Category Archives: Entertainment

Music hall, cabaret, dance hall

Fortunes of War

sheet music Henk Fortuin
‘Het is zo heerlijk om te leven’ (It’s so delightful to live), published by B.H. Smit in Amsterdam, unknown illustrator, s.d.

A few years back, we received this reaction on our Images Musicales website: “You have a cover of Henk Fortuin. He is my brother and this is the only known photo of him. He lived in Utrecht Holland and was killed in 1943 when a bomb struck the hospital he was performing at.
Thank you for letting us see this photo, it proves that he lived, and was loved.” The mail was signed by Mr. Efting from Canada.

Intrigued, we asked for more information and Arnold Efting told us the rest of the story. Henk Fortuin’s real name was Hendrik (Pieter Harrie) Van Grieken. His father, Arie van Grieken, sailed from Holland to Canada in 1923.

'Emigranten', Swedish Sheet Music by Arvid Brieand
‘Emigranten’, by Arvid Briend. Unknown Swedish publisher, s.d.

His plan was to settle there first, and then his wife Enjetta with their son Henk would follow. “But they never did, and my Father grieved for his first son for the rest of his life. He got tears in his eyes just talking about him.
Someone sent my father copies of Henk’s records (no, there are no covers for them, they are just in a brown sleeve). Arie would play the records over and over, tears running down his cheeks. We didn’t have any photos, and the information we do have is so sketchy. We believe he was in his early twenties when he died, we think in 1943 or 1945.”

Sheet music for the 'Emigrantens Hemlängtan' (The immigrant's Homesickness'), by Ernst Rolf and Gösta Stevens, illustrated by Norelius
‘Emigrantens Hemlängtan’ (The immigrant’s Homesickness), by Ernst Rolf and Gösta Stevens. Published by Rolf Musikförlags, Stockholm, 1929. Illustrated by Norelius.

“In the 1950’s Arie legally changed his name from Van Grieken to Efting, his mother’s maiden name. Arie died in 1983 at the age of 88. We don’t know what happened to his first wife Enjetta Jansen. Arie had two more sons in Canada, Anthony born in 1941 and myself Arnold born in 1947. The photo on the album cover shows that Henk was the spitting image of his (my) father! What a thrill to find it. Thank you again!

Only recently did we learn more on Henk Fortuin’s short life. For instance that he was born in 1919 in Assen (in the Dutch province of Drenthe), only ten days after the wedding between Arie and Enjetta. Henk was four when his dad left for Canada in 1923, for ever.
Henk’s stage name, Fortuin, wasn’t chosen arbitrarily. In 1925 his mother divorced Arie, and a year later she married Petrus Fortuin, a commercial manager living in Amsterdam.

Page 642 from the 1926 registry of marriages of Groningen (source: online archives).

On the 10th of May 1940 the invasion by Nazi Germany shattered the neutrality of The Netherlands. The harsh military occupation and German civilian government started for five long years.


It is in the Dutch ‘Cinema en Theater‘ magazine of november 1943 that we find the first trace of Henk Fortuin’s career as a radio singer. A complete column is devoted to our artist, with the chit-chat so typical to show business.

Henk Fortuin,
Henk Fortuin singing on the factory floor (Cinema en Theater, nov. 1943).

We learn that Henk is a merry radio singer, always wearing a sunny smile and tilted hat. He is serious about his career, works hard and takes singing lessons. Even though Henk is already successful, he remains the ‘simple boy from Groningen’. He tours with other artists and visits the workers in the factories to bring them happy songs. In the broadcasting studios he’s always bright, whistling happily.


Henk Fortuin’s name (together with that of ‘De Melodisten‘) regularly appears in weekly program lists, newspaper adverts and on some posters for concerts between 1943 and 1944. During those grim war years it was not obvious for an artist to be allowed to perform in public nor to sing on national radio.

Bonte-avond poster, Henk Fortuin 1943
Poster for a ‘Bonte Avond’ concert in Tilburg, with ‘De Melodisten’ orchestra and singer Henk Fortuin; October 1943 (source:
Two ads in the newspapers for Henk Fortuin performances with his faithful De melodisten orchestra.
Two ads in the newspapers for Henk Fortuin performances with his faithful De melodisten orchestra. (Left: Haarlemsche Courant, May 26, 1944; right: Utrechts Nieuwsblad, June 22, 1944).

In 1944 Henk Fortuin was still very active touring all over the country. From an article in an Alkmaar newspaper we get the image of a popular singer, who fluently entertained the crowd with Dutch, German and French songs. The audience acclaimed him and happily sang along.


And then calamity struck Hilversum, the Dutch town synonymous for Holland’s broadcasting centre. A large-scale razzia happened on October 23, 1944.

Arbeitseinsatz in Hilversum 1944
The call for ‘Arbeidseinsatz’ in 1944 in Hilversum, and the 1997 monument commemorating the dramatic events in the Sports park.

