Moulin Rouge (1953)

118 mins | Drama | March 1953

Director:

John Huston

Cinematographer:

Oswald Morris

Editor:

Ralph Kemplen

Production Designer:

Paul Sheriff
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written foreword: "His palette is caked, his brushes are dry, yet the genius of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is as fresh and alive as the day he laid them down. Here, for a brief moment, they shall be restored to his hands, and he and his beloved city and his time shall live again."
       Toulouse-Lautrec (1864--1901) was born in Albi, France, the only heir to Comte Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec. As depicted in the film, because his parents were first cousins, he was born with a genetic bone condition that made him vulnerable to fractures. Sources vary on his height, with accounts ranging from four feet, six inches to four feet, eleven inches. He moved to Paris in 1872, where he perfected his Impressionist painting style. He concentrated on the then-scandalous subjects of dancing girls, prostitutes and other characters from Parisian nightlife. In addition to painting, he also made several innovations in the fields of printmaking and advertising, and designed posters, journals and domestic furnishings, among other things. He died of complications related to alcoholism at his parents' estate on 9 Sep 1901.
       In his autobiography, John Huston stated that he originally became interested in Toulouse-Lautrec's life when Romulus Films co-owner James Woolf gave him a copy of Pierre La Mure's biography. As he read, he imagined the picture's closing scene almost exactly as it was eventually filmed. He then negotiated with José Ferrer, who had purchased the stage rights to the book in 1951, and with distributor United Artists. DV reported in Jan 1952 that the film was financed by both American company Moulin Productions, started by Harold Mirisch and Ralph Branton, ... More Less

