On December 8, 1862, Georges-Léon-Jules-Marie Feydeau was born in Paris to Ernest Feydeau, a man of many and varied occupations, and to Lodzia Zelewska, a young Polish woman whose extraordinary beauty had attracted many eminent suitors before she agreed to marry the much older Ernest. In fact, rumor had it that Georges’s real father was the Emperor Louis-Napoleon himself. From all accounts, the type of life the Feydeaus led and the kind of acquaintances they entertained may have provided young Georges with more than mere inspiration for his famous bedroom farces. It is perhaps relevant that the first thing Feydeau ever wrote, when still a child, was a play about a king, a queen, and her young lover—and how they learn to live happily ever after in a ménage à trois.
Feydeau made his debut in 1880 with a verse monologue. His first real success, however, came with his first full-length play, A Gown for His Mistress, in 1886. After a series of flops and a two-year hiatus during which he went back to the basics and to study the works of his predecessors, he returned to the stage with a vengeance. On April 23, 1892, The Happy Hunter opened at the Palais Royal to critical and public acclaim. On November 5 of the same year, A Close Shave premiered at the Nouveautés with resounding success. From this year on, every play this Midas of the theater wrote turned into gold.
Ironically, there seemed to be an inverse...
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