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The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo - Charles Coborn

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Published on Nov 16, 2009

I've just got here, through Paris, from the sunny southern shore;
I to Monte Carlo went, just to raise me winter's rent.
Dame Fortune smiled upon me as she'd never done before,
And I've now such lots of money, I'm a gent.
Yes, I've now such lots of rhino, I'm a gent.
As I walk along the Bois Boolong
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
"He must be a Millionaire."
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink to the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.



I stay indoors till after lunch, and then my daily walk
To the great Triumphal Arch is one grand triumphal march,
Observed by each observer with the keenness of a hawk,
I'm a mass of money, linen, silk and starch -
I'm a mass of money, linen, silk and stahahahahrch.

As I walk along the Bois Boolong
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
"He must be a Millionaire."
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

I patronised the tables at the Monte Carlo hell
Till they hadn't got a sou for a Christian or a Jew;
I then flew off to Paris for the charms of mad'moiselle,
Who's the loadstone of my heart - what can I do,
When with twenty tongues she swears that she'll be true?
(slurred)
As I walk along the Bois Boolong
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
"He must be a Millionaire."
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink to the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

Written and Composed by Fred Gilbert in 1892. Sung by Charles Coburn.

Charles Deville Wells (1841-1926), gambler and confidence trickster,[1] is one of the men who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, made famous by the song. Joseph Jagger was the first famous gambler to get publicity in 1873 but the song was not written until 1892 and so it seems that Wells is a more likely inspiration for the song.


Monte Carlo Casino, MonacoFrançois Blanc, the owner of Monte Carlo's casino, wanted the publicity from stories of big winnings. In the French language, if a gambler wins more than the chips on the table, they are said to have "faire sauter la banque", which was translated as "breaking the bank" (lit. to blow up the bank or the safe). A black shroud was placed over the table until replacement chips were brought in. However, no gambler has come close to winning the whole reserves of the casino.

In July 1891 Wells went to Monte Carlo with £4,000 that he had defrauded from investors in a bogus invention, a "musical jump rope." In an eleven-hour session Wells 'broke the bank' twelve times, winning a million francs. At one stage he won 23 times out of 30 successive spins of the wheel. Wells returned to Monte Carlo in November of that year and won again. During this session he made another million francs in three days, including successful bets on the number five for five consecutive turns. Despite hiring private detectives the Casino never discovered Wells's system; Wells later admitted it was just a lucky streak. His system was the high-risk martingale, doubling the stake to make up losses.

In April 1892, Fred Gilbert wrote a popular song, The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.[2] The song was popularised by the music hall star, Charles Coborn. The song helped Wells to become a celebrity. He explained that his success was because he was a brilliant engineer, who had also invented a fuel-saving device for steam-ships. He persuaded many wealthy people to invest in his invention. He made another trip to Monte Carlo in a large yacht in the winter of 1892 with his mistress. Wells explained that the yacht was to test his device. Wells broke the bank six more times but then lost his money and that of his investors, some of whom had sent additional money that he said was needed for repairs to his device.

Wells was arrested at Le Havre and extradited to England. He was found guilty of fraud at the Old Bailey and given eight years. Later Wells served another three-year sentence for fraud and emigrated to France, where a financial scam earned him another five year sentence.

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