The film begins with the following written foreword: "His palette is caked, his brushes are dry, yet the genius of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is as fresh and alive as the day he laid them down. Here, for a brief moment, they shall be restored to his hands, and he and his beloved city and his time shall live again."
       Toulouse-Lautrec (1864--1901) was born in Albi, France, the only heir to Comte Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec. As depicted in the film, because his parents were first cousins, he was born with a genetic bone condition that made him vulnerable to fractures. Sources vary on his height, with accounts ranging from four feet, six inches to four feet, eleven inches. He moved to Paris in 1872, where he perfected his Impressionist painting style. He concentrated on the then-scandalous subjects of dancing girls, prostitutes and other characters from Parisian nightlife. In addition to painting, he also made several innovations in the fields of printmaking and advertising, and designed posters, journals and domestic furnishings, among other things. He died of complications related to alcoholism at his parents' estate on 9 Sep 1901.
       In his autobiography, John Huston stated that he originally became interested in Toulouse-Lautrec's life when Romulus Films co-owner James Woolf gave him a copy of Pierre La Mure's biography. As he read, he imagined the picture's closing scene almost exactly as it was eventually filmed. He then negotiated with José Ferrer, who had purchased the stage rights to the book in 1951, and with distributor United Artists. DV reported in Jan 1952 that the film was financed by both American company Moulin Productions, started by Harold Mirisch and Ralph Branton, and by Great Britain's Romulus Films, which was co-owned by brothers James and John Woolf. Although Moulin Productions is not mentioned in the credits, HR stated in 1952 that Mirisch had begun Moulin Rouge Corporation, and in 1953 that Mirisch, Branton and Eliot Hyman had co-financed the film. Moulin Productions made one additional film from the profits from Moulin Rouge . For information on that film, Duel in the Jungle , See Entry.
       In order to recreate the same flattened color that Toulouse-Lautrec used in his paintings, Huston hired Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon to experiment with new Technicolor techniques. Huston reported in his autobiography that Elisofon, along with the Technicolor consultants and director of photography Oswald Morris, used a fog-simulating filter to create a monochromatic quality. In addition, a 1971 Focus on Film article revealed that individualized colored lights were chosen for each main character to illustrate his mood, Ferrer was shot in a blue-green filter, Colette Marchand in purple and Suzanne Flon in a pink fill light.
       Ferrer plays both Toulouse-Lautrec and his father, the count. According to a studio press release, to approximate the artist's height, Ferrer was strapped into fake legs with his own legs bound behind him. He declared in his autobiography that the harness was so painful that he could only wear it for a half hour before his circulation was cut off. Marcel Vertès was hired to create sketches and paintings emulating Toulouse-Lautrec's style for the film.
       According to information found in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Huston wrote a letter to Production Code administrator Geoffrey Shurlock in May 1952 assuring him that the can-can girls would wear long stockings and not have flesh exposed. In Dec 1952, however, the film was almost denied a Production Code seal when the advertising campaign image featured a can-can dancer with a partially exposed leg. Within weeks, the poster was edited to cover most of the dancer's thigh. The film premiered in Los Angeles on 23 Dec 1952 in order to qualify for the Academy Awards. The DV review opined that "the apparent rush to open the film here in time for Academy Award qualification has left it without the polish and finish it should have to make the most of its undeniable quality." Before its release, the film was banned by the American Legion. According to a Dec 1952 Var article, however, after Huston and Ferrer met with Legion leaders and denounced Communism, the ban was lifted. HCN recorded in Dec 1952 that in spite of the filmmakers' efforts, some protestors still picketed the premiere with placards reading, "John Huston aided the Un-American Ten" and "The American Legion bans José Ferre."
       Some cast and crew names are misspelled in contemporary reviews. Moulin Rouge received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ferrer), Best Supporting Actress (Marchand), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Editing and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Color). Paul Sheriff and Marcel Vertès won for Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Vertès also won for Costume Design. Despite a huge promotional campaign, the film lost $1.5 million, according to a Jan 1953 DV news item.
       In Feb 1953, Var reported that the Paris bistro Moulin Rouge sued United Artists and exhibitor Fox West Coast for $5 million, stating that it was injured by the "vile, lewd, degraded" picture. The judge dismissed the claim in Nov 1953, calling it insufficient. HR also stated in Jan 1955 that songwriter Leo Martin sued Broadcast Music, Inc., United Artists, CBS, NBC and ABC for $750,000 for the use of the song "Where Is Your Heart," which is credited onscreen as "It's April Again" and is also often referred to as "The Theme from Moulin Rouge ." Martin alleged that he wrote the song but never received credit for it. The disposition of the suit is not known. Although the onscreen credits list Paul Dehn as the writer of the song's English lyrics, current sources credit William Engvick with the current, revised lyrics for which the song is better known.
       An Oct 1964 DV article states that Ferrer planned to adapt, direct and produce a Broadway play based on Toulouse-Lautrec's life and HR reported in Dec 1968 that John Woolf would soon remake Moulin Rouge as a stage musical, but neither production was ever staged. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
24 Dec 52
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1953.
---
Daily Variety
15 Oct 1964.
---
Film Daily
24 Dec 52
p. 8.
Focus on Film
1971.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
24 Dec 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 52
p. 2, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 1968.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
23 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
24 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
24 Dec 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Dec 52
p. 1661.
New York Times
11 Feb 53
p. 33.
Newsweek
23 Mar 1953.
---
Variety
24 Dec 52
p. 6.
Variety
31 Dec 1952.
---
Variety
18 Feb 1953.
---
Variety
2 Sep 1953.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and introducing:
Francis de Wolff
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
John Huston's Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Dubbing ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Miss Gabor's cost des and executed by
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp
DANCE
Dancers dir
MAKEUP
Hairdressing
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Dial coach
Spec montage seq devised by
STAND INS
Voice double for Zsa Zsa Gabor
COLOR PERSONNEL
Spec col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor tech
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Moulin Rouge: A Novel Based on the Life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec by Pierre La Mure (New York, 1950).
SONGS
"It's April Again (Where Is Your Heart
The Theme from Moulin Rouge )," music by Georges Auric, original French lyrics by Jacques Larue, English lyrics by Paul Dehn.
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1953
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 23 December 1952
New York opening: 10 February 1953
Production Date:
23 June--10 September 1952 in Paris and at Shepperton Studios, London
Copyright Claimant:
Moulin Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 February 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3785
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
118
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16156
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Paris in 1890, as crowds pour into the Moulin Rouge nightclub, young artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec finishes a bottle of cognac and sketches the dancers as they perform. The nightclub's regulars each stop by: singer Jane Avril teases Henri charmingly, dancers La Goulue and Aicha fight, and owner Maurice Joyant offers Henri free drinks for a month in exchange for painting a promotional poster. At closing time, Henri waits for the crowds to disperse before standing to reveal his four-foot, six-inch body. As he walks to his Montmartre apartment, he recalls the events that led to his disfigurement: Henri is a bright, happy child, revered by his father, the Count de Toulouse-Lautrec. When he falls down a flight of stairs, however, his legs fail to heal, a genetic weakness that stems from the fact that his parents are first cousins. His legs stunted and pained, Henri loses himself in his art, while his father soon leaves the countess to ensure they will have no more children. As a young adult, Henri proposes to the woman he loves but, when she tells him no woman will ever love him, he leaves his childhood home in despair to begin a new life as a painter in Paris. Back in the present, street walker Marie Charlet begs Henri to rescue her from police sergeant Patou. Henri wards off the policeman by pretending to be her guardian, after which she insists on following him home. There, she addresses his small stature, and although he is at first angry, he allows her to stay out of his desperate loneliness, and is charmed when she claims not to care about his legs. Within days, ... +


