Georges Feydeau was born in Paris, the son of novelist Ernest-Aimé Feydeau and Léocadie Boguslawa Zalewska. At the age of twenty, Feydeau wrote his first comic monologue in earnest. He found his first success four years later with Tailleur pour dames (Ladies' Dressmaker, 1889). That same year Feydeau married Marianne Carolus-Duran, the daughter of the famous portrait painter Carolus-Duran. To Feydeau, the marriage brought wealth that would sustain him until he found greater success. The marriage lasted 15 years after which the couple underwent a judicial separation and were formally divorced in 1916.
Feydeau began investigating the great farces in 1890, studying the works of Eugène Labiche, Henri Meilhac and Alfred Hennequin. This study inspired him to write his acclaimed play Champignol malgré lui (Champignol in Spite of Himself, 1892). Following this, Feydeau made a name for himself both in France and abroad, some of his plays opening overseas and in other languages before they opened in France.
These farces often involved Paris' demi-monde. They are noted for their great wit and complex plots, featuring misunderstandings and coincidences, and what one critic called a "jack-in-the-box construction".
Among his 60 plays, his most famous are: Une puce à l'oreille (A Flea in Her Ear, 1907), Le Système Ribadier (1892), La Dame de Chez Maxim (The Girl from Maxim's, 1899), and Hortense a dit: "Je m'en fous!" (Hortense says, "I don't give a damn!", 1916). Other notable Feydeau farces include L'Hôtel du libre échange, Le Dindon (Sauce for the Goose, 1896) and the series of plays he wrote after 1908, grouped under the title "Du Mariage au Divorce" ("On purge bébé", "Feu la mère de madame", Léonie est en avance" and "Mais ne te promène donc pas toute nue").
Though critics at the time dismissed Feydeau's works as light entertainment, he is now recognized as one of the great French playwrights of his era. His plays are seen today as precursors of Surrealist and Dada theatre, and the Theatre of the Absurd. They have been continuously revived and are still performed today, 17 of them having been performed on Broadway between 1895 and 1992. In Serbia, theatre director Ljubisa Ristic directed his play Une puce à l'oreille (A Flea in Her Ear, 1907), which was performed more than 1600 times and continues to be performed to great appreciation by audiences. The play's premiere was on June 7, 1971, and it has now been performed continuously for more than 45 years.
Despite being a phenomenally successful playwright during his lifetime, his propensity for high living (he had a table permanently reserved for him at Maxim's), gambling, and the failure of his marriage led to financial difficulties.
During the winter of 1918, Feydeau contracted syphilis and slowly descended into madness until his death three years later at age 58. He is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.
The Party's Over, a one-act play by Jay Parker is loosely based on Feydeau's one-act Par la Fenêtre.
Feydeau's one-act farce "Mais n'te promène donc pas toute nue !", translated by Olivier Bernier as "Please don't walk around in the nude" was produced at Harvard in 1960. It is one of the funniest plays he wrote. - Rol Maxwell
Paxton Whitehead and Suzanne Grossman adapted three of Georges Feydeau's plays: There's One in Every Marriage for the Broadway stage in 1971, Chemin de Fer in 1974 and A Flea in Her Ear in 1982.
Charles Morey's English adaptation of Tailleur pour dames, titled The Ladies Man, was first performed in 2007.