Arden & Bluebell: Friendship and Collaboration

René Fraday, Christian Clerico, Margaret Kelly, and Donn Arden with showgirls at the Lido, Paris

The legendary Madame Bluebell of the Paris Lido was the founder and manager of the Bluebell Girls, "the archetypical, statuesque, high-kicking nightclub show dancers known for an eclectic, fresh, young, crowd-pleasing style". Bluebell, nicknamed as a child for her eyes, was Margaret Kelly, an Irish orphan and classically trained former nightclub dancer who had shared the Paris nightclub stage with Maurice Chavalier, Mistinguett, and Josephine Baker. In 1932 Bluebell was invited to form her own line of dancers for the famous Folies-Bergère in Paris with its Erté-designed costumes and sets. After the war, Bluebell began her life-long professional association and personal friendship with Donn Arden at the Paris Lido. Together they fashioned their hallmark sumptuous extravaganza shows that still fill theaters in Paris and Las Vegas. After thirty years together Donn Arden remarked somewhat ruefully, "An era is nearly gone, and we’re the last of it."

"I wanted them tall, with long necks to show off the costumes with their big feathers, cloaks, and trains," Bluebell remarked about her dancers. "I wanted long legs because they show up better and I wanted the girls to look as though they were enjoying themselves. The ballet training is essential because it produces good posture and an elegant look. I’ve made my reputation on elegance and class..."