It was on January 1, 1972 that Maurice Chevalier passed away at the age of 83.
secretary, confidante, and man-Friday, François Vals, and his wife, Madeleine Vals, had traveled world-wide with Maurice
for the last 20 years of his long career, which had wound down only several years before his death.
Maurice had hand-picked the young François as his new impresario 22
years prior in 1950-51 when his then manager, Max Ruppa, became terminally ill. Maurice wanted a young and vital force to
help him into his later years, not knowing at that time just how long his career would continue. He was already 62 at the
time. Francois was 24.
François and Madeleine soon married and the arrangement with Maurice
was that Madeleine, too, would be part of the team and have her own responsibilities.
depended on them. They were extremely dependable and won his heart. He soon referred to them as "my kids." They
were Maurice's support system. But more importantly, he regarded them as "family."
made all the travel arrangements, administered the bookings, protected him from any intrusions into his valued and needed
privacy, and were there with him every performance, watching over him. He knew that he could depend on them. He could relax,
knowing that they were dedicated to taking good care of him.
They helped him through all
the rigors of aging during his active and super-successful "second career" in Hollywood, as well as in his (and
their) native France and traveling through the entire world.
François has dedicated himself
in all the intervening years since his death to keeping Maurice Chevalier's memory alive. His book "Maurice Chevalier"
(pub. 2002 in Paris) is his chef d'oeuvre, meticulously presenting all the possible documentation of Maurice Chevalier's
long career - letters, photographs, sheet music covers, record album covers, posters, dates of events - everything that he,
as an intimate and devoted friend, had access to and could share with the rest of the world.
and Madeleine have spearheaded this series of homages/exhibitions in the northwest area of France where they currently live,
Pornichet, on the Atlantic coast.
There have been TV interviews about it and features on French TV about it. The
exhibition is to continue through the entire month of April.
François and Madeleine
are wonderful, warm, genuine people who I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with in 2007. They were immediately
like family to me and I felt I had known them for many years.
The Facebook page that has
been established to keep the friends and admirers of Maurice Chevalier informed is:
- Don Sheppard