Lantelme bio (part 2)

Her Conservatoire studies weren’t successful because Lantelme comedy talent was far from academic theatre manner. At the end of course she didn’t obtain any prize and soon returned to the work under her ordinary stage name.

Since 1 April 1905 she performed in “L’Age d’Aimer” by Pierre Wolff. The leading part was played by famous (but already not young) actress Réjane.

Geneviève Lantelme in L’Age d’Aimer. Scan from Le Theatre # 154 , May 1905

Réjane in a dress by Doucet, Les Modes, February 1903.

Giovanni Boldini. Madame Réjane.

When Réjane knew that her friend Alfred Edwards, a media tycoon and amateur playwright, had written a play “Par Ricochet” and was looking for an actress, she introduced Lantelme to him. Soon Lantelme became his mistress, and this relationship marked her life.

Alfred Edwards. Scan from Le Theatre.

Alfred Edwards also helped Réjane to open her own theatre, le théatre Réjane. First play put on stage there was “La Savelli” written by Max Maurey, an old fashioned history drama in a Victorien Sardou style. (Many years ago Réjane became a star after she played in “Madame Sans-Gêne” by Sardou.) And Sardou himself was involved as a director.

Sem. The opening of theatre Réjane. Scan from L’Illustration. Here we can see Wolff, Sardou, Capus, Feydeau, Polaire, Edwards…

Lantelme in a play La Savelli at theatre Réjane. Scan from Le Theatre.


Réjane, photo by Nadar. Old postcard.

Lantelme signed a contract and was engaged since September 1906, but she hadn’t much to play because Réjane always played leading parts. In January 1908 Lantelme broke the contract and left the theatre. Réjane immediately brought an action against her. Lantelme lost and had to pay 20 000 francs, very big money (she earned only 600 by month in theatre Réjane). It may be one of reasons why she didn’t leave rich Edwards who could arrange everything.

In spite of all the troubles 1908 is for Lantelme a lucky year because at last she gets a leading part in a star play. It’s a comedy “Le Roi” written by Caillavet, de Flers and Arène. Lantelme played Marthe Bourdier, called Youyou, a role performed before by Eve Lavallière. From 8 November 1908 to September 1909 Lantelme incarnates Youyou about 300 times. Her photos appear on Le Theatre covers, on numerous postcards and in fashion magazines like Les Modes or Femina.

Lantelme as Marthe Bourdier on the cover of Le Theatre # 238, 15 November 1908.

Le théatre des Variétés (Paris Variétés theatre) where Lantelme had her biggest success in Le Roi.

During these years (1906-1909) Lantelme is struggling for Edwards with his wife number 4, Misia Godebska (ex-Nathanson and future Misia Sert). Neither Misia nor Lantelme loved him – all they needed were just his fortune and influence.

Renoir. Portrait of Misia Sert.

After all Lantelme, who was younger and more beautiful, won the battle. Edwards divorced Misia and married Lantelme in the city of Rouen, to avoid any publicity. Poor deserted Misia got 48 000 francs by year as a little consolation.

Hôtel de ville at Rouen where Alfred Edwards married Geneviève Lantelme (1). Old postcard.

Hôtel d’Angleterre at Rouen where the newly married couple had lunch after the marriage (2). Old postcards.


(1) Mayen, p. 104

(2) Mayen, p. 106.

(to be continued)

Pictures not marked as scans found at gallica, delcampe and other internet sites.

Lantelme bio: part 1

Geneviève Lantelme (born Mathilde Hortense Claire Fossey, 20 May 1883, Paris <1>– night  24/25 July 1911, Rhine) was a French stage actress and a fashion icon, one of most beautiful women of Belle Epoque.

Lantelme 56-10

Geneviève Lantelme

Her father Edouard Fossey was a cashier and later an accountant, mother Claire (maiden name Lantelme) was one of 3 daughters of Anatole Lantelme, professor of music and composer.

The couple married in 1876 and had 4 daughters (Mathilde was the third one). When Mathilde was born, the family lived in Paris, boulevard Barbès, 5 (XVIII arrondissement), but they often moved (in 1882 they lived in Asnières, in 1888 in Paris IX).


Paris, boulevard Barbès. Old postcard.

Lantelme-acte de naissance

Document about the birth of Mathilde Hortense Claire Fossey.

In 1895 Mathilde’s parents divorced, and according to the court verdict the father was named the tutor of children <2>.

It wasn’t usual, but actress Simone in her memoirs book mentioned that the mother had sent Mathilde to work in a brothel (and it may be the reason of the verdict):

“…grâce à une mère vigilante, elle était devenue, aux environs de sa douzième année, l’agneau pomponné d’une maison spéciale. L’amour excessif des grâces enfantines y rassemblait quelques bons vieillards” (Simone, “Sous de nouveaux soleils”, pp. 190-191).

In 1897 Edouard Fossey remarried, and the family moved to Nanterre, their address in 1898 was route de Cherbourg № 30.


Nanterre, la route de Cherbourg. Old postcard.

Mathilde becomes a mistress of Henry Poidatz, banker and owner of “Le Matin” newspaper. She wanted to become an actress, and Poidatz helped her to start her career <3>. As a stage name she took the maiden name of her mother (Lantelme) and the first name Geneviève.


Henry Poidatz

Simone wrote about Lantelme and Poidatz:

“L’attention dissimulée et parcimonieuse que lui accordait son protecteur la contentait”.

