“A brisk historical tour of the marketing and selling of the small principality of Monaco and its famous city…A well-researched, dramatic rags-to-riches urban tale” (Kirkus Reviews) of Monte Carlo’s rise from small principality to prosperous resort town of the 1920s.
Monte Carlo has long been known as a dazzling playground for the rich and famous. The “vivid, entertaining” (The Wall Street Journal) Making Monte Carlo traces a narrative history of the world’s first modern casino-resort, from the legalization of gambling in Monaco in 1855—passed as a desperate bid to stave off bankruptcy—through the resort’s improbable emergence as a glamorous gambling destination of to its decline in the wake of WWI and its subsequent reinvention in the 1920s until the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, on the eve of the Wall Street crash that would largely spell the end of the freewheeling era.
Along the way, we encounter a colorful cast of characters, including Francois Blanc (a professional gambler and cheat and eventual founder of Monte Carlo); Basil Zaharoff (notorious munitions dealer and probable secret owner of the casino for some years in the 1920s); Elsa Maxwell (hired as the casino’s publicist in the late 1920s); Réné Léon (a visionary Jewish businessman with murky origins); Serge Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, and other satellite members of the Ballet Russes dance company; as well as Gerald and Sara Murphy and other American expats, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“An engrossing examination of how politics, personality, and publicity coalesced to transform a sleepy village into a luxurious playground populated with casinos and beautiful people” (Publishers Weekly), Making Monte Carlo is a classic rags-to-riches tale set in the most scenic of European settings.
Braude expands his doctoral dissertation, which examined the evolution of Monaco from 1855 to 1956, into an engrossing examination of how politics, personality, and publicity coalesced to transform a sleepy village into a luxurious playground populated with casinos and beautiful people. This detailed evolution begins with the arrival of gambling impresarios Fran ois and Louis Blanc, twin brothers with a vision: capitalizing on the nascent spa trend and combining it with gambling to create a unique destination for hedonists. Fran ois spared no expense when it came to creating his resort, Bad Homburg, pouring all the profits back into raising its profile and creating an aura of exclusivity. Fawning press coverage and endorsements from well-known figures such as painter Edvard Munch, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, artist Pablo Picasso, and, most surprisingly, philosopher Karl Marx only added to the resort's appeal, creating an almost mythical destination. Braude admirably balances the political machinations with the glamorous aspects of Monte Carlo in his story, but he seems winded by the book's end. What could have been a triumphant and dramatic close the inaugural Grand Prix feels more like a wheeze as the book coasts to its conclusion.