Musical Monday: “Can-Can” (1960)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Can_CanThis week’s musical:
Can-Can” (1960) — Musical #506

20th Century Fox

Walter Lang

Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Juliet Prowse

Set in 1896 France, Simone Pistache (MacLaine) owns a nightclub that continuously is raided by police for performing the lewd can-can dance.  Simone is in love with her lawyer François Durnais (Sinatra) and helps keep her out of jail. Judge Philipe Forrestier is the one who keeps getting the club raided, but Philipe ends up falling in love with Simone and the two are engaged, jilting Francois.

-During the filming, USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the set and was shocked by the film. He called it “immoral.” He said, “The face of humanity is prettier than it’s backside,” and Shirley MacLaine said he was just mad that the dancers were wearing underwear during the can-can dance. The incident gained the film national publicity, according to Shirley MacLaine.

Shirley MacLaine performs like a Can Can girl for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the 20th Century Fox Studios. Left to right: Louis Jourden, Mr. Khrushchev, Shirley MacLaine, Mrs. Khrushchev, Maurice Chevalier, and Frank Sinatra.

Shirley MacLaine performs like a Can Can girl for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the 20th Century Fox Studios. Left to right: Louis Jourden, Mr. Khrushchev, Shirley MacLaine, Mrs. Khrushchev, Maurice Chevalier, and Frank Sinatra.

-Juliet Prowse’s first film.
-Frank Sinatra requested Shirley MacLaine for this film, requiring 20th Century Fox to buy out her Columbia Pictures contract for “Who’s That Lady?” that Janet Leigh eventually starred in, according to Sinatra in Hollywood by Tom Santopietro.
-Frank Sinatra didn’t like to work before noon so they worked “French hours” when shooting the film. During the World Series, no one would know where Sinatra was until they would see him on TV in a box watching the game at the stadium, according to Shirley MacLaine.
-The original play opened on Broadway in 1953 and ran for 892 performance. Gwenn Verdon won the 1954 Tony Award for Supporting or Featured Actress in a Musical.
The film was rather different from the stage version which gave it some bad reviews: “The music has been reduced to snatches, the book has been weirdly changed and the dances-well they have been knocked out by some tired jigs, knocked out by Hermes Pan,” said the New York Times in 1960.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design by Irene Scharaff and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture by Nelson Riddle.

-A man walks up, slaps Shirley MacLaine, rips off her skirt and then they start a strange dance of dragging each other around. This is the Apache Dance. I’m not saying this is a good dance, it’s just random and notable because of its oddness.
-The Garden of Eden Ballet is the best part of the film, aside from the dancers dressed as bunnies and monkeys. It gives us a chance to actually see the dancing talents of Juliet Prowse, Marc Wilder and Shirley MacLaine.

Shirley MacLaine and Marc Wilder dance the "Garden of Eden" ballet

Shirley MacLaine and Marc Wilder dance the “Garden of Eden” ballet

Notable Songs:
The movie is filled with famous Cole Porter songs such as “It Was Just One of Those Things,” “Let’s Do It” and “You Do Something to Me.” However, while Sinatra, Chevalier and Jourdan sing the songs well,  the song placements seem awkward.

My Review:
Why is there so much screaming when the can-can is danced?
But that’s besides the point.
This movie is overly long and the majority of the stars are miscast. Basically, the two leads are a mess, in my opinion. Shirley MacLaine is a fine dancer, her singing is only okay and her acting in this film is mediocre. Frank Sinatra seems silly as a Frenchman, but has good vocals. Louis Jourdan, as handsome as ever, and Maurice Chevalier-reunited together two years after “Gigi” (1958)- are just fine and fit into the plot well. A star-studded cast with Cole Porter songs shouldn’t go wrong, but it did.
I enjoy plenty of films that are full of fluff, but this one seems overly long for the plot we are given. While the score is chock-full of excellent Cole Porter songs, they just….seem oddly placed.
Visually, the movie is gorgeous with Louis Jourdan’s good looks and lovely costumes by Irene Scharff. The Garden of Eden Ballet is also gorgeous and the best part of the film.
When a five minute dance is the best part of a 131 minute film, this is a problem.

