Family of French puppeteers. Also known as Les Walton’s, this was one of the most famous puppet families, working in fairgrounds and theatres for nearly two centuries (see Fairs). In 1798, a certain Béranger lost a leg during the Napoleonic Wars in Italy. He became “the puppeteer with the wooden leg” thanks to a glove puppet booth (French: a castelet for fantocci) that he brought back to France. He produced patriotic pieces at first, then popular melodramas of the period, presenting the shows in inn yards and fairgrounds. His repertory included Le Fermier d’Issoire (The Farmer of Issoire), Amour et Valeur (Love and Valour), Le Meunier de Vierzon (The Miller of Vierzon).
When he died in 1828, his son-in-law, the very pious Chauzet, took over the company and created shows based primarily on Christian stories: La Création du Monde (The Creation of the World), Le Déluge (The Flood). This tendency in the repertoire brought about a break in the family, and Chauzet found himself alone with his daughter. She married a certain Pajot, who reunited the dynasty.
Pajot I devoted himself to the great successes of the popular drama: La Tour de Nesle (The Tower of Nesle), La Grâce de Dieu (The Grace of God), Don César de Bazan. He put his son, then four years old, into some of the plays alongside the puppets (the child in Le Jugement de Salomon The Judgement of Solomon, Beloni in Geneviève de Brabant). The direction of the company was transmitted over two generations; first to Pajot I when Chauzet died in 1864, then to his son thirty years later.
Pajot II widened the repertoire with fairy tales and large-scale shows with ballets and grand climaxes (apotheoses): La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin), Les Bibelots du diable (The Devil’s Trinkets), La Poudre de perlimpimpin (The Quack’s Cure). The Pajots met with a decade of success, touring impressively throughout France with an eight-wagon caravan. However on July 4, 1905 in Angers, a cyclone entirely destroyed their equipment (theatre and materials) before the rest of the caravan was pillaged. Ruined, the Pajots reduced their troupe to only puppets, with which they started playing in music halls and took the name of Les Walton’s (The Waltons).
Les Walton’s specialized in parody (imitations of Cléo de Mérode, Dranem, Mistinguett, ballets in the style of Loïe Fuller), created new adaptations (Cendrillon, or Cinderella, by Jules Massenet, 1920), and then undertook international tours (Europe in 1911 and 1912, South America in 1920, the Mediterranean and Senegal in 1930 and 1931). They trained their two children, who as adults continued the practice of puppetry all over the world. In 1935, they presented two plays from the family repertoire at the Montparnasse theatre: Victor ou l’Enfant de la forêt (Victor, or the Child of the Forest, 1808), Les Deux Chasseurs et la laitière (The Two Hunters and the Dairymaid, 1792). In 1937, they took part in the theatrical section of the World’s Fair (the Exposition internationale des “Arts et des Techniques appliqués à la Vie moderne”), presenting, among others, La Tour de Nesle (created in 1874) and La Cucaracha (The Cockroach).
In 1941, Louis Pajot (Pajot III) was named president of the Corporate Union of Puppeteer Showmen of France. The last of the dynasty, he died in August 1978, having left the family secrets of his string puppets to his student, Marcel Ledun.