About 3500 men aged between 17 and 50 were forced by German soldiers to gather in the sports park in order to be registered for Arbeidseinsatz (forced labour). Broadcast employees weren’t exempted from duty. Later that day the men were put on several transports to Kamp Amersfoort.

Forced labourers on their way to camp (source: Kamp Amersfoort).

Henk Fortuin probably ended up, together with fellow radio companion and jazz arranger Eddy Noordijk, in a small group that was dispatched to Leeden, a German village in Nordrhein-Westfalen. They were used as forced labourers for Organisation Todt doing construction work. In the end 600.000 Dutchmen shared a similar ordeal of forced labour in Germany. All in all it is estimated that 7,7 million non-German workers were thus used in the German war economy.

The damaged church of Leeden after the bombing on the night of the 7th of February 1945.
A damaged building of Leeden after the bombing on the night of the 7th of February 1945.

A few months later, on the night of February 7th, calamity struck again in Henk Fortuin’s life: the village was bombed by the Royal Air Force. The real target was probably a canal nearby. Fifty-two people perished. At least ten prisoners from Hilversum, sheltering in the school, were killed in the bombing. Henk Fortuin was buried in Leeden. His body was later moved to the cemetery of Apeldoorn-Loenen. Around 3600 victims are buried there, all graves almost inconspicuously dispersed on a 17 hectare large wood area. No straight lines of crosses but a winding path of uniformly white grave stones.


Henk’s mother Enjetta died in Groningen in 1974, followed by her second husband Petrus Fortuin two years later.


Anny, the most beautiful Belgian girl

pourquoi hesiter
‘Pourquoi hésiter’ by Hippolyte Ackermans, published by Mado, Bruxelles in 1921.

On the cover of Pourquoi hésiter is a portrait of Anny Duny. She won the first modern national beauty contest in Belgium in 1921. The event, known as La plus belle femme de Belgique, was organised by Maurice Cartuyvels de Waleffe (1874-1946). He was a Belgian aristocrat working as a journalist and publisher in France where he was mocked for his Belgian roots and pompous rhetoric. Maurice de Waleffe was the founder of the only daily newspaper that came out at noon, Paris Midi. He became an important figure in the fashion world and had a keen eye for new trends.

Maurice de Waleffe (right) alongside the French lyricist Saint-Granier and Miss France 1936.

In 1920, after suffering the harshness of the First World War, Maurice de Waleffe took an initiative to raise spirits. He launched the first competition for the most beautiful woman in France ‘La plus belle femme de France’ in the newspaper Le Journal. More than 2000 young women answered the call. A jury of painters and sculptors (including only one woman!) shortlisted 49 contenders, aged between 17 and 23 years. With an original multimedia campaign, de Waleffe organised a popular vote to chose the winner. 

le journal belle femme
The seven finalists from the contest ‘La plus belle femme de France’ in 1920 organized by ‘Le Journal’.

Every day his journal published the portrait of one of the 49 young girls. At the same time, but on a weekly basis, the photographs of seven candidates were shown in the cinemas throughout France. Each competitor appeared on the screen in full length, in a head and shoulder shot, and in the group picture. To ‘preserve their modesty’ the girls didn’t appear under their real name. Each girl received a romantic stage name in accordance with the title of the group to which she belonged: Flowers, Precious Stones, BirdsGoddesses, etc. The cinemagoers received a voting paper. This might have inspired Roger de Valerio in 1922 when he illustrated the sheet music The Girl on the Film…

girl on the film
The girl on the film by Joseph Szulc, published by Salabert, Paris in 1922 and illustrated by Roger de Valerio.

After seven thrilling weeks of mesmerizing the French audiences (and after thousands of newspapers sold), seven finalists remained. The final election was held at the Parisian premises of Le Journal.  It was one of the group Precious Stones, namely Emeraude or Agnes Souret, who won and could call herself Miss France. Some years after her victory she would succumb to a peritonitis, only 26 years old.
The contest was repeated in 1921 after which it was discontinued for five years.

agnes souretvoor en na
Agnes Souret the first Miss France in 1920. Left: at the start of the competition. Right: a revamped version at the start of the finals.

In 1921 Maurice de Waleffe organised the same contest in Belgium. He again worked with a newspaper (La Dernière Heure) and with the cinemas. Out of 800 contestants a shortlist of 21 candidates was split up in three series: Laces, Virtues and Opera Heroines.

miss belgie
Nine contestants of the 1921 Belgian shortlist. Upper row: Chantilly, Valenciennes, Bruges or Anny Duny (Laces). Middle row: Amiability, Honesty,Gentleness (Virtues). Lower row: Gwendoline, Mireille, Heriodade (Opera heroines).

Out of the group of Laces, it was Bruges (or Anny Duny from our sheet music cover at the beginning) who won, and started a modest career as La plus belle femme de Belgique.

