In this 1960 musical, Shirley MacLaine plays Simone Pistache, the owner of a small cafe in Paris in the late 1890s. She allows the saucy but illegall Can-Can dance to be performed in her establishment (and indeed, is one of the dancers), and winds up in court. Frank Sinatra plays her lawyer and caddish boyfriend Francois (yes, Sinatra plays a French lawyer – albeit with an American accent!), who doesn’t like it when the new Judge Philip Forrestier (played by Louis Jourdan) falls for her. Complications ensue…but who will Simone choose…..?
I loved this film – except for one thing…the ending. I would have given it 10 out of 10, but the ending stopped me from doing so. I won’t reveal what happens, but after reading a few reviews of the film, it appears that several other viewers felt the same way.
However, on the plus side – Louis Jourdan looked amazing and played a great part; Shirley MacLaine defied all my expectations as Simone – she looked stunning, danced beautifully and gave a really very funny turn indeed, and in fact was the best thing about a very enjoyable movie. Sinatra on the other hand, seemed to be walking through his lines; he had some lovely songs, and of course he has that voice, but his acting skills really weren’t up to much (he could certainly turn in a good performance when he felt like it, such as in The Manchurian Candidate and From Here To Eternity), although it didn’t detract from the film overall.
I loved the dancing – the Can-Can itself hardly actually features in the film, but when we do see it, it’s a great dance. Also excellent was a ballet about the story of Adam and Eve, which features towards the end of the film, and which really is a visual treat. There were also plenty of genuinely funny moments, and a soundtrack which was chock-full of great music. Cole Porter wrote much of the music, and while it may not have been his best or most memorable stuff, it is still a joy to listen to.
Overall then, definitely worth watching (and a pleasant surprise), but oh, that ending; the only weak spot in an otherwise lovely film.
Year of release: 1960
Director: Walter Lang
Writers: Dorothy Kingsley, Charles Lederer, Abe Burrows
Main cast: Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier