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Can-Can (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can Can (1960 movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWalter Lang
Written byDorothy Kingsley
Charles Lederer
Based onAbe Burrows
(stage musical)
Produced byJack Cummings
Saul Chaplin
StarringFrank Sinatra
Shirley MacLaine
Maurice Chevalier
Louis Jourdan
CinematographyWilliam H. Daniels
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Music byCole Porter
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox
Release date
  • March 9, 1960 (1960-03-09) (US)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.2 million (US/ Canada rentals)[2]

Can-Can is a 1960 American musical film made by Suffolk-Cummings productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was directed by Walter Lang, produced by Jack Cummings and Saul Chaplin, from a screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley and Charles Lederer, loosely based on the musical play by Abe Burrows with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, with some songs replaced by songs from earlier Porter musicals. Art direction was by Jack Martin Smith and Lyle R. Wheeler, costume design by Irene Sharaff, and dance staging by Hermes Pan. The film was photographed in Todd-AO. Although performing well on initial release it failed to make back its production costs from its domestic results.

The film stars Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan, and gave Juliet Prowse her first speaking role in a feature. Sinatra, who was paid $200,000 along with a percentage of the film's profits, acted in the film under a contractual obligation required by 20th Century Fox after he walked off the set of Carousel in 1955.


In the Montmartre district of Paris, a dance known as the can-can, considered lewd, is performed nightly at the Bal du Paradis, a cabaret where Simone Pistache (Shirley MacLaine) is both a dancer and the proprietor. On a night when her lawyer and lover, François Durnais (Frank Sinatra), brings his good friend, Chief Magistrate Paul Barrière (Maurice Chevalier), to the cafe, a raid is staged by police and Claudine (Juliet Prowse) and the other dancers are placed under arrest and brought before the court.

Paul wishes the charges to be dismissed, but his younger colleague Philippe Forrestier (Louis Jourdan) believes the laws against public indecency should be enforced. Visiting the cafe and pretending to be someone else in order to gain evidence, Philippe becomes acquainted with Simone and develops a romantic interest in her, but she is warned by Claudine that he is actually a judge.

Despite his attraction to her, Philippe proceeds with again raiding the cafe, and Simone is arrested. François attempts to blackmail Philippe with a compromising photograph in an effort to get him to drop the charges. However, Philippe had already decided to stop the case. He then shocks Simone by proposing marriage to her. When François comes to visit her, she warns him that she will accept the proposal if he does not marry her himself, but he refuses the notion of ever marrying. Paul, meanwhile, tries to talk Philippe out of the marriage, believing such an arrangement would end his career. Philippe ignores his advice. Conspiring to sabotage the engagement, Paul arranges a party for the couple aboard a riverboat, during which François gets Simone drunk and encourages her to perform a bawdy routine in front of the upper class guests. Humiliated, Simone jumps off the boat and refuses to see Philippe again, writing to him that she cannot in good conscience become his bride.

Simone obtains a loan from François to stage a ball, insisting he accept the deed to the cafe as collateral. On the night of the ball, Simone gets her revenge by arranging for the police to raid the cafe and this time to arrest François, now the legal proprietor. At the ensuing trial, Simone is called to testify but does not have the heart to give evidence against François. As the case is going to be dismissed due to lack of evidence, the president of a local moral league demands that action must be taken against the lewd performance. Paul suggests that the court view the dance first-hand to determine that it is indeed indecent. A can-can is performed to the approval of all, agreeing that it is not in any way obscene. When the police nonetheless escort Simone to a jail wagon, she is startled to find François inside, and even more surprised when he finally proposes.

Musical score

The film contains what critics now consider some of Cole Porter's most enduring songs, including "I Love Paris", "It's All Right With Me", and "C'est Magnifique". At the time of the show's premiere in 1953, however, many critics complained that Porter was now turning out material far below his usual standard. Some of the songs from the original Broadway musical were replaced by other, more famous Porter songs, including "Let's Do It", "Just One of Those Things", and "You Do Something to Me". "I Love Paris" is sung by the chorus over the opening credits, instead of being sung in the actual story by MacLaine. A version by Sinatra and Chevalier, however, was featured on the movie soundtrack album.

Sinatra and Chevalier filmed the song "I Love Paris", but it was cut in previews when the studio realized it slowed the film down. A photo of the sequence can be found in a New York Times Magazine article from February 21, 1960. The song takes place shortly after Act Two opens in the scene where Chevalier visits Sinatra in a nightclub.

Plot alterations

The plot of the musical was also revised. In the stage version, the judge was the leading character. In the film, it is the lover (Sinatra) of the nightclub owner (Shirley MacLaine) who is the lead, and the judge (played by Louis Jourdan) forms the other half of a love triangle not found in the play. The character of Paul Barriere, a non-singing supporting part on stage, was plumped up and given two songs for Maurice Chevalier .

International controversy

During the filming, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev famously visited the 20th Century Fox studios[3] and was allegedly shocked by the goings-on. He took the opportunity to make propagandistic use of his visit and described the dance, and by extension American culture, as "depraved" and "pornographic".[4]



Although many critics enjoyed the film, critical opinion was not unanimous.[5]

The film was listed by Variety as the highest grossing film of 1960 (behind 1959's Ben-Hur) with estimated rentals of $10 million,[6] based on an estimated $3 million from 70 mm showings to December 1960 and $7 million estimated from future 35 mm showings.[5] The expected future rentals were not achieved and the rental was revised down to $4.2 million the following year.[2]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards, 1961:

Golden Globe Awards, 1961:'

  • Nominated – Best Motion Picture, Musical

Grammy Awards, 1961:

  • Winner – Best Motion Picture Soundtrack



  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p252
  2. ^ a b "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  3. ^ "Can-Can Without Pants?". Time. September 21 1959.
  4. ^ "Linnell, Greg. "'Applauding the Good and Condemning the Bad': The Christian Herald and Varieties of Protestant Response to Hollywood in the 1950s" Journal of Religion and Popular Culture Vol. 12: Spring 2006". Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  5. ^ a b Arneel, Gene (January 11, 1961). "Boxoffice Performance Contrasts With Printed Critics' Opinion; Only Public Likes Jerry Lewis". Variety. p. 5. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  6. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960". Variety. January 4, 1961. p. 47. Retrieved April 27, 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 12 October 2021, at 23:04
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