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Simply marvelous music-comedy starring one of my favorites, Maurice Chevalier. Chevalier is at his usual debonair, charming, mischievous in this tiny gem of a film, impersonating entertainer Eugene Charlier and aristocratic Baron Fernand Cassini, with a very amusing plot based upon mistaken identity antics.His two leading ladies are both gorgeous: lovely, beautiful,elegant, sophisticated, regal, Merle Oberon as the Baroness and gorgeous, down-to-earth, fiery, ravishing Ann Sothern as Mimi, Charlier's partner.A couple of large production numbers featuring Chevalier and Ann Sothern add for more fun.Above all, those were the days when Hollywood had such gifted and priceless talented hero actors as Eric Blore, Halliwell Hobbes, Robert Greig et al, who were wonderful testing a tons of butlers, sidekicks, serious politicians etc., helping perfectly the stars.Completely enjoyable classic movie from begin to finish. Test to catch it on the FOX Channel.
Slight Spoiler.I finally had a possibility to watch "Folies Bergère de Paris", a delicious Fox musical comedy, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Maurice Chevalier, Ann Southern, and Merle Oberon. I was only familiar with the 1940 makeover "That Night in Rio" (also excellent) starring Alice Faye and Don Ameche. I heard nice things about this original ver which is brisker and more tightly wound than the soon version, and I wanted to see it very much.In 1935 Fox filmed English and French versions of the storyline on the same set. The French version, simply titled "Folies-Bergère", was released in 1936. I saw the English ver recently and it was fantastic.In his Paramount musicals, most notably those of Lubitsch, Maurice Chevalier, with his lighthearted French accent and aggressive suavity, was the epitome of continental charm. Here in "Folies Bergere", he does an impressive job of personifying two distinct roles: testing the rowdy scene entertainer Eugene Charlier and an aristocratic banker called Baron Cassini, creating some very funny moments and entertaining plot twists. Chevalier is lively without overplaying the parts, though the roles lack the sexual aggressiveness he displayed for his Lubitsch work. Ann Southern does a fine job testing Chevalier's whining and annoying woman Mimi, soon reprised by Carmen Miranda in "That Night in Rio". Merle Oberon in her first major starring role looks marvelous as the Baroness Genevieve Cassini, soon played by Alice Faye. "Folies Bergere" opens and ends with grand and rousing musical numbers. The first number is a very jovial one, a piece named "Rhythm of the Rain" featuring Chevalier effortlessly dancing and singing in the rain vs the fake backdrop of the Folies Bergere. He is accompanied by Mimi and hordes of chorus women carrying umbrellas. The final number - a Busby Berkeley-like extravaganza involving Chevalier and his fellow performers creating a large hat worn by Chevalier himself - is an eye-popping piece of inspired choreography. This number is so merry and exuberant that you somehow forget the rest of the movie.Del Ruth's direction is as everytime modestly graceful, and captures the atmospheric gusto and vivacity of the Parisian cabaret setting. This is my sixth of Del Ruth's films and it is one of his best. If you receive a possibility to see "Folies Bergere de Paris", create sure you do. You won't be disappointed. Even if you don't like this sort of stuff, it deserves to be seen, at least for Mr. Chevalier. This was one of his last distinguishable performances in the 1930s before returned to France and not to return to Hollywood until 1957 with Billy Wilder's "Love in the Afternoon".
