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Out of My Father’s Shadow

Sinatra of the Seine, My Dad EDDIE CONSTANTINE

A heartfelt reflection on growing up with a superstar father, this book is a cathartic recollection of the highs and lows of a most unusual life.


In his day, he was known as the Humphrey Bogart of Paris, the Sinatra of the Seine.  He sold millions of records abroad and was the only singer who could lay claim to having recorded with such greats as Edith Piaf, Juliette Gréco, and Frank Sinatra. He also made a hit recording with the author of this book, his daughter Tanya – “L’homme et l’enfant” – which sold millions of copies.  As a young man, Eddie collaborated with most of the great stars of the day – among them James Stewart, Joan Crawford, Gene Kelly, and June Allyson – without ever getting noticed.  After relocating to Europe in the late 1940s, he became one of the great action stars of French cinema, usually cast in the role of hard-drinking, two-fisted FBI man Lemmy Caution.  He matured into an icon of the French and German New Wave cinema for a period spanning three decades, starring in pictures for the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Lars von Trier.  His most famous role married these two career extremes, in Godard’s legendary science-fiction classic Alphaville (1965), subtitled “A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution.”

Snippet: Page 98

For the opening night of Les femmes s’en balancent, he wanted both me and my mom to accompany him to the movie theatre to watch the public’s reaction.  We scrambled into a cab and drove off to the venue.  Walking into the hall, the ushers recognized him immediately and ran up to ask what they could do for him.  All fired up, he asked, “How is it going?”
“Oh, it’s absolutely fantastic!  We’ve broken all records today!”
Eddie was delirious over this news.  He said he wanted to go in and see how the audience was responding to some of the scenes in the picture. The ushers were more than happy to oblige and walked us over to the back of the packed theatre.  Standing against the wall in the dark, we watched the people more than we did the film.  I was flabbergasted.  I’d never seen an audience participate the way they did. They were wild. They were completely involved in the action, yelling out their support at every opportunity.  “Go get’em, Lemmy!”  “Watch out, Lemmy, he’s right behind you!”  No other film of the time got that kind of response.  It was a real phenomenon.
That first night, Eddie wanted to stay till the end of the film. When the lights came up – after the words THE END – it only took a couple seconds before a few people in the audience recognized my father.  Someone yelled, “There’s Eddie Constantine!” and suddenly people started rushing over.  Within seconds, the mob swarmed all around him, pushing and shoving, demanding autographs.  They were absolutely wild.  Frightened at the intensity of the mass hysteria, I weaseled my way through the crowd and got out of the way just in time. My mother was able to do the same.  But Eddie was stuck and couldn’t move: like vultures, people were pulling buttoms off his suit and his shirt, pulling on his tie, yanking off his cufflinks, grabbing and tugging at him.  Terrified, Eddie did his best to protect himself, putting his arms around his head.  Soon enough, the guards rushed in to rescue him.  They created a space for him to pass safely through, and finally, we were able to scurry off out the back door.
That experience really shook us up, and Eddie had to have a couple drinks as soon as we arrived back home.  I was furious with him.  I felt he was responsible for putting his family at risk for no reason other than to enjoy the fame.  It took me a long time to get over it and forgive his stupidity.  After that, he never risked staying till the end of the film.  He still insisted on going in and watching for a few minutes, but he would then quickly walk out – much to my relief!”

Snippet: Page 40 American lyrics to the song “The Man and The Child

Me: “Old man, old man, is the world really round?
Tell me where in the world can a bluebird be found?
Tell me why is the sky up above so blue?
And when you were a boy, did you cry like I do?
What becomes of the sun when it falls to the sea?
And who lights it again so that we can see?
Tell me why can’t I fly without wings when I try?
I just can’t understand why you’re crying, old man.”

Eddie: “Little child, little child, yes, it’s true the world’s round
But I never did find where a bluebird is found
And the sky is blue just because of love
May your sky always be like the blue sky above
And the sun only seems to fall into the sea
If the sun always shone, how could moonlight be?
Little child, you can’t fly; why, you’d fall! Didn’t I?
Well, goodbye, little child, goodbye!”

Record album cover

Tanya and Eddie singing Christmas carols on the Barclay label

Tanya and Eddie

Grand Central Station in New York in 1947

Publicity photo for the Ballets Russes

taken in London in 1947 with Tanya watching her mother jumping for the camera

Record album cover

L’Homme et l’Enfant (the Man and the Child), Eddie and Tanya’s big hit in 1955

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