About this time Lantelme found madame Lherbay, an actress of Odéon (later of Comédie-Française) who agreed to give her lessons <4>. Lherbay lived in Paris, not far from Lantelme <4>, so we may conclude that circa 1900/1901 Lantelme was back from Nanterre to Paris. The address of madame Lherbay in 1899 was rue de Tocqueville, 11 (see “Annuaire des artistes…” here , at Gallica site).

Madame Savinie Lherbay (old postcard)

Rue de Tocqueville where lived madame Lherbay. Old postcard, with an airship in the sky.

Henry Poidatz recommended Lantelme to Alphonse Franck, the manager of Gymnase theatre. There Lantelme made her debut 31 October 1901, in a comedy “La Bascule” by Maurice Donnay. She played a tiny part of housemaid with few lines of text.

Le Theatre du Gymnase (old postcard)

Few weeks later she’s playing another tiny role in “Le Detour” written by Henry Bernstein. The leading part is performed by Simone, actress and later writer, who will describe Lantelme in her memoirs “Sous de nouveaux soleils”:

“Elle m’apparut pour la première fois en 1902, au Gymnase, trois jours avant la création du Détour.

Recommandée à Alphonse Franck par un des direc­teurs du Matin, on lui distribua dans la pièce le rôle d’une bonniche de province qui, au troisième acte, susurrait par la porte entrouverte le nom d’un visiteur.

J’appris qu’au cours d’une répétition, le metteur en scène et l’auteur ne s’étaient point privés de railler les maladresses de cette débutante; je les ramenai sans peine à plus d’indulgence. En vérité, je ne me rappe­lais pas avoir jamais vu la demoiselle en scène car son apparition se plaçait alors que je lui tournais le dos.

Elle vint me remercier de mon intervention, les larmes aux yeux.

Le lendemain la ramena dans ma loge durant que je m’habillais; aussi les jours suivants. Elle s’asseyait par terre après avoir demandé la permission de rester là, disant « qu’elle se trouvait bien à côté d’une dame qui lui avait apporté un secours désintéressé ».

Elle avait tout juste dix-sept ans. Vêtue de façon ordinaire, non fardée, privée de bijoux, elle étincelait sous cette livrée modeste.

La taille fine, la gorge pleine, les mains et les pieds étroits, elle avait des yeux bruns immenses et superbes, une rangée de cils comme s’en ajoutent les stars, et le nez le plus parfait que jamais modela la nature, une belle bouche rouge, plutôt grande, dont la lèvre supé­rieure, un peu courte, un peu relevée sur de petites dents écartées (les dents du bonheur, affirment les augures) donnait à son visage un air de surprenante naïveté” (Simone, pp. 189-190).

Lantelme 19-04 big

Lantelme in these early years, exactly as Simone described her.

Madame Simone (old postcard)

After few insignificant roles Lantelme played in “Le Secret de Polichinelle”, a comedy written by Pierre Wolff, then famous writer. Critics have appreciated her performance, but her role wasn’t a leading one.


Lantelme in “Le Secret de Polichinelle” (scan from “Le Theatre” #100, 15 February 1903).

In 1902 her pictures appear for the first time in “Les Modes”, one of best Belle Epoques magazines about fashion, and later in other magazines. Though she’s dressed rather modestly, Lantelme starts her career of fashion model (in her last years she’ll be not only model, but icon and superstar).


Lantelme in “Les Modes”, 1902.

In these years Lantelme has also another important relationship, with the writer Oscar Méténier, and his friend Laurent Tailhade writes later about their love mixed with scandals and even fights, when Lantelme (!) used not only hands, but also chairs:

“Puis ce fut <in Oscar’s life> le Grand-Guignol, avec les représentations où l’ « inouïsme» d’antan était remplacé par le scandale et par l’horreur: Dupont l’Anguille et tout ce qui s’ensuit; ce fut encore la liaison tapageuse avec Lantelme, où la délicieuse enfant échangeait, avec son premier amour, des coups de poing, même des coups de chaise…” (Laurent Tailhade, “Petits mémoires de la vie” <5>).

Metenier 214_001

Oscar Méténier

Lantelme Le Theatre1902

Lantelme in 1902. Scan from “Le Theatre”, 1902.

However in October 1903 Lantelme entered Conservatoire <6> and joined the class of Maurice de Féraudy, actor of Comédie-Française. Though the students of Conservatoire can’t play in theatres, it’s forbidden, Lantelme continues to perform, but under the name of Telmy <7>.

Conservatoire (old postcard)

French actor Maurice de Feraudy (old postcard)

The address of Lantelme is mentioned for the first time in “Annuaire des artistes” of 1903 with a note that the actress recently moved there. It was rue de Fourcroy, 22 (source: ).

Paris 17 Fourcroy

Paris, rue de Fourcroy (XVII arrondissement). Old postcard.

to be continued

Many thanks to Corinne for the help!


<1> For her birth certificate see Archives de Paris en ligne, XVIII arrondissement, acte de naissance de 22/05/1883.

<2> See full texts of archival documents and links on my page:

<3> See mention in “La Femme de France”, 21.12.1930, on gallica site (“Poidatz qui a “lance” Lantelme”).

<4> Maurice Mayen, “Le Yacht Mystérieux”, pp. 39-41

<5> See the full text at Gallica site. The chapter about Oscar Méténier is very interesting because describes him very well.

<6> See “Le Figaro”, 24/10/1903 here:

<7> Mayen, p. 48

Images found at , on Gallica site, via google + scans I made myself.

Lantelme in “Les Modes”, December 1909

Caption: Mlle Lantelme. – MANTEAU DE VELOURS. – Doucet. – Manteau de velours rouge garni de renard. Manchon en renard doublé de velours rouge. Scan from “Les Modes” # 108, December 1909.