We fell into yet another rabbit hole today when we stumbled upon a scene from the 1954 film, Ah! Les Belles Bacchantes. It was marketed as the very first French burlesque film starring “the 100 most beautiful French women,” and one of the greatest French slapstick comedians of all time. Above all it oozed sex appeal, comedy, and new colour technology to entice audiences.
This particular scene is clearly inspired by the 1920s American Ziegfeld follies (although we’re not sure what’s going on with the music, which itself was heavily inspired by the French burlesque houses of the Belle Epoque). We find our 21st century cheeks blushing, however, at the risqué outfits, so we can’t imagine how shocking this must have been to a 1950s cookie cutter audience. Victoria’s Secret ain’t got nothing on this…
Les Belles Bacchantes translates to two things. One, slang for “the beautiful moustaches,” and two, something roughly like, “The beautiful women with bacchanalian tendencies.” As in, indulging in Ancient Greek vices (i.e. drinking wine and having lots of sex) but with a veil of glamour. The U.S. marketing for the movie was a lot simpler. For one, it was re-titled Peek-a-Boo:
Watch the trailer below featuring some rather fabulous typography: