne in the presence of Napoleon III and Eugénie. La cagnotte ( 1864), performed at the Palais Royal, was a stunning success and impressed even critics who had previously scorned him as a mere manufacturer of plays.

Labiche composed over fifty plays in the course of his career, many in collaboration. Among those of which he was sole author are: Un jeune homme pressé ( Palais Royal, 1848), Un garçon de chez Véry ( Palais Royal, 1850), Le petit voyage ( Vaudeville, 1868), and 29 degrés à l'ombre ( Palais Royal, 1873). Among those who collaborated with Labiche by supplying ideas and serving as critics or first readers were Alfred Delacour ( 1815-1883), Edmond Gondinet ( 1828-1888), Emile Augier, Ernest Legouvé ( 1807-1903), Marc Michel ( 1812- 1868), and Edouard Martin ( 1828-1866). Labiche is best remembered for Un chapeau de paille d'Italie, La cagnotte, and Le voyage de M. Perrichon (written in collaboration with Edouard Martin. From a bourgeois family himself, he was

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