Cabaret (1972 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cabaret is a 1972 American musical film directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey. The film is set in early 1930s Berlin during the Weimar Republic , before Hitler's rise to power. The film is based on Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical Berlin Stories, a series of books about Berlin and the German cabaret scene in particular.



In 1931 Berlin, American singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) performs at the Kit Kat Klub. A new arrival in the city, Brian Roberts (Michael York), moves into Sally's apartment building. A reserved English academic and writer, Brian gives English lessons to earn a living while completing his German studies. Sally unsuccessfully tries to seduce Brian and suspects he may be gay (Christopher Isherwood, on whose semi-autobiographical book the film is indirectly based, was gay and reportedly "went to Berlin in search of boys to love").

Brian tells Sally he has tried to have romantic relationships with women, all of which have failed. The unlikely pair become friends, and Brian is witness to Sally's anarchic, bohemian life in the last days of the German Weimar Republic. Later in the film, Sally and Brian become lovers despite their earlier reservations, and Brian and Sally conclude with irony that his previous failures with women were because they were "the wrong three girls."

Sally befriends Maximilian von Heune, a rich playboy baron who takes her and Brian to his country estate. It becomes ambiguous which of the duo Max is seducing, epitomized by a scene in which the three dance intimately together in a wine-induced reverie. Max eventually loses interest in the two, and leaves them back in Berlin. When Sally triumphantly tells Brian that she slept with Max, Brian begins to laugh and reveals that he slept with Max as well. After the ensuing argument, Brian storms off and picks a fight with a group of Nazis, who beat him senseless. Brian and Sally make up in their rooming house, where Sally reveals that Max left them an envelope of money.

Later on, Sally finds out that she's pregnant and is unsure whether Brian or Max is the father. Brian offers to marry her and take her back to his university life in Cambridge, but Sally realizes they could never coexist in such a life (and fears that Brian will turn to men) and proceeds with a planned abortion. When Brian confronts her, she shares her fears and the two reach an understanding. The film ends with Brian departing for England by train, and Sally continuing her life in Berlin.

The club's (unnamed) master of ceremonies (Joel Grey) is seen only in his stage persona, but provides repeated knowing looks to the camera that the party is about to end. One brief moment in a sequence of Sally's memories, towards the end, shows the master of ceremonies holding her breasts - hinting that she may have had sexual relations with him at some past time, though this is left deliberately ambiguous.

A subplot concerns Fritz Wendel, a Jew passing as a Christian. Fritz eventually reveals his true background when he falls for Natalia Landauer, a wealthy Jewish heiress. Although they marry, we are left wondering what their fate will be.

The Nazis' violent rise is a powerful, ever-present undercurrent in the film. Though explicit evidence of their actions is only sporadically presented, their progress can be tracked through the characters' changing actions and attitudes. While in the beginning of the film Nazis are sometimes harassed (one was kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub originally), a scene towards the end shows everyday Germans rising in song to rally around Nazism. At the end of the film, the camera passes by a mirror at the Kit Kat Klub, showing many Nazis in the audience.

The rise of the Nazis and their increasing influence on German society is dramatically demonstrated in the beer garden scene: A boy - only his face seen - sings to the seated guests what first seems an innocent lyrical song about the beauties of nature. This gradually shifts to the strident "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" as the camera shifts to show that the boy is wearing a brown Nazi uniform and lifts his hand in the Nazi straight arm salute. One by one, nearly all guests in the beer garden (except a bewildered old man - or an elderly veteran who has seen this before) get up and voluntarily join in the singing and saluting.

Although the songs throughout the film allude to and advance the narrative, every song except "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" is executed in the context of a Kit Kat Klub performance.


Differences in film from stage version

The film is significantly different from the Broadway musical. To accommodate Minnelli, Sally Bowles is Americanized. The character of Cliff Bradshaw was renamed Brian Roberts and made British and bisexual. The character of Max didn't exist in the play (though probably was based on the book's character, Clive), nor did the trip out of Berlin. The Broadway version used special settings to separate the fantasy world of the Cabaret from the darker rest of the world. Fosse essentially created a film with music instead of a musical.

Fosse cut all the book songs that advanced the plot, leaving only the songs that are sung within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub. One exception is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," which is sung in a beer garden. In the stage play, it is sung at a private party. Another is "Married," which is played on a phonograph record when Sally and Brian are having a picnic in the woods. Kander and Ebb wrote several new songs for the movie and removed others; "Don't Tell Mama" was replaced by "Mein Herr," and "Sitting Pretty" (retained in various instrumental versions) was replaced by "Money, Money." Interestingly these Songs composed for the film version have, due to their popularity, now been added to performances of the Stage Musical alongside the original numbers.

Several characters were cut from the film (including Herr Schultz, with Fraulein Schneider's part greatly reduced and the whole romantic subplot removed) and several from Isherwood's original stories put back in. The entire score was re-orchestrated, with all the numbers being accompanied by the stage band.

The following songs from the original Broadway production are missing in the film version, but are still available on the Original Broadway Cast album:

  • So What?
  • Don't Tell Mama
  • Telephone Song
  • Perfectly Marvelous
  • Why Should I Wake Up?
  • Meeskite
  • What Would You Do?

The score

All songs written by John Kander and Fred Ebb

  1. "Willkommen" (Welcome) - Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies and the Cabaret Girls
  2. "Mein Herr" - Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
  3. "Tiller Girls" - Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies and the Cabaret Girls
  4. "Maybe This Time" - Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
  5. "Money, Money" - Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies and Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles
  6. "Two Ladies" - Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies and two of the Cabaret Girls
  7. "Heiraten (Married)" - Greta Keller
  8. "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" - Oliver Collignon as Nazi youth (singing voice provided by Mark Lambert)
  9. "If You Could See Her" - Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies and (unknown) in a gorilla suit
  10. "(Life is a) Cabaret" - Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles

Possible Remake

Renee Zellweger is reportedly in talks to star in a remake of Cabaret, taking the role of Sally Bowles. Zellweger reportedly said: "I do love a challenge as an actress and this would be one of the biggest."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cabaret (1972 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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