Maurice Chevalier


Actor
Maurice Chevalier

About

Also Known As
Maurice Auguste Chevalier
Birth Place
Paris, FR
Born
September 12, 1888
Died
January 01, 1972
Cause of Death
Heart Attack Following Surgery

Biography

The epitome of the worldly French song-and-dance man, Maurice Chevalier was one of the 20th century's most beloved entertainers, delighting audiences the world over in a five-decade career that encompassed vaudeville, light opera, motion pictures and concerts. Perennially decked out in tuxedo tails and a rakish straw boater, Chevalier crooned love songs in a honeyed Gallic accent that en...

Photos & Videos

In Search of the Castaways - Movie Posters
Fanny - Movie Poster
The Merry Widow (1934) - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Yvonne Vallee
Wife
Actor. Married in 1927; divorced in 1935.

Bibliography

"Ma route et mes chansons"
Maurice Chevalier (1950)

Notes

He was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1938.

Awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Biography

The epitome of the worldly French song-and-dance man, Maurice Chevalier was one of the 20th century's most beloved entertainers, delighting audiences the world over in a five-decade career that encompassed vaudeville, light opera, motion pictures and concerts. Perennially decked out in tuxedo tails and a rakish straw boater, Chevalier crooned love songs in a honeyed Gallic accent that endeared him to theatergoers in the teens and early 1920s before entering silent features. Hollywood beckoned in the early 1930s, and he enjoyed a string of musical hits, including "Love Me Tonight" (1932) before returning to France prior to World War II. Allegations of collaborations with the Nazis dogged his career during the 1940s, but he returned more popular than ever in the late 1950s, thanks to "Gigi" (1958), which earned him a special Oscar. Chevalier would go on to essay courtly grandfathers until his retirement in 1968. His death in 1972 marked the end of a charmed life, dedicated to spreading the gospel of love and happiness through a song, a smile and a tip of a hat.

Born Maurice Auguste Chevalier on Sept. 12, 1888, he was the youngest of nine children by his father, a house painter, and his Belgian mother. Their father often struggled to find steady work, so Chevalier left school at the age of 11 to help support the family through a wide variety of odd jobs - from carpenter's apprentice and printer to doll painter. In 1901, he entered show business with one of his brothers as acrobats, but suffered a serious injury that forced him to pursue less dangerous employment in entertainment. Chevalier began singing in cafes', where he compensated for his featherweight vocals by adding a touch of wry comedy to his delivery. He began performing in local theater revues, where he developed an ardent following.

In 1909, he teamed with the celebrated but tragic music hall singer Fréhel in a professional relationship that soon blossomed into romance. Her chronic drug and alcohol addictions forced him to sever ties with her in 1911. Chevalier then entered into a similar partnership with Mistinguett, one of the most popular French singers of the early 20th century. Their collaboration gave his career the boost it needed, but in 1914, he was sent to the frontlines to fight for France in World War I. Chevalier was wounded and captured during the first weeks of combat, and spent the next two years as a prisoner of war in Germany. While imprisoned, he learned to speak English from British fellow prisoners before he was released in 1916, reportedly through the intervention of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who was a devoted admirer of Mistinguett. For his service to his country, Chevalier was awarded the Croix du Guerre.

Upon his return to civilian life, Chevalier's star resumed its ascent through his celebrated appearances at Le Casino de Paris. There, he created his iconic stage persona: the jaunty Gallic swain in a tuxedo and straw boater hat, singing songs of love, as well as jazz and ragtime with roguish charm and a touch of risqué humor. He was soon appearing in silent films, though none matched the success that he had enjoyed with his music hall career. In 1920, Douglas Fairbanks offered him a chance to make his Hollywood debut, but he demurred, citing the lack of overwhelming response to his films in France. Two years later, he scored one of the biggest hits of his career with the operetta "Dédé," which brought him to Broadway. Now a celebrated star in America, he signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and made his American film debut in the musical "Innocents of Paris" (1929). That same year, he starred in Ernst Lubitsch's "The Love Parade," the first of four screen collaborations with singer and actress Jeanette MacDonald. Chevalier's performance, earmarked by the overripe French accent he would assume for his English-speaking roles - off-camera, his English was more subdued - would earn him an Oscar nomination, and would repeat this personal triumph the following year for "The Big Pond" (1930). The latter film would also be noted for providing him with two signature songs, "Livin' in the Sunlight, Lovin' in the Moonlight" and "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me," which the Marx Brothers later parodied in "Monkey Business" (1930).

