Alys Robi

Alys (Alice) Robi (b Robitaille). Singer, (b Quebec City 3 Feb 1923, d 28 May 2011). As a child she made debuts in Quebec City at the Capitol Theatre (in the revue Ten Nights in a Bar Room ) and on radio stations CHRC and CKCV. She subsequently won several amateur contests and studied singing, dancing, and acting. Her teachers included Jean Riddez in Montreal, where she had gone at 12 to act and dance with the comedienne La Poune in what became an extended, 75-week engagement at the Théâtre National. Robi sang in 1937 on radio station CKAC's 'La Veillée du samedi soir' and later appeared in local cabarets. While at the Esquire Club in 1942, she came to the attention of CBC radio producer Morris Davis, resulting in appearances on the network shows of Lucio Agostini and Allan McIver.

Robi's affinity for the Latin American repertoire brought her international recognition in the 1940s. She sang on CBC English network radio programs, (eg, 1944-8 on 'Latin American Serenade') and received two LaFlèche trophies (French and English) in 1944 for the best pop singer of the year and a Beaver trophy in 1945. Soon after, she was singing in chic New York cabarets (eg, The Blue Angel) and on leading US radio programs including NBC's 'Carnation Contented Hour'. In 1947 she went to Europe where she took part in the first regular BBC TV programs and sang in major nightclubs.

Her career was curtailed in the late 1940s by injuries suffered in a car accident in Hollywood and by a subsequent mental breakdown. She attempted several comebacks 1952-74. She later wrote two autobiographies, Ma Carrière, ma vie (Montreal 1980) and Long Cri dans la nuit: Cinq Années à l'Asile (Montreal 1990), the latter an account of her mental illness. Robi made many 78s for RCA Victor during the 1940s. Some of the most popular ('Tico-Tico,' 'Amor, Amor,' 'Besame mucho,' 'Jalousie,' etc) were reissued on the LP Les succès d'Alys Robi (RCA Gala CGP-101) in 1954.

In 1985, Alys Robi merited the Order of St John (Order of Malta). She took part in the official re-opening of the Le Capitole theatre hall in Québec City in 1992. Alys Robi's life was the inspiration for the television series Alys Robi and for a movie entitled Ma vie en cinémascope (My Life in Cinemascope) released in 2004 for which Pascale Buissière in the title role won a Jutra and a Genie for best actress.