Showing posts with label Maurice Brunin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maurice Brunin. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2022

Les Brunins- Billiard Ball Jugglers


‘She is lovely, she is divine and as shapely in form as she is classical of feature…. He is by no means beautiful’


Such was the description of Les Brunins, French billiard ball jugglers, during their tour of Australia in 1905. The pair returned to the country in 1910 to repeat their success on the Tivoli Stage.

Les Brunins were Jeanne and Maurice Brunin, French natives who came to Australia after touring the English provinces. Jeanne, born Julie Jeanne Joubaud around 1882 was 10 years younger than her husband. According to a 1902 English newspaper, Maurice, originally trained as a circus performer, had known her since she was 9 years old and the two had never parted since being married in Paris in 1901. They had at least two children by the time they arrived in Australia, Marcel and Jeanne.

When they arrived , Jeanne was 23 years old and Maurice 33. One of his first pronouncements upon setting foot in Australia was a declaration that their act was unique and that the billiard balls they used were real.  These were claims he continued to assert aggressively for 20 years.

They were engaged to the Tivoli circuit and began their tour in Sydney in September. They played an unusual kind of billiards using a small table and regular billiard balls. Maurice, taking a cue, bounced balls off the cushion of the table into nets that he carried on various parts of his body. Then Jeanne, in a beautiful orange dress donned a mask and Maurice shot the balls from the table to pockets attached to her head and shoulders.

Maurice blew out a candle with a well struck ball and even played a tune on bells with them. He was said to have a ‘sure aim and remarkable power over his cue.’

 Jeanne also  juggled the billiard balls.

Finally, she removed her elaborate dress, and in tight fleshings rode a bicycle around the stage while Maurice bounced balls from the table onto nets attached to her body. To conclude the act, he lifted wife, bicycle and table onto his back and carried the three off  stage.

Their costumes were elaborate, with Jeanne’s dresses said to be so beautiful that they  ‘ took away the feminine breath’. Their French style made their turn a popular one with Tivoli audiences in Australia.

The pair stayed in the country for three months and then departed for the United States. Their reception there was less enthusiastic.

Variety’s review was luke warm, saying

Juggling. Hammerstein's. For the first appearance in this country Monday afternoon Les Brunins did very well with billiard ball juggling. A man and woman attend to the work and the woman is attractive through her good looks, splendid proportions and the hand- some dress worn at the opening. ……….The juggling is not novel, having been shown by W. C. Fields and Aszra. Several new tricks are shown, and the finish where the woman in fleshings and pantalettes rides a bicycle catching the billiard balls thrown by the man from the table gives a showy close. With fewer misses the act will do easily. The style about it wins.

 Maurice took offence at the implication that the act was copied from Fields or Asra. He immediately wrote to the editor to refute those claims.


Editor Variety:

In Sime’s review of our act last week at Hammerstein’s, he mentioned W. C. Fields and Asra. I wish to let you know that we are the originators of this act. I took an affidavit to that effect in Toledo in 1901. I can prove I was doing this act long before Fields. He will tell you so himself. As for Asra, everyone knows that he has a poor copy of our act. The only difference is that Asra uses rubber balls, while we have real ones. I am absolutely certain if he sees my act now he will try to copy the bicycle trick also.  Of course I do not claim to be the originator of the “jumping ball” Any good billiard player can do that with a little practice, but I do claim to be the originator of every way we catch the balls and of everything we do with them. M. Brunin,


In 1910 Jeanne and Maurice returned to Australia with the same act. Maurice performed with a lady called Liane De Lyle. However, shipping records indicate that this was Jeanne.

Titled ‘ In a billiard Saloon’ Maurice and ‘Liane’  performed feats with billiard balls that ‘displayed remarkable dexterity’

In Adelaide, Maurice ‘ bounced a billiard ball off the cushion of the table, causing it to rebound off a pad which he bore affixed to his forehead. From there a sudden lurch forward on the part of the performer sent the ball spinning back across the stage into a net arranged on the head of the lady artist who was cycling around the floor’

 This remarkable feat drew wild applause in the theatre which had never seen such a unique act on stage. The newspaper described the audience as ‘dumbfounded’ by this trick.


Liane De Lyle’s toilette and costumes were a highlight of the act, and her beauty was much admired by newspaper reporters. However, one point bothered them. The Parisians insisted that the billiard balls they used were ‘real’, an assertion that the reporters found baffling because it seemed unnecessary,

 After leaving Australia, Les Brunins continued performing their billiard act around the world. In 1914 they travelled from Brazil to the USA but were using different names. They were now billed as the Kervilles.

 Variety described their act in 1917 as follows.

 The Kervilles. Jugglers.7 Mins. The Kervilles, man and woman, give most attention to billiard ball juggling off a prop table, much the same as W. C, Fields has done, only the Kervilles neglect the comedy Fields tried for and secured. The woman is pretty and well formed. She rides a cycle in tights toward the ending of the turn. Where this sort of juggling is unknown the act will do nicely, but rather in the opening position.

Maurice, again leapt to defend their originality by responding promptly to this review.

 Editor VARIETY:

In Variety’s notice today of the Two Kervilles, it said we do much the same as W. C. Fields has done, etc. We are the Brunins, the originators of the billiard table acts and W. C. Fields copied his act from us, as may be easily found out at the United Booking Offices, or my agent, H. B. Marinelli. I took out my papers for this act in Toledo in 1900, some years before we returned to France.

M. Kerviile. 26/9/17

 As the three Kervilles, the Brunins performed around the world until the 1920s. After that date they disappear from the records, although the memory of the ‘divine’ Jeanne Brunin remains on a postcard in the Australian Tivoli Artist series of 1905. (pictured above)