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May 6, 2013

Rare Vintage Photos of Émilie Marie Bouchaud Showing Off Her 14- (or 15- or 16-) Inch Waist

Émilie Marie Bouchaud (May 14, 1874 – October 14, 1939), better known by her stage name Polaire, was a French singer and actress. She was known for her extremely tight corset, dubbed the wasp waist, reportedly measuring less than 16 inches (41 cm), although pictures of her show distinct signs of retouching around the waist, which may mean her waist was much more normal than reported. She was also known for her eccentric stage presence, which generated mixed receptions.

Polaire’s career in the entertainment industry stretched from the early 1890s to the mid-1930s, and encompassed the range from music-hall singer to stage and film actress. Her most successful period professionally was from the mid-1890s to the beginning of the First World War.

Adopting the stage name Polaire (“Pole Star”), she worked first as a music-hall singer and dancer: one of her earliest hits was performing the French version of Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay. Having quickly made a name for herself – Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed her on a magazine cover in 1895 – Polaire briefly visited New York, appearing there as a chanteuse at various venues, but without achieving major success. On her return to Paris she extended her range and went on to act in serious theatre. Her first major appearance was in 1902, at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, in the title role of a play based on Colette’s Claudine à Paris. A comedic actress, Polaire became one of the major celebrities of her day and later, as cinema developed, appeared in several films.

In 1909, Polaire was cast in her first silent-film role in Moines et guerriers. In 1910 she returned to the stage, appearing in London and later in New York. In 1912, back in France, she was offered a role in a film by the up-and-coming young director Maurice Tourneur. She appeared in six of his films in 1912 and 1913. She then returned to the musical stage and began a second tour of the United States, after which she appeared at the London Coliseum. In 1915 Polaire made frequent appearances in London, and involved herself in wartime fund-raising efforts. She returned to films in 1922, but in the declining years of her career had to be content with lesser roles.

Her precise filmography is difficult to determine due to confusion between her and a younger Italian actress with the screen name “Pauline Polaire”, who also featured in early films. Her last film appearance was in 1935 in Arènes joyeuses, directed by Karl Anton.



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