Chevalier would enjoy numerous successes in Hollywood, the most notable of which was "Love Me Tonight" (1932), his third collaboration with MacDonald following 1932's "One Hour with You." The film, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and featuring songs by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, was significant to the development of Hollywood musicals in that it integrated its songs and dialogue, rather than presenting its story as a framework for stand-alone music numbers. The final Chevalier-MacDonald collaboration came with 1934's "The Merry Widow," the first English adaptation of Franz Lehar's German operetta. The following year, Chevalier left Paramount for MGM and returned to France, where he resumed his stage career while appearing in movies in France and England.

Chevalier was performing his revue at the Casino du Paris when German forces occupied France during World War II. He was asked by the Nazis to sing in Berlin, which he refused, but eventually did give a performance for prisoners of war in Germany. After the Allies liberated France in 1944, rumors began to circulate in the English-speaking press that Chevalier's performance constituted collaboration with the enemy. Though a French court cleared his name, his reputation in America was ruined, and he would not set foot in the United States for several years.

Chevalier resumed his film career in 1947, appearing largely in European features. His status as persona non grata in the U.S. continued for another decade, exacerbated in part by his participation in the Stockholm Appeal, a 1950 document signed by countless scientific and entertainment figures that called for an absolute ban on nuclear weapons. His signature on the Appeal did not sit well with the growing anti-Communist movements in America, and his request for a visa to visit the country was denied in 1951. But the decline of McCarthyism in the mid-1950s restored Chevalier's reputation as a beloved entertainment on a global scale, and he would mount his first nationwide U.S. tour in 1955.

His first Hollywood featured in over two decades came with 1957's "Love in the Afternoon," a somewhat adult comedy by Billy Wilder with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper as unlikely lovers. The following year, Chevalier co-starred in "Gigi" (1958) as an aging but still charming roué who helped to broker a romance between Leslie Caron's carefree innocent and his jaded nephew (Louis Jordan). Among the film's glittering array of songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe was "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," which became one of Chevalier's signature tunes. So charmed was the Hollywood community by his performance in "Gigi" that the Motion Picture Academy awarded him with an honorary Oscar. The success of the film would set the tone for Chevalier's subsequent features, which saw him play wise, life-affirming elder statesmen in "Can-Can" (1960) opposite Frank Sinatra and "Fanny" (1961), which reunited him with Leslie Caron.