In Paris in 1890, as crowds pour into the Moulin Rouge nightclub, young artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec finishes a bottle of cognac and sketches the dancers as they perform. The nightclub's regulars each stop by: singer Jane Avril teases Henri charmingly, dancers La Goulue and Aicha fight, and owner Maurice Joyant offers Henri free drinks for a month in exchange for painting a promotional poster. At closing time, Henri waits for the crowds to disperse before standing to reveal his four-foot, six-inch body. As he walks to his Montmartre apartment, he recalls the events that led to his disfigurement: Henri is a bright, happy child, revered by his father, the Count de Toulouse-Lautrec. When he falls down a flight of stairs, however, his legs fail to heal, a genetic weakness that stems from the fact that his parents are first cousins. His legs stunted and pained, Henri loses himself in his art, while his father soon leaves the countess to ensure they will have no more children. As a young adult, Henri proposes to the woman he loves but, when she tells him no woman will ever love him, he leaves his childhood home in despair to begin a new life as a painter in Paris. Back in the present, street walker Marie Charlet begs Henri to rescue her from police sergeant Patou. Henri wards off the policeman by pretending to be her guardian, after which she insists on following him home. There, she addresses his small stature, and although he is at first angry, he allows her to stay out of his desperate loneliness, and is charmed when she claims not to care about his legs. Within days, he is buying her gifts and singing as he paints, until Marie takes his money and stays out all night. Henri waits in agony for her return, but when she finally does, tells her to leave at once. Realizing that he loves her, she vows to stay and love him back. Although she continues to fight petulantly with him, he tells himself that her crassness stems from her poverty, and lets her stay. During one fight, however, she announces that he can never attract a real woman, and leaves. By morning, she begs him to take her back, but he refuses. He begins drinking and does not stop until his landlady calls his mother, who urges him to save his health by finding Marie. He searches her working-class neighborhood, finally discovering her at a café, where she drunkenly reveals that she stayed with him only to procure money for her boyfriend. When she adds that his touch made her sick, he returns to his apartment and turns on the gas vents. As he sits waiting to die, he is suddenly inspired to finish his Moulin Rouge poster, and brush in hand, distractedly turns the vents off again. The next day, he brings the poster to the dance hall, and although the style is unusual, Maurice accepts it. Henri works for days at the lithographers, blending his own inks to perfect the vivid colors. When he finishes, the poster, which shows a woman dancing with her legs exposed, becomes an instant sensation and the dance hall opens to high society. The count, however, denounces Henri for the "pornographic" work. Over the next ten years, Henri records Parisian life in countless brilliant paintings. By 1900, he is famous but still terribly lonely. One day, he sees Myriamme Hyam standing by the Seine River and, thinking she may jump, stops to talk to her. She spurns his advances and throws a key into the water. Days later, Jane, a friend of Myriamme's, arranges a meeting for them. Myriamme is a great admirer of Henri's paintings, and the two begin to spend time together. Eventually, she reveals that the key she threw out belonged to a married man, Marne de la Voisier, who asked her to be his mistress. Although Henri continues to decry the possibility of true love, he nonetheless falls in love with Myriamme. One day, they see La Goulue on the street drunkenly insisting that she was once a star, and Henri realizes that once the Moulin Rouge became respectable, it could no longer be home to misfits. Myriamme later informs Henri that Marne has asked her to marry him. Certain that she loves the more handsome man, he bitingly congratulates her for trapping Marne. Even after she asks if he loves her, Henri believes she is only trying to spare his feelings and lies that he does not. By the time he receives a letter stating that she loves him but cannot wait any longer, she has already left the city and he cannot find her. Weeks later, he is still drinking steadily and reading her note over and over. He is helped home one night by Patou, now an inspector, but once home, Henri hallucinates and throws himself down a flight of stairs. Near death, he is brought to his family home. After the priest reads the last rites, the count tearfully informs Henri that he is to be the first living artist to be shown in the Louvre, and begs for forgiveness. Henri turns his head and watches as phantasmal characters from his Moulin Rouge paintings dance into the room to bid him goodbye. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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