Discovering Franco-American actress Odette Myrtil in Pennsylvania
The cinematic story can be quite cruel to its main characters, sometimes leaving them in the shadows of New Hope, Pennsylvania. I wondered why I had never heard of an American actress of French descent Odette Myrtil, but it seems like women like her often fall through the cracks. And yet, she left a legend like no other: “Chez Odette”, New Hope’s most famous cabaret bar where the actress liked to cook in the kitchen of a traditional French bistro. Today River House at Odette’s, a luxury lifestyle boutique hotel, pays homage to the spirit of the actress. They kicked off the celebrations on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day, with a popular museum-style display, Odette Myrtil: Tribute to a new legend of hope.
Odette Myrtil was born in Paris in 1898 as the daughter of two theater actors and showbiz was her destiny. At 13, she was a professional violinist; at 16, she was performing on Broadway as one of the Ziegfeld Girlsand at 18 she was on stage in London in The Bing Boys are here . The young actress, singer and musician was unstoppable. At first she continued to appear on London stages for the next two years until returning to New York in 1923 as a vaudeville performer at the Palace Theater on Broadway. She was a big hit on Broadway in the 20s and 30s headlining some of the best musicals, including The cat and the violin.
Thriving on stage until 1935, Myrtil’s career then turned to the cinema. She went on to appear in a total of 28 feature films, but never as the female lead. Instead, she specialized in roles requiring singing and other talents. She starred in well-known movies including Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Palm Beach History (1942), and Madame Darville in Alfred Hitchcockit’s Strangers on a train (1951.) His last role was in Holiday Hot Pants, playing herself in 1972.
The actress is one of the prime examples of a French expat making it in New York and going on to leave her mark on American culture. Eventually, she left town for the suburb of New Hope, Pennsylvania, and to a house perched directly above the Delaware River. she succeeded The Playhouse Inn in this town, located next to the Bucks County Playhouse, then operated his New Hope restaurant, Chez Odette. Here she was a true legend.
“Odette Myrtil symbolized the New Hope of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. She was so popular that citizens campaigned in 1965 to elect her mayor. The state liquor board ended it; no one with a liquor license could be mayor,” wrote one Mail schedules columnist recounting his visits to Chez Odette. “As often as possible, she joined patrons in her bustling cabaret and piano bar where she sang and played her vintage French Boirin violin.”
The Chez Odette period spawned a creative generation in New Hope known after that as an eclectic artistic community teeming with sculptors, painters and writers. Today, this community is still chic and artsy, with a contemporary twist. Indeed, the River House Hotel at Odette’s is outfitted with sleek and stylish urban-inspired design elements, perfectly paired with flowing fabrics, bold light fixtures and salvaged architectural elements for an unparalleled riverside experience. river. Not exactly French bistro style, but the charm and sweet nostalgia lingers, and the legacy of the Grande Dame du Nouvel Espoir continues.
In honor of Women’s History Month, the hotel will present an exhibition dedicated to the life and career of the great actress Odette Myrtil. The hotel will also screen Odette’s films every Monday in March, accompanied by a special menu that nods to Chez Odette’s original culinary programming. Looking for a business out of town? Consider a stay at the River House, where the charming living room and the sounds of the Delaware River will lull you into a sweet getaway.
Cover image by Jack Rosen