FANCHON AND MARCO
“The standard by which stage shows are judged”
“The standard by which stage shows are judged”
This website shares some of the rich history and contributions to the Entertainment Industry and early Hollywood of "Miss Fanchon" Simon and Marco Wolff.
If you are a historian, relative, or friend of the hundreds who got their start in "the business" with Fanchon and Marco we'd especially love to hear from you.
Steve Simon (Fanchon's grandson) will be presenting in person on the history of Fanchon and Marco and their Prologue productions including clips, more photos and stories, followed by a screening of Footlight Parade at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California.
FANCHON & MARCO: THEATRICAL PIONEERS
Hosted by Steve Simon
1933 • James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell
One of the greatest 1930s musical
extravaganzas. Directed by creative genius Busby Berkeley, the film
spotlights the Prologue production process and exemplary work of Fanchon and Marco
Fanchon and Marco started out in Vaudville as a brother and sister dance act. Their finale featured Marco playing violin while dancing and carrying Fanchon on his shoulders. They played the Orpheum Circuit and eventually started producing their own show's called Revues starting in 1919. These included "Let's Go" and "The Satires of the 1920's."
In 1921 the put together a National Tour and show called "Sunkist" of lovely glamor girls called the Sunkist Beauties which also promoted California to the East and Midwest.
Followed by the success of the Sunkist Beauties, Fanchon and Marco created a group of kickline dancers and performers named the Fanchonettes. They were directed and choreographed by Fanchon and were the West Coast predecessor to the Rockettes.
Fanchon and Marco expanded from performing themselves, into producing larger theatrical extravaganza productions called Prologues. These were full live stage shows made for the nation’s movie palaces to be performed before the feature film in the 1920's and 1930's. The Fanchon and Marco prologue productions were called "The Ideas". There were up to 52 Idea productions a year, which included elaborate staging, acrobatic teams, vaudeville acts, dancers, and singing performances all related to a single theme, concept, or "Idea". These also would include the glamorous female dancing troupes of the Sunkist Beauties and the Fanchonettes and sometimes hosted by Fanchon's brother, orchestra leader Rube Wolfe. Fanchon and Marco were the largest producers of Prologues.
In order to supply all of the talent needed for the national prologue idea tours, they created their own talent school called the Fanchon and Marco School of Dance. The school also provided training and talent to the major studios for their movies. Past students and performers working with Fanchon and Marco included: Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, Ginger Rogers, Dorothy Lamour, Cyd Charisse, Betty Grable, Joan Crawford, Will Rogers, May West, and many others.
Fanchon and Marco partnered with Fox West Coast Theaters and managed several of the theaters from the Orpheum Circuit they originally performed in. This included the Paramount Theaters in Downtown Los Angeles (formerly Sid Grauman's Metropolitan) and Hollywood (Now Disney's El Capitan) as well as the San Francisco Orpheum and others. They were able to provide and produce shows and new versions of their Revues with top Hollywood talent.
Fanchon eventually expanded from live stage productions to working with the studios producing and arranging musical and dance numbers for feature films for Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Republic Pictures as well as the Ice Follies and the Hollywood Bowl. She is credited as the first female producer for a major studio. Her films featured Betty Grable and Dorothy Lamour in their first major films. Marco also produced several of the Academy Awards and introduced the concept of stars presenting the awards.
Fanchon teamed up with Shipstad and Johnson in the production of their annual Ice Follies shows which premiered at the historic Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. Fanchon directed the Ice Follies from 1940 to 1943. She produced several shows for the Worlds Fairs. She also provided choreography for skater Sonia Hene in several of her films, and produced productions to support war bonds and our troops including "All Star Bond Rally" featuring Bing Crosby, Betty Grable Frank Sinatra, and Bob Hope.
Rube was a well known band leader and comedian who often was the MC for their reviews and shows
Marco's son was a talented pianist who also performed at the Hollywood Bowl.
Marco's daughter also was an actress and performer.
Fanchon's husband, William Sr. owned and operated the Simon's Drive Inn's and various restaurants in Los Angeles
Fanchon's brother in law Abe Lyman was a famous bandleader who was the house band for the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles and toured internationally. He also had his own radio shows and film performances.
Fanchon's other brother in law ran nightclubs and restaurants in the early 20's. He and his brother Al opened the Mike Lyman resturants which were well known hangouts for Hollywood celebrities.
Fanchon's children were also in the entertainment industry, her son Bill Simon was a respected entertainment lawyer at William Morris and then in private practice.
Fanchon's daughter become and actress and writer. She was in Hangover Square and several other films. She recently wrote her memoirs called "Fanchon's Daughter"
Fanchon's grandson worked in production and post production for Entertainment Tonight and various game and variety shows. He later changed careers and is now a psychotherapist. He is also a presenter and history preservationist. He is the creator of this website.
Live multimedia educational presentations on Fanchon and Marco are available in lecture, information booth, and virtual formats.
Previous presentations have been made for various preservation groups such as the Art Deco Society Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Conservancy, American Cinematheque, and community groups.
Let us know what you think of the site and any questions you may have. Also, let us know of any stories, photos, clippings, or history you or your family or friends have with Fanchon and Marco. We are also available for live or virtual presentations, so feel free to inquire.
Thanks for visiting!