Moulin Rouge (1952 film)

Moulin Rouge (1952 film)
Moulin Rouge

French theatrical poster
Directed by John Huston
Produced by John and James Woolf
Written by John Huston
Anthony Veiller
Pierre La Mure (Novel)
Starring José Ferrer
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Suzanne Flon
Music by Georges Auric
William Engvick
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Editing by Ralph Kemplen
Studio Romulus Films
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 23 December 1952 (1952-12-23)
Running time 119 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $1.5 million

Moulin Rouge is a 1952 film directed by John Huston, produced by Sir John Woolf and James Woolf of Romulus Films and released by United Artists. The film is set in Paris in the late 19th century, following artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in the city's bohemian sub-culture in and around the burlesque palace, the Moulin Rouge. The screenplay is by Huston, based on the novel by Pierre La Mure. The cinematography was by Oswald Morris.

The film stars José Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec, with Zsa Zsa Gabor as Jane Avril, Suzanne Flon, Eric Pohlmann, Colette Marchand, Christopher Lee, Michael Balfour, Peter Cushing, Katherine Kath as La Goulue, Theodore Bikel, and Muriel Smith.



In Paris in 1890, as crowds pour into the Moulin Rouge nightclub, young artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (José Ferrer) finishes a bottle of cognac and sketches the dancers as they perform. The nightclub's regulars each stop by: singer Jane Avril (Zsa Zsa Gabor) teases Henri charmingly, dancers La Goulue (Katherine Kath) and Aicha (Muriel Smith) fight, and owner Maurice Joyant (Lee Montague) 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 (Colette Marchand) begs Henri to rescue her from police sergeant Patou (Georges Lannes). 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 he 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 (Suzanne Flon) 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, in a state of delirium tremens, hallucinates that he sees cockroaches and, in trying to drive them away, accidentally falls 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, including Jane Avril, dance into the room to bid him goodbye.

Main cast

Actor Role
José Ferrer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Zsa Zsa Gabor Jane Avril
Suzanne Flon Myriamme Hayam
Katherine Kath La Goulue
Muriel Smith Aicha
Colette Marchand Marie Charlet
Theodore Bikel King Milo IV of Serbia
Peter Cushing Marcel de la Voisier
Christopher Lee Georges Seurat
Michael Balfour Dodo
Eric Pohlmann Picard

Production notes

The film was shot at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England, and on location in London and Paris. Reportedly, John Huston asked cinematographer Oswald Morris that he wanted the color scheme of the film to look "as if Toulouse-Lautrec had directed it".[1]

Moulin Rouge was shot in three-strip Technicolor. The Technicolor projection print is created by dye transfer from three primary-color gelatin matrices. This permits great flexibility in controlling the density, contrast, and saturation of the print. Huston asked Technicolor for a subdued palette, rather than the sometimes-gaudy colors "glorious Technicolor" was famous for. Technicolor was supposedly reluctant to do this, but the result is distinctive and striking.

In the film, José Ferrer plays both Henri and his father, the Comte Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec. To transform Ferrer into Henri required the use of platforms and concealed pits as well as special camera angles, makeup and costumes. Short body doubles were also used and, in addition, Ferrer used a set of knee-pads of his own design which allowed him to walk on his knees with his lower legs strapped to his upper body. He received high praise not only for his performance, but for his willingness to have his legs strapped in such a manner simply to play a role.

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Moulin Rouge received seven Academy Award nominations and won two:[2]

Rather incredibly, it was not nominated for its color cinematography, which many critics found remarkable. Leonard Maltin, in his annual Movie and Video Guide, declared "If you can't catch this in color, skip it".

BAFTA Awards

The film received three BAFTA Nominations for

  • Best British Film
  • Best Film from any Source
  • Most Promising Newcomer - Colette Marchand

Golden Globe Awards

The film won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Colette Marchand

Other awards

  • Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival - John Huston
  • British Society of Cinematographers - Oswald Morris

The Moulin Rouge Theme became quite well known, and made it to the charts.


External links

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