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Do you remember the forgotten man: Veterans Day edition


Joan Blondell in “Gold Diggers of 1933” singing “Remember My Forgotten Man”


Veteran’s Day was originally known as Armistice Day when the armistice was signed between the allies and the central powers at the end of the Great War in 1918.

Those who served in World War I are often called “the forgotten men.” In Hollywood history, we frequently highlight those who served in World War II, so I wanted to take a look at those who served in The Great War, or World War I.

Their service is what started Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, when the armistice was signed in the eleventh month, the eleventh day and the eleventh hour. Don’t forget the forgotten man.

Fighting with the Allied Powers

Richard Arlen, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan

Richard Arlen– Served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, but never saw combat.
Humphry Bogart– Served in the U.S. Navy on the Leviathan.  He had an injury on his face and mouth which left him with his lisp, according to the website “Star War.”
Walter Brennan– Injured by a gas attack during WWI which permanently affected his vocal cords.


Clive Brooks, Maurice Chevalier, Merian C. Cooper


Clive Brook-Served in the British Army
Maurice Chevalier– Enlisted in the French army and was wounded, captured and taken prisoner by the Germans in 1914. He spent two years in Alten prison camp.
Merian C. Cooper– Fighter pilot for the United States


Ronald Colman, Walt Disney, Cedric Hardwicke


Ronald Colman– Fought in the British Army. Was wounded/gassed in Messines.
Walt Disney-Was only 16 during World War I, but lied so he could serve in the Red Cross.
Cedric Hardwick-Stage actor till career interrupted by the war. Served the British Army.


Buster Keaton, Charles Laughton, Herbert Marshall


Buster Keaton– Was a Corporal in the U.S. 40 Division in France
Charles Laughton– Joined the Army as a private in 1917. Served with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment, and later with 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment in the Western Front. A casualty of mustard gas.
Herbert Marshall-Lost part of his right leg in the war and wore a wooden leg for the rest of his life. May notice a limp in some of his movies.

Ken Maynard, Victor McLaglen, Adolphe Menjou

Ken Maynard– Fought in the U.S. Army
Victor McLaglen– When the war broke out, McLaglen joined the Irish Fusiliers and fought in the Middle East and serving as Provost Marshal (head of Military Police) for the city of Baghdad.
Adolphe Menjou– Captain of the Ambulance Corp in France


George O’Brien, Pat O’Brien, Jack Pickford


George O’Brien– Served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Fleet where he was also the Heavy Weight Boxing Champ.
Pat O’Brien– Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918
Jack Pickford– (brother of Mary Pickford)  U.S. Navy Reserve in 1918. Almost court-martialed for a scandal when he accepted bribes from draftees who wanted light shore duty.  His mother had a secret meeting Wilson’s personal secretary, Joseph Tumulty. Tumulty requested Jack to be discharged to make movies in support of the Army Air Corps.


Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, John Monk Saunders


Claude Rains-Served in the Scottish Regiment in England.
Basil Rathbone– Second Lieutenant for the Liverpool Scottish. Received the Military Cross in 1918 for bravery.
John Monk Saunders– (Hollywood Writer) Served in the Air Service.


William Desmond Taylor, Ernst Thesiger, Warren William


William Desmond Taylor– Fought in the Canadian Air Force
Ernst Thesiger– Fought in the British Army
Warren William– Fought in France with the U.S. Army

Fight with the Central Powers

Fritz Lang, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman

Fritz Lang-Soldier in the Austrian Army and fought in Romania and Russia.
Bela Lugosi– Was an infantry lieutenant in the Hungarian Army
Sig Ruman-Served in the Imperial German Forces

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