Dubbed "the French Al Jolson," Maurice Chevalier was among the most beloved song-and-dance men of the pre-war era. Born September 12, 1888 in Paris, he was the youngest of nine children, quitting school at the age of 11 to work as an apprentice engraver and factory worker. Chevalier also later performed as a circus acrobat, but after suffering serious injuries he instead turned to singing in Parisian cafes and music halls; although his voice lacked power, he compensated with his fine comedic skills, and before long was among the most popular performers in France, often partnering with the infamous Minstinguett in the Folies-Bergere. Upon making his film debut in the 1908 silent comedy Trop Crédule, a series of other film roles followed before Chevalier joined the French forces fighting in World War I; from 1914 to 1916, he was held as a POW by the Germans, learning English from his fellow prisoners. He was later awarded a Croix de Guerre for his wartime service.