Anny Duny winner of the beauty contest ‘La plus belle femme de Belgique’, in 1921.

Anny’s new title brought moderate fame: she appeared in revues but not for long and not in important roles. She is known to have performed in slightly racy tableaux vivants such as Indiscreet Baths, The Return of the Merry Widow or The Décolletage through the Ages. According to a newspaper these were a great triumph attended by the jet set. If you ask me, it seems a bit old-fashioned to patiently gaze at an artistic still, in the hope of catching a dash of nudity. Where is the appeal when –at that time– you could have attended a striptease burlesque or an erotic motion picture.

tableau vivant2
A typical tableau vivant from the twenties.

Speaking of tableaux vivants, this is our 2015 bubbly Miss Belgium ready to conquer the world. So, pourquoi hésiter (why hesitate)?

Miss Belgium 2015.

Further reading: Beauty and Big Business by Aro Velmet:

Bobeche et Galimafré

bobeche bladmuziek
‘Bobeche et Galimafré’ by Juliano, published by O. Legouix, Paris in 1859 and illustrated by Antoine Barbizet.

This cover shows two Parisian buffoons: Bobèche and Galimafré. It was illustrated by Barbizet in 1859. Even forty years after their successful performances, the pair remained popular in Paris. Bobèche (Antoine Mandelot) and Galimafré (Auguste Guérin) were paradistes or clowns who performed at the Boulevard du Temple in the first quarter of the 19th century.

‘Bobèche et Galimafré au Boulevard du Temple’, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

At that time the Boulevard du Temple resembled a pleasure garden.  It was lined with theatres. Scattered over the vast expanse of the boulevard were a host of small shows: jugglers, paradistes, monkey showmen, dwarves, giants, skeleton men, strongmen, tightrope walkers and fortune tellers. They attracted a crowd day and night. In the middle, street vendors tried to sell their ware. A typical street vendor at the Boulevard du Temple was the marchand de coco. You can see one standing on the right of the print above. Coco was a lemonade containing liquorice extract. A coco vendor always wore a white apron and carried a large elongated container topped with a figurine to attract attention. He had several drinking cups strapped onto belts. We also see a coco vendor standing in the public at the buffoons’ show, depicted in this cartoon.

“Daddy, Daddy! says Fanfan, let’s go see Bobèche and Galimafré who are slapping each other. Afterwards you can buy a coco to the health of Angel Pitou, the martyr of freedom.”

A contemporary oil painting also shows the acclaimed theatre performance by Bobèche and Galimafré. Can you pick out the obligatory coco vendor?

bob & gal
Street theatre performance of Bobeche and Galimafre, c.1820 (oil on canvas) by Jean Roller, Musee de la Ville de Paris, Musee Carnavalet

The Parisians nicknamed the Boulevard du Temple ‘Boulevard du Crime’, not because it was dangerous but to allude to the bloody melodramas playing in its theatres.

An artistic impression of the Boulevard du Temple (1862).

A panoramic painting of the Boulevard du Temple illustrates the extent of the street. Have you spotted our coco man in this crowd? In the year this was painted (1862), almost all of it would be demolished by Baron Haussmann in order to enlarge the Place de la République during the rebuilding of Paris.

The Boulevard du Temple has been rebuilt in the studio for the legendary film Les Enfants du Paradis. In the fragment we see Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) trying to get to Garance (Arletty) during carnival.

But let’s get back to Bobèche and Galimafré. As told before they were paradistes. A parade is a type of French street entertainment dating back to the renaissance with characters often drawn from the commedia dell’arte. In the first quarter of the 19th century it was a short improvisational buffoonery performed by two or three characters on a balcony outside the smaller theatres, or on outdoor platforms. The sketch was larded with crude humour, vulgarities, double entendres, sexual innuendos and obscene gestures. Slaps and punches enlivened the spectacle. Bobêche and Galimafré were the best-loved parade characters of this period. They always presented their jokes in the form of dialogues.

Jocrisse, by Juliano, published by O. Legouix, Paris in 1859 and illustrated by Antoine Barbizet.
Bobèche played the standard comedic character of a Jocrisse, the incarnation of stupidity and clumsiness. Bobèche was a city boy who wore colourful clothes, striped stockings and a cornered hat topped with a butterfly.

Galimafré would attract the crowd with a giant rattle. He was a tall lanky man, dressed in the costume of a Norman peasant. His wig’s hair was cut straight across the forehead. On top of that he wore a kind of bowler hat.

During twenty-some years Bobèche and Galimafré performed on the Boulevard du Temple but also in private salons. The fall of Napoleon also meant the end of the popular duo. Galimafré refused to perform for the ‘enemy’ and worked as a stage technician for the rest of his life. Bobèche became director of a small theatre in Rouen. But soon his theatre went bankrupt and nothing was heard of him since.