Fanchon & Marco
I have tried to
investigate a lot of ancillary history about the people that have been
involved with Fox Theaters. One of the biggest names listed as performers at
the Atlanta Fox was Fanchon and Marco. Over the years a
lot of mis-information has been told about the relationship between the Fox Theaters and the Wolffs. For
years, a lot of us were told that Fanchon and Marco personally directed
house dance troupe, but in reality there were many Fanchon and Marco
dance troupes, some of which would perform on a travelling
"circuit" while other troupes were based in a single location like the
In doing some reseach on Fanchon and Marco. I was
amazed at how important thier company became. There are scores of web
sites that show how far their influence across North
America was. While I found a lot of information about individual shows and
productions, I found very little about Fanchon and Marco themselves.
Finally, I discovered their family web site, where it states; "Fanchon
and Marco Wolff were extraordinary persons. They were deeply religious,
and did not drink, smoke, or swear. Even the stagehands watched their
language when they were around. They were adventurous, self taught, and
hard working. They had a strong commitment to their brothers and
parents. They were true pioneers of Show Business."
Fanny Wolff was born in 1894. Her brother Mike was born one year
later in 1895. Their father was the
proprietor of a Los Angeles clothing store. In their youth, Fanny
studied the piano while Mike learned the play the violin.
Together, they got their start in show business in 1919 as a ballroom
team under the name of Fanchon (Fanny) and Marco (Mike), entertaining
at lodge parties and picnics. Later they "graduated" to a dinner show
in Tait's famed San Francisco restaurant. What became their signature
trademark was at the finale of their show where Marco would play the
violin while Fanny sat on his shoulders.
In 1921 Fanchon and Marco formed the Fanchon & Marco Vaude-Film Production Company with Marco
as it's president. They augmented their show by adding other
specialty acts. As demand grew, they
organized a second production troupe. the two troupes coalesced into a
single stage group performing a production called Sunkist which found
its way to Broadway in New York.
After the great success of Sunkist, Fanchon and Marco decided to create
travelling production troupes in 1923 specifically aimed at the
movie theater industry that offered live shows in addition to films.
& Marco offered their troupes at a reasonable price,
equipped and rehearsed the troupes in Hollywood before sending them out
with costumes, scenery and songs. Their studio on Sunset Boulevard near
Western became a factory for their "mass produced" 15-minute
shows called "Ideas". They were very elaborate productions,
usually performed before the feature film. There were up to
52 new "Idea"
productions a year, which included elaborate staging, vaudeville acts
and dance performances all related to a single theme or concept.
highlight of the performances were always the the glamorous female
dancing troupes that were all called the Sunkist Beauties.
Fanchon was the creative brains of the outfit. She built shows
around novel production numbers, blending costumes and tunes to
whatever the girls were doing. They came out on bicycles, skates and
skis. They wore bunny costumes, appeared disguised as flowers, birds or
animals. The troupes performed throughout the continental United
States and Canada. Movie theaters that featured live acts in their
movie presentation purchased franchises and recruited local talent to
form their own line of "Sunkist Beauties" such as at the Atlanta Fox.
The Atlanta Fox proudly proclaimed their Sunkist Beauties as all being from the
local Atlanta area.
While the Atlanta dance troupe did not regularly travel to
California, Fanchon and Marco would regularly send the troup new dance
numbers and costumes in which to perform. I do not know how often
the dance routines were changed or rotated about, or if a company representative would come to Atlanta to instruct the troup.
Fanchon & Marco, Inc. snowballed into a large vast production
empire. It continued to growand expand at a fast pace until the
Great Depression began in 1929.
During that time many of the theatres that had purchased F&M
franchises went bankrupt. In order to keep troups performing,
Fanchon & Marco became theatre operators themselves.
They managed many theatres on the
West Coast in addition to continuing to produce many travelling
the "Fanchonettes" that performed in their own theaters as well as
others. As part of their policy of managing failed movie
theaters, in 1934, Fanchon and Marco entered into a 25 year lease to
manage the St. Louis Fox Theatre that was one of the legenardy "Super
Over the years, Fanchon and Marco found many former Sunkist
Beauties continued on in show business to become famous. Cyd
Charisse (at age 12), Joan Crawford, Dorothy Lamour, Judy
Garland (while she performed with her sisters as one of The Gumm
Sisters), Doris Day, Donald O'Conner, Janet Gaynor, Bing Crosby, Martha
Knight, Mitchell & Durant, Eleanore Whitney, and Johnny Downs were
all once F&M entertainers. In
additon to managing and producing, Fanchon & Marco also owned a
franchised Dance Studio company that used the Fanchon and Marco
name, just like the Fred Astaire chain. It was at one of these dance
studios that a young Lucille Ann
Collier would learn to dance before going on to become the great film
star Ann Miller.
Fanchon eventually became a movie studio choreographer and
producer for Paramount Studios. Fanny holds the distinction of being
the first female producer at a major studio in Hollywood. She produced
films at Paramount, Republic, and Twentieth Century-Fox.
She married William H. Simon, the proprietor of a
string of Los Angeles dairy luncheon restaurants. They adopted two
Fanny died in 1965. Marco died in 1977.
Please visit the Fanchon and Marco official family website!! This link will open up in a new web window or tab, depending on your browser's settings.