top of page

A life on the hats of wheels

September 14, 1927: tragic death of the dancer Isadora Duncan

Dancer Isadora Duncan is strangled by her scarf on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Her scarf gets stuck while rolling in the rear wheel of an Amilcar GS that she tries before buying it.

It is in Paris, showcase of all the avant-garde, that his myth is forged. It is in Nice that his destiny is played out, on the Promenade des Anglais. This extraordinary woman, the first planetary star whose destiny was shattered (twice!) By the same enemy: the automobile, which had just been born. Isadora Duncan not only invented contemporary dance and revolutionized manners, but her tragic disappearance at the wheel inaugurated a long series of celebrity destinies shattered on the road: those of James Dean, Albert Camus, Roger Nimier, Grace Kelly etc.

Duncan's predilection for floating scarves led to his death in a car crash in Nice, France on the night of September 14, 1927, at the age of 50. The scarf was hand-painted silk by the Russian-born artist Roman Chatov. The accident prompted Gertrude Stein's biting remark that "" assignments can be dangerous. "

Duncan was a passenger in the Amilcar automobile of a handsome Franco-Italian mechanic, Benoît Falchetto, whom she had nicknamed "Buggatti" (sic). Before getting into the car, she reportedly said to her friend Mary Desti and a few companions: "Farewell, my friends. I am going to fame!" (Farewell, my friends, I am going to glory!). However, according to American novelist Glenway Wescott, who was in Nice at the time and visited Duncan's body in the morgue, Desti admitted that she lied about Duncan's last words. Instead, she told Wescott that Duncan had said, “I am off to love”. Desti considered this phrase too embarrassing to record as the dance legend's last words, especially as it hinted that Duncan was hoping she and Falchetto would make it to his hotel on a date. sexual.

When Falchetto drove off, Duncan's large silk scarf, a gift from Desti, and draped around his neck, got tangled around one of the vehicle's open spoked wheels and rear axle. As the New York Times notes in its obituary: "Isadora Duncan, the American dancer, met a tragic death tonight in Nice on the Riviera. According to dispatches from Nice, Miss Duncan was thrown in an extraordinary way out of the open automobile she was in and was instantly killed by the force of her fall onto the stone pavement. " Other sources describe her death as the result of strangulation, noting that she was almost beheaded by the sudden tightening of the sling around her neck.

bottom of page