Emile and Vincent Isola

Showmen, manufacturers, impresarios

Born in Blinda, Algeria, the Isola brothers were trained as mechanics, but their passion for magic brought them to Paris in 1880, where they worked in railway machine shops while developing their magic skills by giving performances in cafés in the evenings, ultimately becoming full-time itinerant performers. According to legend, they were backed in their purchase of the Théatre des Capucines in 1892, on the boulevard near the Grand Café, by a wealthy woman whose dying son they had entertained. Renamed the Théatre Isola, they featured their own magic shows, some with the aid of electricity, and were competitors to Georges Méliès. Adding films to their theatre's presentations on 8 April,1896, their first projector was a Kinétographe de Bedts, which they renamed the Isolatographe; using the same name, they sold a Kinétographe of Méliès and Lucien Reulos just two weeks later to the new theatre at 34 Unter den Linden, Berlin, but the apparatus worked poorly. Within weeks they were manufactiuring their own projectors, still called the Isolatographe, for use as far away as Vienna, Brussels, and Moscow. Fundamentally Parisian theatre managers, they directed a series of theatres; the Parisiana, the Olympia, and finally the nearly-bankrupt Folies Bergère, which they rebuilt into a great music hall with first-class variety shows.

Deac Rossell