Recently called Mamie Scopitone by her fans, Andrée aka Daidy Davis-Boyer was considered as the living memory of Pop & Jazz in France.
She started very young - 70 years ago - to promote tours, support artists, and accommodate at her home in Antibes, most of the french stars of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with their foreign friends.
First women artist manager in France, impresario as we said then, she worked with her beloved husband, the Jazz musician Roby Davis.She attended Festival de Jazz of Antibes-Juan les Pins from the begening and produced more than 200 shows before she became director and producer of a big part of the Scopitones catalogue.She is a true pioneer of live shows and television shows, a strong personality who legates an impressive catalogue to Productions Davis Boyer, the company she created in 1954 and managed until the end.
The catalogue of Productions Davis-Boyer is a unique and considerable source of archives on french music and culture in France.
Impresario and independent producer of jazz concerts during World War II, Daidy Davis-Boyer mingles since that time with the best and most talented musicians of the time, like Django Reinhardt or Dizzy Gillespie. Later, she organizes tours for Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet or Charles Aznavour : « Since 50 years we’ve known each others, he’s still my brother », she confesses. Yves Montand, Henri Salvador, Luis Mariano, Line Renaud – Daidy knows and works with the best talent and she soon takes the artistic direction of many Theatres de la Verdure (open air concert venues) between Menton and Béziers. She puts together more than 200 shows during that period. « I started to film the artists I was booking, that’s how I did my first TV shows for Télé Monté-Carlo and a few variety shows for french public television in the fifties ».
She was also quite a talent scout : « I took Gilbert Bécaud for his very first show », she comments. This uncommon producer, driven by a passion for artists and for music, always looks for new opportunities to promote singers. After the shows, all her artists meet up at her villa in Antibes , named Relâche (french for « day off »). They relax around a barbecue and soon artists take the habit to stay over in this improvised boarding home. Daidy has the idea to film her guests on location, right there in her villa. « We were shooting a little bit everywhere, in the garden, at the beach, on various locations around. The decor was not that important, as long as it would magnify the artist ». The music video (pop promo) was born. We’re not even in 1960… But conservative broadcasters of the time, used to 3 camera shoots on stage, with stylized sets and decent budgets, didn’t appreciate those artisanal « nouvelle vague »-style little films. Les Productions Davis-Boyer soon get the reputation of being « télé bout-de-bois » (scraps and cheapo TV), an affectionate moniker given by legendary comic figures Pierre Dac and Francis Blanche during the filming of the famous comedy number « Le fakir ».
In the early sixties appears in french cafés the Scopitone machine, a coin operated kind of juke-box with a TV size screen, showing filmed songs. Daidy, nicknamed later « Mamy Scopitone », decides to exploit this medium and succeed in convincing record companies of the utility to shoot images of their talents. Daidy was used to shoot in 16mm, and for the sake of quality standard of the Scopitone machine, she jumped to the 35mm format. Aside from the stars of the time, Daidy also shoots talents before their fame, going beyond the limits of TV channels which are not interested in anything but confirmed hits. Soon she takes over the production for the Scopitone machine with her cheaply produced but inventive music videos : « I shot the first songs of Johnny Halliday at the Vieux Colombier in Juan-les-Pins. He was already a phenomenon for me, and he’s still the greatest. Such a longevity, it’s unique and some others would be dead ten times if it weren’t him ».
All along her career as a director/producer, the old lady has kept a very intimate and sweet relationship with the artists and still today, some stay very attached to those images that reminds them of their sometimes humble beginnings : « Johnny loves the film I did of him on the Monthléry car racing track, when he was racing as an amateur for Ford. That was his wife – singer Sylvie Vartan – who was holding the chronometer ».
If Daidy directed a good third of the existing catalogue of « music videos / scopitones », other directors also made their start in the business by doing those little films, sometimes conceptualized beyond a standard performance on location, going more into storytelling. On the 1800 titles constituting PDB’s catalogue, Claude Lelouch (in his sophomore directing years, prior A man and a woman) directed 80 Scopitone films. François Reichenbach, Alexandre Tarta, Robert Valey, Alain Brunet, will participate also in this adventure.
In the early 70’s, the Scopitone films – with the virtues of being in color and having mise-en-scenes on locations – gradually lose their appeal and originality facing the competition with TV. Scopitone machine find then a new niche : the ever growing maghrebine population in France is frustrated of not having the possibility to see their artists. Alain Brunet will shoot them, constituting a new branch of the catalogue, that now represents a unique memory of that period. The commercialisation of the Scopitone machines finally ends in 1979, concluding a truelly original adventure in the history of the culture of cafés, music and film.
During her career spanning over 65 years, Daidy worked in music-hall, film, and television, crossing the different periods of chanson française, often inventing new ways to expose their talent. She always tried to leave a filmed trace of the people she worked with. Whatever the success was (some only did an obscure single), she consistently refused to bend to the monopoly of taste and production imposed by TV stations. Also, she always battled for her independance. Her archives are her sole property, constituting today a unique film and music patrimony, here for the memory of that musical era. On some instances, a few archives are the only existing films of a given song or performance. PDB is, aside from TV shows kept by the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, the private memory of most of the pop, rock and variety artists of the 60’s and 70’s.