Happy Bastille Day! Here are 14 of the Most French Moments in Hollywood Musicals (and the Stereotypes They Celebrate).
Excusez-moi. Turns out you don’t say “Happy Bastille Day” in France. Mostly because they don’t call it Bastille Day. But since none of these movies are actually French… Happy Bastille Day!
A singing candlestick and his
anthropomorphized enchanted friends defy their boss’s orders and feed the girl he’s kidnapped. Delightful.
“Be Our Guest” from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991, Disney)
Music by Alan Menken • Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise
Performed by Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Chorus
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dance through Paris re-imagined in the styles of Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and some other artists I could probably look up on Wikipedia.
“An American in Paris Ballet” from AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951, MGM)
Music by George Gershwin
Directed by Vincente Minnelli • Choreographed by Gene Kelly
Performed by Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Ensemble
This remake of 1935’s ROBERTA climaxes with a fashion show sequence that would not be equalled until DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD four decades later.
Fashion Show Part II: “Yesterdays” (Marge & Gower Version) from LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952, MGM)
Music by Jerome Kern • Lyrics by Otto Harbach
Film Directed by Mervyn LeRoy • Sequence Directed by Vincente Minnelli (uncredited) • Choreographed by Hermes Pan
Performed by Marge & Gower Champion
The characters sing a toast to the new year without actually drinking anything. But that’s okay, because everyone’s dressed in costumes that look nothing like what’s described in the lyrics. Consistency, that’s all I ask of you.
“Masquerade” from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2004)
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber • Lyrics by Charles Hart & Richard Stilgoe
Directed by Joel Schumacher • Choreographer: Peter Darling & Lisa Stevens
Performed by Simon Callow, Ciarán Hinds, Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Ellison, Minnie Driver (dubbed by Margaret Preece), Victor McGuire, Patrick Wilson, Emmy Rossum, Chorus
I don’t want to shock you out of your bourgeois sensibilities, but “funzi-wunzi” is code for “le sexe.” Sacre bleu!
“Ladies in Waiting” from LES GIRLS (1957, MGM)
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by George Cukor • Choreographed by Jack Cole
Performed by Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall (dubbed by Betty Wand), and Taina Elg (dubbed by Thara Matthieson)
Ze Jazz Hot!
Julie Andrews is literally too good to sing in Parisian night clubs. How does she overcome this hurdle? By pretending to be a female impersonator, bien sûr!
“Le Jazz Hot” from VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982)
Music by Henry Mancini • Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Directed by Blake Edwards • Choreographed by Paddy Stone
Performed by Julie Andrews, Ensemble
The movie sadly omits the Porter’s playful lyrics, which include the line, “If in Cannes / Every tan / Courtesan can / Maybe you can can-can too!”
“Can-Can Finale” from CAN-CAN (1960, Twentieth Century Fox)
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by Walter Lang • Choreographed by Hermes Pan
Performed by Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse, Company
Ze Danse Apache!
“Apache” (rhymes with “panache”) refers to the mock-violent tone of the dance more than it does to the rhythm or the steps. So you can have an apache that’s also a tango that’s also a Sting song. (In the interest of parity, the traditional male-female roles are reversed in this clip from The Muppet Show.)
“El Tango de Roxanne” from MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)
Music & Lyrics by Sting (“Roxanne”)
Music by Mariano Mores • Lyrics by Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce (“Le Tango du Moulin Rouge”)
Music & Lyrics by David Baerwald (“Come What May”)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann • Choreographed by John O’Connell
Performed by Ewan McGregor, Jose Feliciano, Jacek Koman, Caroline O’Connor, Richard Roxburgh, Nicole Kidman
Ze Folies Bergere!
Adapting Fellini’s 8 ½ into the Broadway musical Nine was a triumph for director/choreographer Tommy Tune. Adapting Nine back to the screen was far less successful for director/choreographer Rob Marshall.
“Folies Bergere” from NINE (2009)
Music & Lyrics by Maury Yestion
Directed by Rob Marshall • Choreographed by Rob Marshall & John DeLuca
Performed by Judi Dench, Female Ensemble
Audrey Hepburn manages to be even more loveable with this gloriously goofy existential dance, set in an artist’s cafe to the Gershwins’ “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and “Funny Face.”
“Basal Metabolism” from FUNNY FACE (1957, Paramount)
Music by George Gershwin • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Directed and Staged by Stanley Donen • Choreographed by Eugene Loring & Fred Astaire
Performed by Audrey Hepburn
Ze Saucy Puppet Shows!
Mel Ferrer is a hateful ex-dancer who can only express his love for Leslie Caron through the guise of his puppet show. I. Love. Musicals.
“Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” from LILI (1953, MGM)
Music by Bronislaw Kaper • Lyrics by Helen Deutsch
Directed and Choreographed by Charles Walters
Performed by Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer
Fred Astaire dances with Cyd Charisse in this remake of NINOTCHKA. It’s not a particularly good movie (especially compared to NINOTCHKA), but Astaire and Charisse are enchanting.
“All of You” from SILK STOCKINGS (1957, MGM)
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian • Choreographed by Eugene Loring & Hermes Pan
Performed by Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (dubbed by Carol Richards)
Ze Bon Vivant!
Maurice Chevalier. C’est tout.
“Oh That Mitzi!” from ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932, Paramount)
Music by Oscar Straus • Lyrics by Leo Robin
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Performed by Maurice Chevalier
No video available, so have a listen and picture this, but moving:
“It’s a Bore” from GIGI (1958, MGM)
Music by Frederick Loewe • Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Performed by Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan
And ze world goes ’round.
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