gift of the muses

The Greek word for ‘gift of the muses’ is Musidora. French actress Jeanne Roques used it as her stage name.


Beginning in 1915, Musidora began appearing in the hugely successful Feuillade-directed serials Les Vampires as Irma Vep, a cabaret singer, opposite Édouard Mathé as crusading journalist, Philippe Guerande. Contrary to the title, the Les Vampires were not actually about vampires, but about a criminal gang cum secret society inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang.

Irma Vep found here

Les Vampires’ success was due in great part to the character of the head villainess, whose name is an anagram of “vampire,” – Musidora (who occasionally posed naked) virtually defined female beauty for the decade, and her character, identified mostly by her black tights and black mask, slinking down corridors and escaping over rooftops, defined the popular archetype of the super-villainess femme fatale for decades to come

After her career as an actress faded, she focused on writing and producing. Her last film was an homage to her mentor Feuillade entitled La Magique Image in 1950, which she both directed and starred in. Late in her life she would occasionally work in the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise — few patrons realized that the old woman in the foyer might be starring in the film they were watching.”

image found here

The Bonnot Gang was a criminal anarchist group operating in France and Belgium from 1911-12.

They had the dubious honor of being the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime, presaging by over twenty years the later methods of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde. Automobiles were not yet common so the gang usually stole expensive cars from garages, not from the street.

Bonnot Gang found here

In March 1912, gang member and would-be leader Octave Garnier sent a mocking letter to the Sûreté – with his fingerprints. In those days, the French police did not yet use fingerprinting. On March 25, 1912, the gang stole a de Dion-Bouton automobile by shooting the driver through the heart. They drove into Chantilly north of Paris where they robbed the Société Générale Bank – shooting the bank’s three cashiers. They escaped in their stolen automobile as two policemen tried to catch them, one on horseback and the other on a bicycle.

French bicycle found here

On April 28, police had tracked Bonnot to a house in Choisy le Roi. They besieged the place with 500 armed police officers, soldiers, firefighters, military engineers and private gun-owners. By noon, after sporadic firing from both sides, three police officers put a dynamite charge under the house. The explosion demolished the front of the building. Bonnot was hiding in the middle of a rolled mattress and tried to shoot back until Lépines shot him non-fatally in the head.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (38)  
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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Corking. This has floated my morning.

    • Glad to be of service

  2. Nothing new under the sun is there? Fascinating story nursie.

    • Getting paid in dynamite is new to me 🙂

  3. “femme fatale” – one of my favourite phrases ……

    • Have you used it on TG lately?

  4. I think I finally found the ensemble to wear to a wedding in May.
    Love the cape, tights, etc. Black works for any occasion, right?

    • you might want to run it past the bride first, sounds like you could upstage her outfit with those plans

  5. one of the members of the Bonnot gang could use one of those newfangled nosehair trimmers…. yuk…

    • … and maybe a little less pomade on the gentleman bottom right

  6. ahh…the front small tire bicycle. They look so comfortable, I wonder why they didn’t catch on.

  7. My eyes are so bad, until I enlarged the final image I thought the italic type said “KEEP PRICKS DOWN!”

  8. I know for a fact that if I were alive back then I would have been a criminal mastermind. It was just to easy and fun. Nobody even had cars, no fingerprints….ahh, the good life!

  9. Ooh la la!

  10. that french bicycle looks cool, i wonder why it didnt catch on?

  11. Wow, the Surete meant business in those days! Sort of like the ending to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (you’ll appreciate the references to Australia):

    • What’s the bit at the end after the clip finishes?

  12. I can just imagine Brad Pitt, sitting behind a booth thirty years from now selling tickets to a screening of the classic “Oceans 11″…

    • yeah, right….. 😉

  13. You gotta love the moustaches on the boy bandits back then. Pure class.

    • I was thinking I could make a man out of the boy without a moustache on the bottom left

  14. I can imagine some actors selling tickets at a cinema somethime when their films are in the 99p bin.

    I must see Les Vampires. I fancy seeing Irma Vep too

    • Have you seen the 1996 version of Irma Vep? Maggie Cheung looks pretty hot in it!

  15. Nobody pays me in dynamite… or sex.

    • I’ve got a healthy wage packet for you over here RF

  16. so batman was actually a woman judging by that photograph? And ‘what?’ Frenchmen have small front wheels??

  17. Such drama! You tell us the best stories. And the name Musidora is soooo up there for me. I can see this could become a new nickname for Flanders…

  18. Such compelling eyes Musidora had!

  19. shot non-fatally in the head?

    I just HATE when that happens.

    Cool info, Myra.

    Sorry absent so long. I was on assignment.

  20. IRONY ALERT!!!
    One of my mail stops is Paul Newman’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang” Camp here in Ashford, for terminally ill children:
    As you know, “Hole-in-the-Wall” was the famous hideout for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s gang (part of which was presented in K’s reply). Funny how outlaws can be converted into glorious heroes over time. Sometimes for a very good cause. I wonder what the real outlaws would think now? Fascinating post as always, NM. Thanks.

  21. I would like a pair of bat wings. When are we getting gene mods?

    • As soon as you scientific types reveal the secret password

      • I’ll speak to the boffins in the lab.

  22. I want that cape and that guys moustache. I would be so freaking HOT!

  23. The only way you could ever be hot Malach, is if someone threw you in a volcano.

  24. I love the name Musidora – I may use it at the office tomorrow. Fun historic read.

  25. Non fatally in the head? Lucky bastard. There was a film done about Irma Vep in the 90s. I enjoyed it. I forget the Asian actress who played the role however. I want to say Maggie Chung but I could be wrong.

  26. I heard that Irma Vep had a groupie – this guy who used to dress up in bat costumes and hang around outside her dressing room door. He used the name Ima Perv…

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