Chevalier maintained a breathless film schedule between 1960 and 1963, which included Walt Disney Pictures' "In Search of the Castaways" (1962). He would give his final acting turn for the company in an unremarkable live action comedy called "Monkeys Go Home!" (1965). Three years later, after a pair of substantial world tours and a special Tony Award for his contributions to theater, the 80-year-old Chevalier announced his retirement. In 1970, songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman lured him back for one more song, the title track for "The Aristocats," an animated feline feature set during turn-of-the-century Paris. Following surgery for a kidney ailment, Chevalier would die in his beloved city on Jan. 1, 1972.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Monkeys, Go Home! (1967)
Father Sylvain
I'd Rather Be Rich (1964)
Philip Dulaine
Panic Button (1964)
Philippe Fontaine
A New Kind of Love (1963)
Himself
Black Tights (1962)
Narrator
Black Tights (1962)
Introduction
In Search of the Castaways (1962)
Jacques Paganel
Jessica (1962)
Father Antonio
Pepe (1961)
Fanny (1961)
Panisse
A Breath of Scandal (1960)
Prince Philip
Can-Can (1960)
Paul Barriere
Count Your Blessings (1959)
Duc de St. Cloud
Gigi (1958)
Honoré Lachaille
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
Claude Chavasse
The Heart of Show Business (1957)
Man About Town (1947)
Emile Clément
Pieges (1939)
Break the News (1938)
Francois Verrier
L' Homme du Jour (1937)
The Beloved Vagabond (1936)
Folies Bergère de Paris (1935)
Fernand, the Baron Cassini/Eugene Charlier
L'homme des Folies Bergère (1935)
Deux roles, d'Eugene Charlier et Baron Cassini
The Merry Widow (1934)
[Count] Danilo
La veuve joyeuse (1934)
Danilo
The Way to Love (1933)
François
A Bedtime Story (1933)
Rene [Vicomte de St. Denis]
L'amour guide (1933)
François
Make Me a Star (1932)
Love Me Tonight (1932)
Maurice Courtelin
One Hour with You (1932)
Dr. André Bertier
Une heure près de toi (1932)
Dr. Bertier
Le petit café (1931)
Albert Loriflan
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
Niki [Nikolaus von Preyn]
The Stolen Jools (1931)
Galas de la Paramount (1930)
Paramount on Parade (1930)
The Love Parade (1930)
Count Alfred
Playboy of Paris (1930)
Albert
La grande mare (1930)
Pierre Mirande
The Big Pond (1930)
Pierre Mirande
Innocents of Paris (1929)
Maurice Marny
Affaire de la Rue de Lourcine (1923)
La Valse renversante (1917)
Une Soiree mondaine (1917)
Par Habitude (1911)
Un Marie qui se fait attendre (1911)
La Mariee recalcitrante (1911)
Trop Credule (1908)

Music (Feature Film)

Same Old Song (1998)
Song Performer
Le Bal (1984)
Song Performer
Entre Nous (1983)
Song Performer
The Happy Road (1957)
Composer
Man About Town (1947)
Composer

Cast (Special)

Music By Cole Porter (1965)
Guest
The Gershwin Years (1962)
Invitation to Paris (1960)
Host
The Rosalind Russell Show (1959)
Guest

Music (Special)

You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story (1990)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Short)

Maurice Chevalier (1962)
Archival Footage

Life Events

1908

Film acting debut, "Trop Credule", in France

1914

Interned in a German POW camp during WWI; reputedly learend English from other prisoners

1928

First US film appearance, the silent travelogue film, "Bonjour New York"

1929

Hollywood feature starring debut, "Innocents of Paris"

1929

First film with director Ernst Lubtisch and co-star Jeannette MacDonald, "The Love Parade"

1935

Left Hollywood; last film, "Folies Bergere"

1939

Last film for eight years, "Pieges", directed by Robert Siodmak

1947

Returned to films in Rene Clair's "Le Silence est d'or"

1957

Achieved prominence again in Hollywood beginning with "Love in the Afternoon"

1958

Co-starred in "Gigi"

1967

Last feature film role, "Monkeys Go Home!"

1970

Was a song performer for the animated feature "The Aristocats"

Photo Collections

In Search of the Castaways - Movie Posters
In Search of the Castaways - Movie Posters
Fanny - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster from Fanny (1961), starring Leslie Caron. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Merry Widow (1934) - Publicity Stills
The Merry Widow (1934) - Publicity Stills
Love Me Tonight - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from Paramount's Love Me Tonight (1932), starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Love Parade - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from The Love Parade (1929), starring Maurice Chevalier. Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate information. (The top has been trimmed from this example).
Love in the Afternoon - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (1957), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Some Came Running - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Some Came Running (1959), directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine.

