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Gaston Palmer

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Gaston Palmer was born on March 4, 1886 in Marseille, France. His father, George Palmer, was a British juggler advertised as “The Greatest Equestrian Juggler In The World.” His mother, Adele Blanche Emilie Rancy, was a French equestrian rider in circuses. Gaston had both British and French citizenship. As a child, he was part of a juggling act with his siblings. Around 1917, Gaston began performing as a solo Gentleman Juggler. When performing in America early in his solo career, he had a particularly bad performance with many drops that was due to being overly tired from a late night party the previous evening. When he dropped during the performance, he uncharacteristically decided to talk to the audience and to the props themselves. The result was a great deal of laughter from the audience. From that performance on, Gaston Palmer became a talking comedy juggler. Critics would often note that Gaston couldn’t fail as a juggler, for if he was successful with a trick the audience would applaud and if he failed at a trick, the audience would laugh. Palmer stated in a newspaper interview that from that point on he never practiced. “I find it is better to miss than not to miss. Now I never know when my trick is going to come off. When I changed my act, I earned ten times more money than when I never missed a trick.”

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Gaston could perform his act in six languages – English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, and Dutch. He quickly became a star around the world, performing all throughout Europe as well as in the USA and Australia. He was often advertised as “the Prince of International Jugglers.”

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Gaston Palmer’s most famous routine was actually a running gag that was used throughout his act. This was the cups and spoons trick, or as Gaston called it, “all the spoons in all the glasses.” If you aren’t familiar with this trick, click here to learn all about it. According to juggling legend Dieter Tasso, Gaston would attempt the trick throughout his act, failing to get all the spoons every time. Then at the end of his act, he would go to walk off stage with the cups and spoons. He would purposely trip, sending the spoons into the air, which he would successfully catch in the cups, seemingly by accident.

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As for the rest of his act, we are fortunate to have a series of four videos filmed between 1937 and 1943 from British Pathe showing many of Gaston’s tricks and routines. Please watch and enjoy them below.

Gaston Palmer was the best known and successful talking comedy juggler of the first half of the twentieth century. He married Joyce Colleano, the sister of the famous Australian tight wire artitist Con Colleano, who was 20 years younger than the juggler, and the couple had three children. Gaston had saved his earnings well and decided to perform less starting in the late 1930s. In 1937, he and his cousin bought a movie theater, but it was destroyed in a bombing in 1940 as part of World War II, so Gaston resumed a busy schedule of performing. He continued performing for the rest of his life.
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You hopefully saw Palmer’s imitation of Charlie Chaplin in the the second video shown above. Below is a photo of Gaston and his friend, the real Charlie Chaplin.
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In 1938, Gaston bought a villa in the French Riviera that was previously owned by famed movie star Rudolf Valentino. The villa became known as “La Villa Du Jongleur.”
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Gaston Palmer appeared in six movies during his career, including The Three Maxims in 1938 and The Last Company in 1930. In 1969, he starred along with Katharine Hepburn, Richard Chamberlain, Yul Brynner, Danny Kaye, and Donald Pleasence in the film The Madwoman of Chaillot. He played the role of The Juggler! You can see Gaston juggling between Hepburn and Danny Kaye in the following photo.
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Gaston Palmer died in 1969, the same year that The Madwoman of Chaillot was released. He remains a popular figure in the worldwide juggling community today. He is the inspiration for Olivier Caignart’s stage name of Olivier Palmer, as Olivier pays tribute to Gaston. You can see Olivier’s impressive skills, including Gaston’s most famous routine of “All the spoons in all the glasses” in the following video.
4 months ago by in Featured , Opinion/Theory/History , Profiles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the | RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
About

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twelve books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA). His favorite color is purple and his favorite food is filet mignon.

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