Showing posts with label Matei Florian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matei Florian. Show all posts

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Jean Florian and Mariora Florian in Australia


Jean Florian and his sister Mariora were well known jugglers in the 1930s-1940s. Both performed in Australia during the period and Mariora eventually settled in the country.

Jean and Mariora were born in Dresden Germany to Romanian parents. The family name was Matei and their father, Florian Matei, was a gymnast.  Jean and Mariora used Florian, their father’s first name as a stage name, hence Jean Florian, and Mariora Florian (usually just Mariora). Matei, who often travelled with them in their early careers, went by Matei Florian.

In 1929, Jean made his first visit to Australia. He was 19 years old and considered a ‘boy wonder’. The Australian newspapers told a story of how the great Cinquevalli had first ignored Jean, but after being pestered by those who though Jean had talent, decided to train the boy wonder. This was likely publicity spin as Cinquevalli died in 1918.  With the posthumous blessing of Cinquevalli, Jean had quite a successful tour of Australia in 1929.

Jean was described as a ‘remarkably graceful juggler’, but the most remarkable thing about him was his youth and association with Cinquevalli. On this tour, there were few reviews of his juggling, but he, and his father, who accompanied him, must have thought there was promise in Australia because Jean returned 6 years later.

Jean returned in November 1935 and was interviewed when he arrived in Perth with ‘partner’ Kathleen Schmidt. He described his act as an improved form of Japanese juggling that had never been seen in Australia.

A month later he arrived in Melbourne, ready to perform for the Tivoli circuit.

He gave another interview and was asked two very pertinent questions.

What is your hobby? To which he answered, ‘Juggling’

And ‘What is your ambition?’ ‘To be a good juggler’

Jean told the interviewer that he practised 10 hours a day.

Obviously juggling was his obsession.

His performance at the Tivoli in Melbourne was popular with audiences and critics. When the curtain rose he was vigorously skipping with a ball bouncing on his head. He caught balls with the tips of his toes, on the end of a stick held in his teeth, and on the back of his neck. The audience threw balls at him and he would catch them on different parts of his body. His skill and grace were notable and reviews of his act were florid in their praise.

He was labelled as more a magician than juggler because, ‘ balls which ought to drop to the ground halt at the command of Florian’s magic wand.’

The critic added, ‘It is as if he has taken the magnetic property out of the earth and placed it where he will’

He was considered the best juggler to grace Australian shores since Cinquevalli. In Sydney his dextrous juggling and spinning of several balls at once was greeted with standing ovations.

In July, Jean joined Stanley Mckay’s troupe and headed to Brisbane. He was greeted as an international superstar by audiences and was warmly received by the press.

Overall Jean’s tour of Australia was greeted with rapturous applause and critical acclaim.

Jean remained in the country for over 6 months and his warm reception probably influenced the visit of Mariora, his sister two years later.

19 year old Mariora arrived in Australia accompanied by her father Matei in June 1938 and under engagement to the Tivoli. She was described as one of the few lady jugglers in the world and the sister of famous juggler, Jean Florian.

According to the newspapers, Matei had created an academy of jugglers which had spawned Jean. Jean in turn trained Mariora, who first appeared on stage in Europe at age 16.

Mariora spent most of her time in Australia as part of a combined film and vaudeville show. The vaudeville acts filled  the spaces between movies. In 1938, the movie craze was reaching fever pitch in Australia so it was difficult for a young juggler to get much attention.

She was described as a ‘trim and lively little lady, built on springs.’ She juggled tennis racquets and balls and rings ‘in defiance of the laws of gravity.’ One published picture showed her balancing a ball on a stick whilst bending backwards, it was a clear reference to her brother’s act.

Although she stayed in Australia for almost 3 months, Mariora did not have the same impact on audiences as her brother. She returned to Europe to continue her career later in 1938.

Both of the Florians continued juggling in Europe however, the Second World War brought some intrigue and danger to their lives.

Jean’s partner Kathleen was the daughter of the famous Kitty Schmidt who was a brothel keeper in Germany. In in 1940s, Kitty’s brothel became the centre of a Nazi intelligence operation where the loyalties and secrets of World War 2 were tested and traded. The story of this operation has been told in books, a well known film called Salon Kitty and a website.

Jean and Kathleen had a son Jochem in June 1942 and they subsequently married. There are several pictures of them available on the Salon Kitty website.  Jean died in 1945 of pneumonia.

Mariora married a man called Roy Short in England and eventually migrated to Australia. The pair had children and grandchildren and Mariora died in 2005 in Queensland.

Recently Juggling Historian David Cain found lost film of Jean juggling. That footage and David’s commentary can be found here.