Chocolat - Du Guy

Chocolat Clown

Rafael Padilla (ca. 1865/68 – 4 November 1917) was an afrocuban clown, who performed in France, Paris in the 20th century. He was the first black clown to play a lead role in a circus pantomime act, and with his longtime partner George Foottit; they revolutionized the art of clowning by pairing the sophisticated white clown with the foolish auguste clown.


Rafael Padilla (sometimes Francized as Raphaël Padilla) was born sometime between 1865 and 1868 in Cuba, possibly in Havana. He was born without a surname. According to historian Gérard Noiriel [fr], "Padilla" may have the matronymic of his former Spanish master's wife. His parents were slaves in a Cuban plantation from which they escaped in 1878, leaving their son to a poor black woman who raised him in the slums of Havana. When Rafael was still a boy, she sold him to a Spanish businessman named Patricio Castaño Capetillo for 18 ounces of gold. Castaño brought Rafael to his family's household in the village of Sopuerta in northern Spain. Cuba had banned the slave trade in 1862, and under international law Rafael technically ceased to be a slave at all the moment he set foot on European soil, but nonetheless the Castaños treated him like one. The Castaños, like many Spaniards with colonial connections, were anti-abolitionists and flouted the law by declaring Rafael a "servant". Rafael was the only black person in the village, and was mistreated both by the Castaños and the villagers. They made him sleep in the stables, and gave him no education. At around the age of 14 or 15, Rafael fled the Castaños. He worked in the quarries of the Basque Country, then moved to Bilbao where he worked odd jobs, such as dockworker, then as a porter at the train station. In Bilbao he met Tony Grice, a travelling English clown, who hired him as an assistant and domestic servant. Grice would occasionally incorporate Rafael into his acts, such as in his parodies of American minstrel shows, but didn't make Rafael an apprentice. Rafael did not enjoy this life: on several occasions he deserted Grice, then returned when he could not find employment elsewhere.


Auguste and Louis Lumiére filmed some skits of the duo Foottit and Chocolat.

Rupert John played a scene as Chocolat in the American 1952 film Moulin Rouge. Omar Sy played Chocolat in the 2016 French biopic Chocolat, loosely based on the clown's life.