Cast & Crew
Zsa Zsa Gabor
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.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Robert Le Fort
Francis De Wolff
Raf De La Torre
Ina De La Haye
A. E. Rudolph
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Supporting Actress
Moulin Rouge (1952)
Director-screenwriter Huston was interested in making a film of Toulouse-Lautrec's life, and contacted Jose Ferrer about playing the lead. He was surprised to find Ferrer had already optioned the rights to La Mure's novel to develop it into a play. The two worked together to create a fuller, more complex portrait than the character in La Mure's book, but some of the more flamboyant, outrageous aspects of the artist's life are absent in Huston's screen version.
What is more outstanding than any question of biographical verisimilitude is the way Huston and his crew evoked the period and Toulouse-Lautrec's art through costumes and cinematography. Huston claimed to have spent a year in Paris as a starving young artist (an assertion open to dispute) and he certainly had a deep interest in painting. In fact, it may have been his enthusiasm to recreate the look and feel of Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings on screen that attracted him to this project more than the details of his subject's life. With the help of Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon as special color consultant, director of photography Oswald Morris worked at capturing the quality of the artist's work through the use of color filters and blue-green backgrounds splashed with orange, yellow, and pink. Huston found Technicolor too sharp in its contrasts, so he had Morris use an array of spotlights in a wide range of colors to tint each shadow and highlight. Morris' critically praised work was overlooked in the film's seven Oscar nominations, but Marcel Vertes' costume design and Paul Sheriff's art direction (along with Vertes' set decoration) brought home awards. Other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ferrer), Best Supporting Actress (French ballerina Colette Marchand in the role of a prostitute who almost drives Toulouse-Lautrec to suicide), and Best Editing (Ralph Kemplen).
The production was very grueling for Ferrer, who went to great pains to achieve a physical likeness to the character. Toulouse-Lautrec suffered from a congenital bone disease that stunted his growth to under five feet - the top of his body developed into adulthood but his legs never did. To create the illusion that the nearly six-foot actor was tiny, Ferrer bent his knees and relaxed his legs for medium and close shots. In several sequences requiring full body shots, the actor had his legs painfully strapped behind him as he walked on his knees. At such times, frequent breaks would have to be taken in filming while Ferrer had his legs massaged extensively to restore circulation.
Huston, who had a reputation for being a heavy drinker, a womanizer, and often difficult to get along with, drove his actors hard, pushing them to their limits on this production. A physically daring, driven man, he was quite different than the more cerebral Ferrer, and the two were rumored to be at odds through much of the shoot. Typical of the way he was accused of abusing people to the breaking point to test their worthiness, Huston forced Marchand to play a scene over and over again in a too-tight corset, driving her to near hysterics over her inability to breathe properly. When he was satisfied he had the scene he wanted, he hugged the young woman and presented her with flowers and champagne. But there was very little even Huston could do with Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was cast in the part of singer Jane Avril, one of Toulouse-Lautrec's most famous subjects. Huston wanted to replace her, but it was decided to keep her since her singing voice was dubbed anyway. Not much could be done about her acting, however, and the director resorted to getting Marchand to show her how to walk because "she moved like a tank," according to cinematographer Morris. At one point, Huston threatened her by saying, "If you go dead again on the end of a line, I'll shoot you." Oddly enough, the two eventually became friendly because of their mutual love of horses.
Look for future British horror movie stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in small roles. Lee has an uncredited bit as famed pointillist painter Georges Seurat.
Director: John Huston
Producer: John Huston
Screenplay: John Huston, Anthony Veiller, based on the novel by Pierre La Mure
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Editing: Ralph Kemplen
Art Direction: Paul Sheriff
Original Music: Georges Auric
Cast: Jose Ferrer (Toulouse-Lautrec), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jane Avril), Suzanne Flon (Myriamme Hirman), Colette Marchand (Marie Charlet), Theodore Bikel (Milo IV, King of Serbia), Peter Cushing (Marcel de la Voisier), Jill Bennett (Sarah), Claude Nollier (Countess de Toulouse-Lautrec), Katherine Kath (La Goulue).
By Rob Nixon
Moulin Rouge (1952)
Henri, we heard you were dying. We simply had to come say good-bye.- Jane Avril
Artist Marcel Vertes, whose hand is seen making "Lautrec" drawings, paid part of his tuition in art school by forging and selling "Lautrec" drawings.
Much of the cinematography was intended to resemble the poster art of Toulouse-Lautrec. Some of the costumes and character makeup also paid homage to his poster art.
Tall actor Jose Ferrer was transformed into the short artist Toulouse-Lautrec by the use of camera angles, makeup, costume, concealed pits and platforms and short body doubles.
This Moulin Rouge and Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001) won the same Academy Awards: Art Direction and Costume Design.
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 September 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. Daily Variety reported in January 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, Hollywood Reporter 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 above.
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 December 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 December 23, 1952 in order to qualify for the Academy Awards. The Daily Variety 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 December 1952 Variety article, however, after Huston and Ferrer met with Legion leaders and denounced Communism, the ban was lifted. Hollywood Citizen-News recorded in December 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 January 1953 Daily Variety news item.
In February 1953, Variety 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 November 1953, calling it insufficient. Hollywood Reporter also stated in January 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 October 1964 Daily Variety article states that Ferrer planned to adapt, direct and produce a Broadway play based on Toulouse-Lautrec's life and Hollywood Reporter reported in December 1968 that John Woolf would soon remake Moulin Rouge as a stage musical, but neither production was ever staged.
Released in United States Spring March 6, 1953
Film debut for British actress Jill Bennett.
Released in United States Spring March 6, 1953