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Can Can is a musical romance with a bit of comedy thrown in too, released in 1960 starring Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra and Louis Jourdan.
Simone Pistache runs a night club Bal du Paradis in the late 1800s where she performs the illegal Can-Can dance regularly. Her boyfriend Francois Durnais is not happy when Simone uses her feminine wiles on young judge Philipe Forrestier to prevent him from closing down her club. Even more worrying for him when she up and leaves him to get engaged to said judge!
Does Simone have the right motive to be with Philipe, will Francois let her go so easily and will the club get closed down?
Firstly is the admission that I hadn't seen this film until recently, which is more than 50 years after its original release. Secondly I have to admit that I was enchanted by the film so I'll tell you up front I'm rating this as 5 out of 5 and will be ordered my own copy on my next Amazon shop!
It's really hard to imagine for us living in the 21st century how a dance like the Can Can can have caused so much offence back in the 1800s, have been illegal and considered lewd. We have obviously progressed far beyond the realms of what was considered acceptable public behaviour and I imagine people from that era would be astonished and horrified about what we class as normal in nightclubs these days, e.g. barely clad dancers in cages, song lyrics, etc. Anyone old enough to remember Frankie Goes to Hollywood's song Relax that was banned from the air but still made it to number 1 in the charts but is considered rather acceptable now?
I found MacLaine's character to be rather endearing throughout the film and felt she played the role to perfection. Although the story is set in 1800s France I was glad neither Sinatra or MacLaine tried to fake a French accent. The chemistry between these two was amazing, even if Sinatra was obliged to do this film contractually having had some issues with 20th Century Fox some years previously. Sinatra gave the role his all, was as smooth as ever and in fine singing form all the way through the film. Oh and he just looked so dreamy!!!
MacLaine looked cute and sexy at the same time throughout the film even when she steps out of the water having jumped ship in one scene in a full length evening dress! The costume department really gave her some fabulous outfits to wear. Her dancing was top notch in the song and dance routines and she was spell-binding as a ballet dancer in a scene where a musical Garden of Eden was being performed.
Louis Jourdan plays the naïve and smitten judge Philipe Forrestier. Jourdan was also a pretty gorgeous man and although he's not known for his singing talents he gave his songs his best shot. Maurice Chevalier was very entertaining in his supporting role and Juliet Prowse was pretty as a picture in her first role as well as playing a very decent supporting role and her meeting with Sinatra in this film led to their engagement a couple of years later.
The film, being loosely based on a Cole Porter musical play by Abe Burrows might have received some criticism for being quite different from the play it was based on, seemed to have been made with a huge budget which I understand was 6 million dollars - a rather huge sum considering it was 1960! The sets in some scenes were just so well made that I didn't want the scenes to end and that's saying something. The Garden of Eden musical scene was breath-taking and it's one I imagine I'll be watching over and over again!
Although Can Can was nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Music Score at the 1961 Oscars, it didn't win that year. It did win a Grammy though the same year for Best Soundtrack Album as well as Best Male and Female Musical Performance for Sinatra and MacLaine at the Laurel Awards on 1960. I feel it's a shame the film wasn't received well by critics on its release. I wonder if today's critics would have felt the same way?
The film's soundtrack includes:
* I Love Paris
* C'est Magnifique
* Maidens Typical of France
* Live and Let Live
* Apache Dance
* It's All Right With Me
* You Do Something to Me
* Just One of Those Things
* Come Along With Me
As I've already given the film my rating of 5 out of 5, I'll just add here that the performance of the Can Can at the end of the film is definitely worth a watch although I'm really recommending the whole film for fans of musicals or MacLaine or Sinatra or all of the above! Go on, try it, I doubt you'll regret it...
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, Juliet Prowse
Director: Walter Lang
Producers: Jack Cummings, Saul Chaplin
Cinematography: William H Daniels
Music: Cole Porter (composer and lyrics), Nelson Riddle (direction)
Release date: 1960
Duration: 130 minutes