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Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier

FIRE DANCER EXTRAORDINAIRE

Honored November, 1984

Jacques Cartier was born on a ship in the Indian Ocean at the turn of the century as his parents were en route to a diplomatic post. His exact age isn't known, friends say, because Jacques gave his age based on what role he was vying for.

Jacques attended military school till age sixteen, and then enrolled at Vanderbilt University. When an elderly Shakespearean actor and his young actress wife visited the campus, Jacques took to the stage as a spear holder for the performances. Before the run concluded, the "beautiful" young actress had kissed Jacques and suggested he consider becoming an actor.

He cabled his father in Johannesburg, South Africa, and requested permission to attend drama school. His father's reply was succinct, "No."

Jacques followed his dreams despite his father's objection. "I had some diamonds that my mother gave me," Jacques said; he sold a few and went to New York City to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Several weeks later, he was kicked out for having no talent."

Out of diamonds and jobless, he was sleeping on a park bench, and hadn't eaten for four days, when a friend saw him on the street, invited him to dinner, and offered to tell her director that Jacques was a dancer. "She said that he would give me a job, and she would show me what to do," he recalled. The director asked Jacques to audition. "I haven't the vaguest idea what I did," Jacques said, but he was hired.


Flo Ziegfeld saw Jacques perform a Javanese dance and asked him to join the Ziegfeld Follies, where he starred with Fanny Bryce, W. C. Fields, and Eddie Cantor. Wanting to learn more about dance, Jacques went to see Ruth St. Denis. St. Denis had seen him in the Follies and said, "You don't need a teacher, you need to hire a small hall and work. Put your ideas into dance form.' That's exactly what I did, and that is how I became a dancer," he said.

Movie roles and international acclaim followed. The New York Times lauded Jacques as "America's Greatest One-Man Theater" for his portrayals of such figures as the Apache Chief Cochise and the Russian dancer Nijinsky.

 

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes