Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in 1923 in the Quebec neighbourhood of Saint-Sauveur , Alice Robitaille displayed talent for singing and acting at a very young age. She first performed on-stage at the Capitol Theater at 7. At the same epoch she already sang on-air with the CHRC radio station and was a real phenomenon with the whole city.
At 12 she moved to the Théâtre National , on Montreal's Rue Sainte-Catherine. Under the direction of Rose Ouellet , she learned acting and singing during a 75-week engagement. She continued her career in the Montreal cabarets, making radio appearances. For a time during the war, she also hosted a French radio show named Tambour battant ("Rumbling drum"). Touring Canadian military bases propelled her career across Canada.
During the 1940s, she started producing 78s and she became renowned way beyond Canada. She captured popular imagination with Latin rhythms like Besame Mucho and Tico tico. She sang in chic New York cabarets by the mid forties and in 1947, she travelled to England where she made an appearance on the first regular BBC program.
In 1948, while traveling by car to Hollywood, a crash caused her career to come to a screeching halt. After a series of unfortunate diagnoses, she suffered a mental breakdown and was interned for several years in a Quebec City asylum. She was at some point subjected to a lobotomy against her will. In 1952, she was released. The same year, she came back on stage at the Casa Loma and the Montmartre, but her efforts were impeded by the French-Canadian taboos on mental problems and she never regained the popularity she had attained.
To be filled in
In the early 1990s, Alys returned into the public eye after the massive success she had with a song written for her by Alain Morisod . Books, theses, plays and television series were written about her. A movie was released in December 2004: Alys Robi: Ma vie en cinémascope ("Alys Robi: My life on Cinemascope"), entitled Bittersweet Memories in English.
Alice Robitaille has published two autobiographies: Ma Carrière, ma vie ("My career, my life", 1980) and Long Cri dans la nuit: Cinq Années à l'Asile ("Long cry in the night: five years in the asylum", 1990).
Several of Robi's songs have been used for publicity. Sico , notably, played on the similarity between its brand name and the title of "Tico Tico" to produce a very catchy campaign based on a spoof of the song.
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