FOLIES BERGERE De Paris (20th Century Pictures, 1935), directed by Roy Del Ruth, is the type of film musical that typifies the 1930s: mistaken identity, comical hero actors, lavish sets, and production numbers in the Busby Berkeley manner. Starring Maurice Chevalier, it offers the legendary French entertainer the occasion to enjoy two separate characters that bear a close resemblance to one another, one being a melody hall headliner with a clean-cut photo whose trademark is his straw hat (like Chevalier), while the another sports a mustache, monacle and a touch of gray hair along his temple. Chevalier even gets to perform opposite two leading ladies, one his theatrical partner, the other, his wife. FOLIES BERGERE goes on record as Chevalier's last Hollywood musical for two decades, closing the chapter to this era in his career. Quite famous since his Hollywood debut at the Paramount studio in 1929, Chevalier returned to Europe where he occasionally appeared in films abroad before beginning a fresh chapter in his career in 1957 when he returned to Hollywood once again where he would remain for other decade. As for Merle Oberon, she makes her Hollywood debut, appearing more exotic with her Javanese slant eyes and massive make-up, compared to her more new and appealing details shortly after working under producer Samuel Goldwyn guidance where she performed in some of her greatest screen work, notably WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939). Ann Sothern, a bright young blonde comedienne who found popularity in soon years at MGM and on television, provides nice occasion in being both amusing and annoying as Chevalier's temperamental and jealous girlfriend, Mimi. The fun gets underway when Eugene Carlier (Maurice Chevalier), an entertainer at the Folies Bergere, doing a famed impersonation of the Baron Fernand Cassini (Chevalier), a banker, who, by chance, happens to be sitting in the audience with his stately wife, Genevieve (Merle Oberon). Because of a financial crisis that has place his fortune in jeopardy, the Baron decides he gotta acquire 20 million francs by leaving city to raise the required cash. During his absence, Eugene is hired to impersonate the Baron at a social function in the home of the Baron. After being instructed in how to act and what to say, Eugene goes on with his masquerade. Because the deception is unknown to Genevieve, confusion arises, and when she learns of the plan, decides to have her fun with the entertainer, unaware that her husband has now returned home earlier than expected, at the very moment Eugene had made his hasty departure to attend a performance. Believing the Baron to be Eugene, Genevieve finds herself flirting with her own husband. More confusion occurs when Mimi (Ann Sothern), Eugene's musical partner, mistakes him for the Baron, adding more enjoyment to the storyline long before it is over. On the musical program, songs include: "Valentine" (sung by Maurice Chevalier) by Andre Christian, Albert Willmetz, with English lyrics by Herbert Reynolds; "Rhythm in the Rain" (sung by Chevalier and Ann Sothern) by Jack Meskill and Jack Stern; "Au Revoir L'Amour," "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" by Harold Adamson and Burton Lane); "I Was Lucky" and the grand finale of "Singing a Satisfied Song" (sung and performed by Chevalier and Ann Sothern). "Rhythm in the Rain" is an entertaining production number inspired by "Singin' in the Rain," obviously, but is surpassed by "Happy Song," better known as "The Straw Hat Number," paying homage to Chevalier's prop and image, winning an Academy Award as Greatest Dance Direction, as choreographed by Dave Gould, beating out Busby Berkeley's more imaginable and longer production number of "The Lullaby of Broadway" from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (Warner Brothers).Unlike earlier night club musicals of the period, namely WONDER BAR (Warner Brothers, 1934) starring Al Jolson, FOLIES BERGERE does not take zone entirely at the popular nightclub, but centers upon the entertainers who work there. The story comes between the opening and closing song numbers, where most of the plot is set at the estate of the Baron. At times, FOLIES BERGERE has that Warner Brothers musical feel, and no wonder? It's producer is Darryl F. Zanuck, the one responsible for the legendary 42nd STREET (WB, 1933), released a year before Zanuck formed his own production studio of 20th Century Pictures. At another times, it comes across like a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical because of its European background along with Astaire's frequent comic help of Eric Blore testing Francois. Others in the cast contain Walter Byron as Marquis Rene; Lumsden Hare as Gustave; Robert Greig as Henri; Halliwell Hobbes, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Ferdinand Munier, Olin Howland, among many others.More entertaining in the musical sense than with the story, FOLIES BERGERE was remade twice by 20th Century-Fox: THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941) with Don Ameche and Alice Faye; and ON THE RIVERA (1951) with Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney, both produced in lavish Technicolor. Of the three versions, ON THE RIVERA happens to be the greatest known and televised while THAT NIGHT IN RIO comes a close second, leaving FOLIES BERGERE to be a seldom seen item. Almost forgotten today due to lack of revivals, and an oversight when the subject of musicals is concerned, FOLIES BERGERE is accessible for viewing, thanks to occasional broadcasts from cable television's Fox Film Channel. With a bright score, interesting story, grand scale production numbers and Chevalier's masquerade as the Baron with a definite comedic flair, with occasional slow spots at times, Roy Del Ruth's direction makes much of this 81 minute musical-comedy quite palatable. (***)
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