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Topical Budget 721-2: Suzanne! Suzanne! (1925)


Main image of Topical Budget 721-2: Suzanne! Suzanne! (1925)
Suzanne! Suzanne! We Love You To A Man!
35mm, black and white, 17 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

Tennis player Suzanne Lenglen getting ready for Wimbledon.

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Suzanne Lenglen (1899-1938) was the first major female tennis celebrity, and widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. She won twelve Grand Slam singles titles, half of them at Wimbledon, where she triumphed in five consecutive years between 1918 and 1923.

All but the first of these victories was in straight sets, and in addition to her sporting prowess, she received much attention for what were considered to be daringly skimpy outfits for the time, exposing her forearms and calves. Topical Budget's subtitle alludes to her popularity with men, unprecedented at the time, and also to the famous 'Lenglen Bandeau', a brightly coloured swatch of cloth that she tied round her head while competing, fastening it with a jewelled pin. These would become major fashion items in both London and her native France.

Defeated in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1924, she bounced back to gain her sixth title shortly after Topical shot this footage (which, disappointingly, doesn't feature any shots of her playing). Curiously, given the tub-thumping patriotism usually showed by Topical Budget when it came to sporting matters, her defeated opponent was a British player, Joan Fry Lakeman, whom Lenglen went on to demolish 6-2 6-0.

However, this was the last time Lenglen competed at Wimbledon. The following year, she withdrew from the competition following a misunderstanding that led to her apparently snubbing Queen Mary, a major social faux pas at the time. Shortly afterwards, she turned professional, barring her from competing at Wimbledon again, as it remained an amateur-only event until 1968.

After a spectacularly successful exhibition tour during which she defeated former Grand Slam champion Mary K. Browne 38 consecutive times, Lenglen retired on health grounds, returned to France and set up a tennis school. Diagnosed with leukaemia in June 1938, she was dead within a month.

Michael Brooke

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Complete film (0:17)
A Very Topical Year: 1925