Archive image of revellers at a 1930s party
Josephine Baker at a party at the Embassy Ballroom, 1937; Badrutt's Palace Hotel Archive

Stars of the stage

Three of the greatest 20th-century female artists not only stayed at Badrutt’s Palace, they also performed there. By Evelyne Lüthi-Graf

Badrutt’s Palace has always been known for providing its guests with exceptional entertainment, from delightful musical shows to lively themed parties. In fact, the hotel’s programme of evening entertainment was initiated in the 1920s by Hans Badrutt, the son of Caspar Badrutt, and continued until 1960, when his wife Helene passed away. His son Andrea then took charge, tailoring the fun to appeal to the emerging 1960s jet-set crowd who frequented St. Moritz.

Today, we can share the stories of some of the incredible talents of the day who performed at the hotel, both on the small stage in the legendary Embassy Ballroom and in the King’s Club, which opened in December 1963. Here, we are focusing on three stars, who all appeared on stage at the Embassy Ballroom…

Marlene Dietrich at the Embassy

The world-famous actress and style icon Marlene Dietrich was a regular guest at Badrutt’s Palace in the 1930s as evidenced by the many historical photos that exist of her at the St. Moritz establishment. It was probably her close friend Rita Hayworth, herself a confidante of the Badrutt family, who recommended the hotel to Dietrich.

During Christmas 1962, in her later career when she turned her focus to singing, Dietrich returned to the Palace but this time to take to the stage. According to press reports, her captivating performances featured her in an array of dazzling stage outfits to match her songs. In the first half of the show, she would wear ‘floaty’ dresses, which were particularly admired by her female fans. In the second half, she sang her more provocative songs, donning top hats and tails and revealing outfits that made quite an impression on the audience.

To ensure she was able to change her outfits quickly between songs, she wore a tight skin-coloured dress under all her dresses (it appeared as though she was naked), a style that became fashionable a few years later. Apparently the acclaimed performer with the deep, raspy singing voice felt very much at home at Badrutt’s Palace, as it was here on 18 January 1963 that she celebrated her birthday with several friends, including the dancer Serge Lifar (above).

Archive photo from 1950s of three diners in a restaurant
Josephine Baker, far right, with Helene Badrutt and Hans-Jürg Badrutt at Le Relais, March 1950; Badrutt’s Palace Hotel Archive

Spotlight on Josephine Baker

Another big music hall name to visit the hotel was the American-born French dancer and singer Josephine Baker, who performed at the Embassy Ballroom in February 1970.

She was hugely popular in France in the 1920s. But, due to financial problem in the 1960s, she was forced to sell her château, the home she shared with her 12 adopted children. In order to provide for her large family, the artist was also compelled to go on tour again. It is no coincidence that she performed at the Palace. There are two photographs from the hotel archives showing a cheerful Baker at a party there in the winter of 1937 (top). In March 1950, she was photographed sitting at a table at Le Relais with Helene and the young Hans-Jürg Badrutt (above).

Archive image of singer in sequinned dress
Eartha Kitt sang in the hotel’s Embassy Ballroom in February 1976; alamy

Eartha Kitt in the Hall of Fame

One of the most important artists of her time, the American singer and actress Eartha Kitt appeared on the Embassy Ballroom stage in February 1976. After a deprived childhood marked by abandonment in the 1930s, she moved to New York and enrolled in a performing arts school. She later toured as a singer and dancer until she was discovered by the American actor and director Orson Welles in 1950. He offered her a role in a play, which he took around Europe.

Back in the US, she appeared on Broadway and, in 1953, recorded two famous songs that are still popular today: C’est Si Bon, sang in French, and Santa Baby. A versatile artist, she played the first Catwoman in the 1967 television series Batman. In La Coupole – Matsuhisa restaurant at Badrutt’s Palace, you will see a photo of Kitt dedicated to the Badrutt family in 1967 hanging on the Hall of Fame.

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