On the Riviera
Cast & Crew
American entertainer Jack Martin and his French girl friend Colette are performing in the Cote d'Azure nightclub on the Riviera when the audience rushes out to watch a television broadcast of the landing of famed aviator Capitaine Henri Duran. Duran, who is also well known for his romantic escapades, is greeted by his lovely and patient wife Lilli, and his two partners, Philippe Labrix and Louis Forel. Jack is stunned by his uncanny resemblance to Duran, and soon after, when nightclub owner Capeaux threatens to fire him unless he comes up with a sensational new act, Jack decides to perform an impersonation of Duran. Lilli, Duran, Philippe and Louis attend the opening of Jack's new act, and Duran is entertained by Jack's portrayal of him as a world-renowned woman chaser. When he goes backstage to congratulate Jack, Duran meets Colette, and, charmed by her beauty, invites her to an upcoming reception at his house. Meanwhile, Jack goes to the bar, where he meets Lilli and Louis. Lilli is amused as Jack flirts with her, and after she leaves, Colette throws her purse at the infatuated Jack. Later, Philippe and Louis see Lilli chatting with Felix Periton, Duran's chief rival and the proposed buyer of fifty of his new planes. Periton, who is aware that Duran is having financial difficulties, is delaying signing the contract for the planes in order to force Duran into bankruptcy. Unaware of her husband's problems, Lilli invites Periton to the reception, which is to be held that evening. Louis and Philippe are horrified by the situation, especially when they discover that Duran has left for London to ask a friend for a loan. Desperate to hide Duran's absence from Periton, Louis and Philippe hire Jack to impersonate the aviator at the reception. Jack agrees, although he insists that Lilli not be told of the impersonation so that he will not develop stage fright. Without Jack's knowledge, Louis and Philippe do tell Lilli about the charade, and she is so amused that she plays along. Periton tries to involve Jack in a business talk, but Louis and Philippe rescue him by lying that he has received an urgent call from the Air Ministry. Meanwhile, Colette, furious that Jack is missing, decides to attend Duran's reception in order to make Jack jealous. Upon her arrival, however, Colette sees the nearsighted Jack's glasses in his tuxedo pocket and realizes that he is not Duran. Colette then reveals that Capeaux has arranged for their performance that evening to be broadcast on television, and Jack eagerly makes his excuses to Lilli and promises to return shortly. As Jack is leaving, however, Duran returns home and sees him. Duran deduces that Jack has been impersonating him at the reception and watches Jack's television performance with a nervous Louis and Philippe. Despite Colette's warning that she will end their relationship if he returns to Lilli, Jack rushes back to the Duran home. There, he is ambushed by Periton, who insists on learning the details of his conversation with the Air Ministry. Duran and his partners anxiously await the results of Periton and Jack's "negotiations," but Periton leaves without revealing the details. Duran, worried that Lilli is enamoured of Jack, does not tell her that he has switched places with his double. Unknown to Duran, Lilli was aware of his subterfuge, and the next morning, when Duran tells Louis and Philippe that he spent a romantic night with his wife when she thought he was Jack, Louis and Philippe assure Duran that Lilli was only trying to teach him a lesson. Their debate is interrupted by the arrival of Periton, who pays Duran thirty billion francs for his planes. Although he is thrilled by Jack's accidental business success, Duran concocts an elaborate lie to convince Lilli that she spent the night with Jack. Lilli is mortified by the thought that she inadvertantly betrayed her husband, but when Jack stops by the Duran home to retrieve his clothes, she learns the truth. Lilli asks Jack to make Duran jealous, but Jack instead tells Duran that he should end his womanizing and pay more attention to Lilli, who is devoted to him. Duran takes Jack's advice, and later, goes with Lilli to the nightclub to watch Jack perform. Duran has also persuaded Colette to reunite with Jack, and she blows a kiss to Jack as he sings.
Vernal "buzz" Miller
Francesca De Scaffa
Walter M. Scott
Sol C. Siegel
E. Clayton Ward
J. Watson Webb Jr.
Joseph C. Wright
Best Art Direction
On the Riviera
The scenario opens on the Riviera, of course, where American cabaret entertainer Jack Martin (Kaye) is given an ultimatum by his employer (Sig Ruman) to freshen up his act or clean out his dressing room. The desperate song and dance man hits on the idea of exploiting his pronounced resemblance to a local celebrity, the suave and polished aviator, entrepreneur and womanizer Henri Duran (Kaye, again). The act Jack builds around the impression opens to audience applause, with no one more appreciative than the real Duran; less impressed is Henri's gorgeous spouse Lili (Gene Tierney), who's understandably weary of her husband's neglect and tomcatting. Backstage, Duran proves only too quick to flirt with Jack's shapely girlfriend/co-star Colette (Corinne Calvet).
