Saturday, July 5, 2014

Miss Faith Bacon

Faith Bacon only appeared in one film. She was never a huge star, but rather an infamous one who was known for appearing nude on stage. I have been seeing her pictures more and more and felt the need to read up more about her and to share her story with all of you. She was a truly beautiful woman who just found herself getting into one case of bad luck after another.

She was in the Ziegfeld Follies though, and you know how much I love Ziegfeld girls!

Faith Bacon was born Frances Yvonne Bacon on July 19, 1910 in Los Angeles, California. She was the only child of Francis and Charmion Bacon. The couple divorced when Faith was still a child, so she was raising mainly by her mother.

In a goofy twist (because there always has to be one) I have read of many people referring to Charmion/Char Bacon as being Faith's sister, and not her mother. The problem with this is that no one can seem to find a mother's name. One theory is that Char Bacon (seriously?) was trying to get work as an actress too and tried to play off that she was in fact's Faith sister and not her mother. Who knows...

During her teens and early twenties, Faith worked as an artist's model and eventually headed to Paris where her career really started to take off. Faith had never had any dance training and never really expressed interest in dancing at all, but she was just drawn to the burlesque shows that were popular in Paris at the time. One of her first jobs was dancing in Maurice Chevalier's revue.

In the 1920's, she returned to the US and appeared in various Broadway productions, most famously in the Earl Carroll's Vanities. 

During this time it was illegal to dance on stage nude. You could be nude on stage, but you could not move. So, to skirt around these laws Faith would dance around with bubbles, flowers, and most famously, fans. One of their more creative ways of evading the law was to use the stage lights to "paint" clothes on Faith. Needless to say, these ruses didn't keep them safe for long.

In 1930, the New Amsterdam Theatre was raided and Faith, Earl Carroll, and various other cast and crew members were arrested for performing in an indecent show. Faith told the police that she never really appeared nude on stage. She told them she actually had on a gauzy material that only gave the illusion she was nude. Was this true or just a way to escape jail? I don't know, but either way, they were released and the charges were dropped. The scare did cause them to tone down the show a smidgen though.

The following year, Faith was in THE revue, The Ziegfeld Follies. Joining her that year were Follies favorites Nora Bayes, Katherine Burke, Ruth Etting, Gladys Glad, Mitzi Mayfair, Grace Moore, Helen Morgan, and Harry Richman. (Seriously, can you tell I love the Follies?) She stayed with the Follies from June 1931 until November of that year. 

After her Follies appearance, things quieted down a bit for Faith. She wasn't appearing in  big shows anymore and her career seemed to be at a standstill. That is, until 1938 when she was back in the papers again, but it wasn't because of rave reviews. Faith was suing fellow burlesque dancer, Sally Rand for $375,000 claiming that she had stolen her fan dance routine. Sally scoffed at the notion and remarked that the fan dance had been done years and years before them and that no one really had a right to it. I can't find a result of the lawsuit, but I am guessing it was thrown out.

Around the same time as the Sally Rand lawsuit, Faith appeared in her only film, Prison Train. This was not a big feature by any means and it was just another reminder that her career was going down hill.

The 1940's and 50's had her appearing in a few stage shows here and there, but nothing really stuck. She kept searching for her next big break and was coming up empty handed, until finally no one would hire her. 

Faith Bacon passed away on September 26, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. Earlier that day she had been walking up her hotel's stair well when she suddenly opened up a window and jumped. She fell two floors and landed on the roof of the saloon next door. Her roommate, Ruth Bishop, tried to grab Faith's skirt to prevent her from jumping, but she managed to wrestle out of her grasp. Faith died later at the hospital of a fractured skull and multiple internal injuries. 

She had attempted suicide a few years earlier by overdosing on sleeping pills. Ruth Bishop claimed that had been terribly depressed and yearning for a job right up until her death. 

Her body was claimed by the American Guild of Variety Artists who paid for her funeral and burial at Wunder's Cemetery in Chicago. 

Faith was married to song writer Sandford Hunt Dickinson at the time of her death. I am not sure when they married, but they were estranged when she passed away. I have read on a few genealogy sites that Faith was married previously to a man named Fenton William Perkins but I can't find any more information than that. 

Sally Rand was not the only person to be sued by Faith. Oh no, she seemed to be sue happy (probably in part to not being able to keep a job and because she was said to be very difficult to work with). In 1936, she sued a theater company she was with for $100,000 in damages after she fell through a glass drum she was standing on during a performance of Temptation. She was badly cut all over her legs and thighs because, well, she was nude! She later settled out of court for $5,000 and then turned around and bought herself a diamond with her winnings. Of course.

Her next 'victim' was a carnival owner who she claimed put tacks on the stage she was supposed to stand. She lost this case.

During the height of her fame she was billed as, "America's Most Beautiful Dancer."

"I'm an artist and she [Sally Rand] is a business woman. My dance was one of ethereal beauty. It really was. And that woman turned it into an animated French postcard...Of course the fan dance should include nothing but the fans. When I do it, I wear only talcum powder...That woman dances the fan dance with high heels. Imagine! All she does is walk around and let people gawk. It breaks my heart to see my art treated like that." ~~ Faith Bacon to The Pittsburgh Press - October 11, 1930

"I do not dance in complete nude as the police censor said. I wouldn't unless I knew everyone in the audience was an artist who would see only the aesthetic beauties of such a dance." ~~ Faith Bacon, in court after the New Amsterdam Theatre raid - 1930

"Fan dancing? I hate it. I have always wanted to be an obstetrician. I love babies." ~~ Faith Bacon to the Sheboygan Press - September 11, 1937