Sunday, September 12, 2010

MAURICE CHEVALIER AND FARWELL TO LIBERACE




Today would have been the birthday of one of my all time favorite performers, None other than Maurice Chevalier. What an amzingly gifted and incredible performer was this dear man whom Walt Disney and my friends the Sherman Brothers simply adored. He started to tour throughout the United States and other parts of the world and but returned to France in 1948.
In 1949, he was to get into large trouble by performing in Stockholm in a Communist benefit against nuclear arms. In 1944, he had already participated in a Communist demonstration in Paris. He was therefore even less popular in the U.S. during the McCarthyism period; in 1951, he was refused re-entry into the U.S. because he had signed the Stockholm Appeal. In 1952, he bought a large property in Marnes-la-Coquette near Paris, and named it "La Louque", as a homage to his mother's nickname. He started a relationship in 1952 with Janie Michels, a young divorcee with three children. In 1954, after Joseph McCarthy's downfall, Chevalier was welcomed back in the United States. He first full American tour was in 1955, with Vic Schoen as arranger and musical director. The Billy Wilder film Love in the Afternoon (1957) with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper was his first Hollywood film in more than 20 years. Chevalier then appeared in the movie musical Gigi (1958) with Leslie Caron and Hermione Gingold, with whom he shared the song "I Remember It Well", and several Walt Disney films including one of my all time favorites "In Search of he Castaways "with Hayley Mills. The success of Gigi prompted Hollywood to give him an Honorary Academy Award that year for achievements in entertainment. In television, Chevalier appeared in an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1958. In the early 1960s, he toured the United States and between 1960 and 1963 made eight films. The 1960 movie, Can-Can with Frank Sinatra. One of those films, made in 1961, was the dramatic movie Fanny, in which he starred with Leslie Caron and Charles Boyer. This film was an updated version of Marcel Pagnol's "Marseilles Trilogy." In 1965, at 77, he made another world tour. In 1967 he toured in Latin America, again the US, Europe and Canada. The following year, on October 1, 1968, he announced his farewell tour. Chevalier appeared in short film sequences in the 1969 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity. In a wartime short film near the end of the film's second part, he explained his disappearance during World War II as rumors of his death lingered at that time. His song, "Sweepin' the Clouds Away," was one of its theme songs and was played in the end credits of the film's second part. In 1970, several years after his retirement, songwriters Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman got him to sing the title song of the Disney film The Aristocats, which ended up being his final contribution to the film industry.He died in Paris, on January 1, 1972, aged 83, and was interred in the cemetery of Marnes-la-Coquette in Hauts-de-Seine, outside Paris, France. The other sad news today was the announcement in Las Vegas that the once famed Liberace museum that opened in 1979 is going to close and thirty people wil be losing their jobs. How sad! No one remembers this wonderful entertainer. He wil always be a grand part of my heart. I watched him on television in glorious black and white for years and years. He starred in a great movie called "Sincerely Yours" and I shelled out a fortune at the time for a show of his In Las Vegas with a little attraction called "The DancingWaters" the first on stage use of water shot in the air using colored lights. There is a bio pic being discussed in which Michael Douglas will play the famed pianist and Matt damon as his famous lover. Now that should be interesting. A grand free show goes on in New York City this morning as all of Broadway comes out for a free concert at 11:30am. Sure wish I could have been on Times Square this morning. We had a great rehearsal last night for our show "Edgar, Alan & Poe" and it looks like we are really getting this musical together. This is a very special story and I think its one of my best scripts yet. It's getting lots of nice comments from everyone in the cast.That's a good thing.