Henri soon has his own problems; his business rival Felix Periton (Jean Murat) has herded him into a potentially ruinous corner, and he has to quickly and quietly fly abroad in search of financial backing. His corporate lieutenants, Lebrix (Marcel Dalio) and Foral (Henri Letondal), learn to their horror that Lili has invited Periton to that evening's scheduled soiree at the Duran home, and he'd be certain to put two and two together when Henri fails to appear. Their frenzied solution? Hire Jack to pose as Duran for the evening. Martin agrees, under the proviso that Lili (with whom he's smitten) is kept in the dark about the ruse. Of course, Lebrix and Foral tell her immediately, and then beg her not to let on. It gets even more confusing from there, particularly when Henri makes an unanticipated return that evening.
The screenplay had its basis in a fizzled Broadway farce entitled The Red Cat that had been mounted for the stage by 20th Century Fox honcho Darryl Zanuck. That's not to say that the studio didn't wind up getting its money's worth; On the Riviera marked Fox's third screen adaptation of the property, following Folies Bergere de Paris (1935) with Maurice Chevalier, Merle Oberon and Ann Sothern; and That Night in Rio (1941), with Don Ameche, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda. (Oddly enough, Kaye works Chevalier and Miranda impersonations into his performance). In a Golden Globe-winning effort, Kaye tackled the contrasting parts with panache and obvious relish; he had already successfully mined the dual-role gimmick once in his career (Wonder Man ), and would do so again (On the Double ).
The material, too, offered a far more mature side to Kaye than the man-child so often on display in his previous Goldwyn vehicles. The denouement--during which a hurt Henri rather callously dupes Lili into believing that she slept with Jack the night before, rather than him--was loaded with double-entendre that amazes in that the censors of the day let it slide. The soundtrack, of course, is laden with the winning patter songs that Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine, so well tailored to his talents, including "Happy Ending," "Popo the Puppet" and the title tune. The choreography bears the unmistakable touch of jazz dance pioneer Jack Cole, and the numbers spotlight his assistant and protégé, the young Gwen Verdon (billed as "Gwyneth" here).
In his biography The Lives of Danny Kaye: Nobody's Fool, Martin Gottfried revealed that the rapport that Verdon shared with Kaye carried over into an off-stage liaison. "The camera moves in, their eyes meet, they nearly kiss, and the energy between them is unmistakable," he wrote. On the Riviera wound up receiving Academy Award nominations for Alfred Newman's score, as well as the set decoration provided by Lyle R. Wheeler, Leland Fuller, Joseph C. Wright, Thomas Little and Walter M. Scott. (Yes, that is Tierney's portrait from Laura (1944) that was used in the decor.)
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Director: Walter Lang
Screenplay: Valentine Davies, Phoebe, Henry Ephron (screen play); Rudolph Lothar, Hans Adler (play); Jessie Ernst (adaptation)
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Art Direction: Leland Fuller, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Earle Hagen, Cyril J. Mockridge, Alfred Newman (all uncredited)
Film Editing: J. Watson Webb, Jr.
Cast: Danny Kaye (Jack Martin/Henri Duran), Gene Tierney (Lili Duran), Corinne Calvet (Colette), Marcel Dalio (Philippe Lebrix), Jean Murat (Felix Periton), Henri Letondal (Louis Foral), Clinton Sundberg (Antoine), Sig Ruman (Gapeaux), Joyce MacKenzie (Mimi), Monique Chantal (Minette).
by Jay S. Steinberg
On the Riviera
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, William Perlberg was originally scheduled to produce this picture, for which Corinne Calvet was borrowed from Hal Wallis' company. Hollywood Reporter news items also note that production on the picture was intermittently halted to allow the principals time to rehearse dance numbers, and that background footage was shot on location in the French Riviera. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA rejected a April 28, 1950 draft of the film's screenplay because "the last part of the story...seems to be based in large measure on the suspicion of illicit relationships between the various characters." A later screenplay was approved, however.
According to studio publicity, On the Riviera marked the first English-speaking role of noted French actor Jean Murat, as well as the film debuts of model Mari Blanchard and socialite Franchesca de Scaffa. Dancer Gwen Verdon, who was known as Gwyneth early in her career, also made her film debut in On the Riviera. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Danny Kaye's longtime accompanist, Stanley Praeger, was to appear in the picture, his appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed. The song "Popo the Puppet," written by Kaye's wife and frequent collaborator, Sylvia Fine, became one of Kaye's most popular songs. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Color) and Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture).
Twentieth Century-Fox produced three earlier films based on the play by Rudolph Lothar and Hans Adler: a 1935 version, entitled Folies Bergère de Paris, which was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Maurice Chevalier and Merle Oberon; Del Ruth also directed the 1935 French-language version, entitled L'homme des Folies Bergère, which starred Chevalier and Natalie Paley (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); and a 1941 version, That Night in Rio, which was directed by Irving Cummings and starred Alice Faye and Don Ameche.