Videos

Movie Clip

In Search Of The Castaways (1962) - Glasgow, 1858 Opening on the Glasgow docks, Mary (Hayley Mills) and Robert (Keith Hamshere) Grant, with friend Professor Paganel (Maurice Chevalier) outwit a semi-compassionate guard (Ronald Fraser), in hopes of reaching powerful Lord Glenarvan, in Disney’s international hit In Search Of The Castaways, 1962, from the Jules Verne novel.
In Search Of The Castaways (1962) - Confounded Wharf Rats! After their long fruitless effort in South America, Ayerton (George Sanders, his first scene) observes the party led by Lord Glenarvan (Wilfrid Hyde White), with his son (Michael Anderson Jr.), professor Paganel (Maurice Chevalier) and the Grant children (Hayley Mills, Keith Hamshere) searching for their father, in Disney’s In Search Of The Castaways, 1962.
In Search Of The Castaways (1962) - It's An Earthquake! In the Andes on the search for their lost sailor father, Mary (Hayley Mills) and Robert (Keith Hamshere) are awakened by rumblings, delighting their pal Professor Paganel (Maurice Chevalier) and less so their sponsor Lord Glenarvan (Wilfrid Hyde White), Michael Anderson Jr. his son, in Disney’s In Search Of The Castaways, 1962.
Gigi (1958) - Thank Heaven For Little Girls After the elaborate overture and opening, Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) with the famous Lerner and Loewe number "Thank Heaven For Little Girls," from Vincente Minnelli's best picture winner Gigi, 1958.
Folies Bergere De Paris (1935) - Kissing Is Not Hygenic Having left the stage teasing his impression of socialite Baron Cassini, Maurice Chevalier as singer Charlier is assaulted by partner Mimi (Ann Sothern), then appears as the baron, accompanied by Merle Oberon in her first Hollywood film, 20th Century Fox's Folies Bergere De Paris, 1935.
Folies Bergere De Paris (1935) - Rhythm Of The Night After a modest opening number and wardrobe change, Paris entertainer Charlier (Maurice Chevalier) with a big one, song by Jack Stern and Jack Meskill, dance by Dave Gould, Ann Sothern as partner Mimi, opening the Darryl Zanuck 20th Century Fox musical Folies Bergere De Paris, 1935.
Folies Bergere De Paris (1935) - You've Very Naughty In the bar of a Paris theater, Baroness Cassini (Merle Oberon) has escort de Lac (Walter Byron) introduce singer Charlier (Maurice Chevalier), who's made a hit impersonating her famous husband, bothering his girlfriend (Ann Sothern), in 20th Century Fox's frothy Folies Bergere De Paris, 1935.
Gigi (1958) - She Is Not Thinking Of Me First Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) in person, then Gaston (Louis Jourdan), voiced-over, with the Lerner and Loewe songs "Gossip," then "She Is Not Thinking Of Me," in Vincente Minnelli's Gigi, 1958.
Gigi (1958) - I Remember It Well Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) and Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) at the beach, recalling their younger days with Lerner and Loewe's "I Remember It Well," in Vincente Minnelli's Gigi, 1958.
Merry Widow, The (1934) - Vilia First proper number for the wealthy, reclusive widow Sonia (Jeanette MacDonald), witty staging from director Ernst Lubitsch, Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) among the onlookers, the song by Franz Lehar and Lorenz Hart, in MGM's The Merry Widow, 1934.
Merry Widow, The (1934) - In The Mood For A Banker Count Danilo partying at Maxim's in Paris, summoned by night-lifer Marcelle (Minna Gombel), and quite unaware that the new girl Fifi (Jeanette MacDonald) is the tax-fugitive widow he's supposed to be capturing, in Ernst Lubitsch's The Merry Widow, 1934.
Merry Widow, The (1934) - Girls! Girls! Girls! Maurice Chevalier as "Danilo" with the opening number by Franz Lehar and Lorenz Hart, Jeanette MacDonald slipping in as the mysterious widow, from Ernst Lubitsch's celebrated 1934 version of The Merry Widow.

Trailer

Companions

Yvonne Vallee
Wife
Actor. Married in 1927; divorced in 1935.

Bibliography

"Ma route et mes chansons"
Maurice Chevalier (1950)

Notes

He was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1938.

Awarded the Croix de Guerre.