Saturday, June 1, 2019

Come to the Cabaret






This is my entry in the Broadway Bound Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room 






Cabaret started out as a Broadway show.  Actually it started out as a series of stories written by Christopher Isherwood about life in Berlin, post WWI, just before and immediately after the coming of the Nazi party.  The original play ran on Broadway for three years to the tune of over 1000 performances, good enough for it to squeak into the top 100 of longest running Broadway shows in it's first run alone.  (And time has been kind to many of those ahead of it.  When it closed in 1969 the play would have been ranked in the top 20 in terms of number of performances.)

Cabaret as a film was a resounding success.  It made $42M against a budget of only $2M, good enough to rank it #6  in the top 10 moneymakers of the year.  What beat it out?  Well, The Godfather, of course, but also The Poseidon Adventure, What's Up Doc?, Deliverance and Behind the Green Door. (And in case you were wondering, yes, I did include that tidbit just so I could mention Behind the Green Door in this article...)

At the Oscars that year, Cabaret went head-to-head and toe-to-toe with The Godfather, both films acquiring 10 nominations in various categories, but Cabaret came out on top with 8 Oscars, while The Godfather only went home with 3.  (Of course, The Godfather was the winner of the big one as Best Picture, but still...)

One of the most impressive Oscar wins is the one that went to Joel Grey, who took home Best Supporting Actor.  In order to acquire the gold statuette he had to beat out not one, not two, but three competitors from that same Godfather dynamo.  (Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall).  {Eddie Albert was also in the mix for his role in The Heartbreak Kid, but I'll bet he was a distant 5th in the voting, among that crowd.}

I have stated on numerous occasions that I don't particularly care for musicals.  The reason being that it just seems so unrealistic.  It never happens in real life where somebody will stop what they are talking about and do an exposition in song instead.  (At least, it never happens in the crowd I hang out with, anyway).  But Cabaret and Victor/Victoria both appeal to me and there is a major reason why;  in both movies the songs are just an added feature.  You could take out the songs and the movie would not suffer plot-wise.  Try that with West Side Story.

To be honest, however, there are a handful of musicals I like even with the fact that said songs are necessary to progress the plot.  I like Fiddler on the Roof.  And of course, you would have to have been living in a cave (or at least new to this site)  to NOT know I adored Rocky Horror Picture Show...

Cabaret has some pretty good songs.  The best ones are the ones that feature Miss Liza, but even the opening Joel Grey song "Willkommen" is a toe tapper.




Cabaret (1972):

In 1931 Berlin, life is apparently rather decadent.  The free love movement of the 60's almost pales by comparison.  Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli),  a very free-spirited American woman, is a cabaret singer living in a rooming house with, among others,  a prostitute as a fellow rooming house boarder.




 Into this mix comes Brian Roberts (Michael York), a reserved British professorial student.  Brian makes a living by teaching rich German students English, while working towards a degree.




Sally immediately tries to put the moves on Brian, but he is very standoffish about it.  Sally thinks he may be gay, and Brian for his part does not try to dissuade her from the belief.  He in fact states that he has been with a woman three times and they were all failures.  Despite this, Sally continues to try, on occasion.  And eventually does succeed. (So, "Maybe those three women were just the wrong women...")



Brian begins teaching a young rich Jewish girl, Natalia Landauer (Marissa Berenson), and another of his students, Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper) develops a crush on her. But his attempts at trying to woo her are seemingly doomed to failure, because she insists that her future husband must also be Jewish.  And therein lies the rub, because Fritz is a Christian.  (Or maybe he's not...)




A new man arrives on the scene, Maximillan von Heune (Helmut Griem).  He begins to woo Sally and Brian develops a resentment against the rich playboy.  But later, after Max has moved on to other conquests, part of the truth is revealed in a conversation between Sally and Brian:

Brian: "Oh, screw Max!"
Sally:  "I do."
Brian: (laughing) "So do I..."




Later, when it becomes apparent that Sally is pregnant, and since she has been having relations with both Max and Brian (and possibly others) and therefore doesn't know who the father is, Brian gallantly offers to marry her.  Which she initially accepts.  But because the thought of being a settled down wife to a professor instead of the free-spirit life she prefers begins to bother her, she has an abortion, not telling Brian about it until afterwards.  And this causes their relationship to deteriorate.  Brian, it seems, despite loving Sally's free-spirit attitude just can't accept it as it is.

Throughout the film, the ever-apparent rise of the vicious Nazi party becomes omnipresent.  But most of the characters see them as harmless and ineffective, which gives some shadowing of how such a group could actually come to power.  But Cabaret is not initially meant as a window into the darker side of Germany's history.  Rather it is a look at the more decadent pre-Nazi history which may or may not have been the impetus for the coming future.

Whatever one's view of the lifestyle that people chose to adopt in those Weimar Republic days of Berlin (and truthfully, they aren't quite as decadent as some other periods of history), Cabaret is a wonderful movie on so many levels.

Time to make that trip home.  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy



14 comments:

  1. Fosse's great theatrical sense and background working in film combined masterfully in creating the sensation film of Cabaret.

    Kander and Ebb's Cabaret works so well that it makes me marvel that it took so long (15 years) to adapt the original drama. I also marvel at the creativity of such musical geniuses.

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    1. It does have pizzazz. Thanks for reading.

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  2. "I have stated on numerous occasions that I don't particularly care for musicals. The reason being that it just seems so unrealistic. It never happens in real life where somebody will stop what they are talking about and do an exposition in song instead. (At least, it never happens in the crowd I hang out with, anyway). But Cabaret and Victor/Victoria both appeal to me and there is a major reason why; in both movies the songs are just an added feature. You could take out the songs and the movie would not suffer plot-wise. Try that with West Side Story."

    Gawd...I can't tell you how many times I've said pretty much the same thing. That's why musicals about show business (1954 version of A Star Is Born is the best) tend to avoid that problem.

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    1. I just got back from seeing "Rocketman". They tried every way they could to turn that into a musical. If I'd known before going in I probably would have skipped it. Thanks for reading.

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  3. My favorite movie musical. Fosse was a genius. I think he agreed with you about musicals being unrealistic (I myself love musicals precisely because they aren't like life). That's why he made all the songs part of the stage show. Have you seen Fosse's All That Jazz? Another musical where actors don't break into songs.

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    1. Speaking of Fosse, has anybody been watching the FX mini-series "Fosse Verdon?"

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    2. No, I haven't? Fosse was a crazy-genius, so I hope the TV show is as interesting as its subject matter. :)

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  4. I'm going to have to echo what everyone else says--I like your point about musicals where the music is a feature instead of integrated. They can seem more realistic. Very interesting point. Thanks again for joining the blogathon with this great review!

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    1. I've watched Cabaret four times now. I like it more each time. Thanks for reading.

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  5. 1972 surely was a great year in films! Great review Quiggy! I've only seen this film once but I remember loving it. The ending is quite hard to forget!

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    1. Just The Godfather and Deliverance make this a great movie year. But it also had The Cowboys, Butterflies are Free, and of course Blacula (A movie I need to get around to reviewing). Thanks for reading.

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  6. Great article on a film I love and need to write about. The way the music is presented, as an actual nightclub act in a disreputable gin joint, is far more gritty and realistic than any other musical. Victor Victoria uses the same motif—the songs are performed as numbers in a show rather than moving the plot forward.
    Too bad Liza never topped herself after this role, but it is a humdinger. She was incredible when I saw her in concert several times over the years. What an aura of star quality!
    - Chris

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    1. Your take on Cabaret has been on my wish list since I discovered your blog... Thanks for reading.

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