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Odette Myrtil, born Odette Belza in Paris, France, was the child of two stage performers. She was raised on the road, traveling with her parents until they enrolled her in a school in Brussels to study the violin. Her lessons were so successful that she began performing on stage at the age of fourteen. In 1915, she was invited to perform in Ziegfeld Follies in America, which led to numerous musical roles on Broadway, most of which incorporated her skill as a violinist, such as in Countess Maritza, 1926, and White Lilacs, 1928. One of the highlights of her career was acting the title role of Odette in Jerome Kern's The Cat and the Fiddle, 1931, written especially for her. She went on to appear in more than twenty-five movies, including Dodsworth, 1936, and I Married an Angel, 1942.
In 1955, Odette visited New Hope and fell in love with the town. She ended up staying for three years, managing Don Walker's The Playhouse Inn, located next to the Bucks County Playhouse. She returned in 1961 and bought The River House restaurant, re-naming it Chez Odette, which she successfully managed for fifteen years, selling it three years before her death in 1978.
Education and Training
Studied violin with Ysaye, Brussels, Belgium
Traveled with her father, singer Charles Belza, and performed on the violin from the age of fourteen until the outbreak of World War I
Teachers and Influences
Violinist Ysaye; her father, Charles Belza; and her mother
Professional colleagues included Jerome Kern, who wrote The Cat and the Fiddle for her; Howard Keel; Carol Lawrence
Connection to Bucks County
In 1955, Odette visited New Hope and fell in love with the town. She ended up staying for three years while managing Don Walker's The Playhouse Inn. She returned in 1961 and bought The River House restaurant, re-naming it Chez Odette, which she managed for fifteen years, selling it three years before her death in 1978.
After appearing on Broadway as Bloody Mary in South Pacific, she reprised the role at the Lambertville Music Circus in 1960, acting alongside James A. Michener, who made his debut in this production as the professor. His wife, Mari, also had a small role.
In 1965, a campaign was launched to run Odette for mayor of New Hope. Supported by fans across the country and colleagues in the radio and television industry, the effort grew until a State Liquor Control Board ruling ended it. The Board ruled that the mayor of any borough could not hold a liquor license.
Odette donated her rare 1738 French Boirin violin to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. It was played by violinist, Piotr Janowski, in the mid-1970s on the stage at Central Bucks East High School.
She had one son, Roger Adams, a composer and arranger. She is buried in Buckingham Friends Burial Ground in Solebury.
Major Theatre Performances
Countess Maritza, 1925
White Lilacs, 1928
The Cat and the Fiddle, 1931
Appeared in over 25 films, including:
I Married an Angel, 1942
Major Musical Performances
Ziegfeld Follies, New York, New York, 1915
Vogues of 1924, New York, New York, 1924
The Love Song, singer and violinist, London, England, 1925
Countess Maritza, singer and violinist, 1926-1928
White Lilacs, singer and violinist, portrayed George Sands, 1928
The Cat and the Fiddle, by Jerome Kern, as Odette, 1931
The Red Mill, operetta, 1945-1946
Saratoga, Broadway, New York, late 1950s
South Pacific, as Bloody Mary, Lambertville Music Circus, Lambertville, New Jersey, 1952
Nightclub performer in the 1960s
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