Francis Renault was an active and popular ‘femme mimic’ from the early 1900s to the 1950s.
He was born Antonio Auriemma in Naples Italy on September 5, 1895. He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where, after a show, he reportedly met and was inspired by the great Edwardian female impersonator Julian Eltinge. Francis made his vaudeville reputation impersonating Lillian Russell, the great American beauty whose career and pulchritude spanned decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century. Like Lillian, he wore gorgeous gowns. His investment in gowns was extensive, tallying in the tens of thousands of dollars. At some theatres like the Palace, his costumes were displayed in theatre lobbies, where women could get a closer look at their richness and craftsmanship. Unlike Eltinge, Renault was in the habit of wearing his female costumes on the street of the various cities and towns where he toured. This created a great deal of publicity for his show, but frequently incensed local authorities. He was arrested and released on several occasions for female impersonation, notably in Dallas and Atlanta.
He died in 1956.
FRANCIS RENAULT (1893-1955) Signed and Inscribed photograph "For `Vitullo and Ulisse' / always your friend / Frances Renault / 1929." 305x253 mm; 12x10 inches. Glued to stiff board, mild wrinkling, finger prints, upper right corner creased with fold, and a 1/2-inch tear to upper right margin. Renault's given name was Antonio Auriemma. He was born in Naples, Italy before his family resettled in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was raised. In the early days of his career, he worked in Vaudeville as Francis Renault and got his break when he replaced female impersonator Julian Eltinge in a touring version of his Broadway show. Unlike Eltinge, Renault would wear his female costumes in public where he was touring. While it created publicity for the show, he was arrested several times. In 1913 he performed in Atlanta and contested local ordinance banning cross-dressing, to the consternation of the local police--zagria.blogspot.com. This item is listed in the Digital Transgender Archive, item hq37vn773, though inscription mistranscribed as "Always your girl."
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE
Improper Bostonians Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland By History Project Staff · 1998