Hot Look of the Day: Early 20th Century “Female Mimic” Francis Renault

“Francis Renault was an active and popular ‘femme mimic’ from the early 1900s to the 1950s. He was born Antonio Auriemma in Naples Italy on September 5, 1895. He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where, after a show, he reportedly met and was inspired by the great Edwardian female impersonator Julian Eltinge. Francis made his vaudeville reputation impersonating Lillian Russell, the great American beauty whose career and pulchritude spanned decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century. Like Lillian, he wore gorgeous gowns. His investment in gowns was extensive, tallying in the tens of thousands of dollars. At some theatres like the Palace, his costumes were displayed in theatre lobbies, where women could get a closer look at their richness and craftsmanship. Unlike Eltinge, Renault was in the habit of wearing his female costumes on the street of the various cities and towns where he toured. This created a great deal of publicity for his show, but frequently incensed local authorities. He was arrested and released on several occasions for female impersonation, notably in Dallas and Atlanta.” – From Vaudeville Old & New, An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, Vol 1, by Frank Cullen with Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly (2006). (via Flickr)

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