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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 Berlin during the Weimar Republicmarker in 1931, under the ominous presence of the growing Nazi Party.

The film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadwaymarker musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood and the play I Am a Camera. Only a few numbers from the stage score were used; Kander and Ebb wrote new ones to replace those that were discarded. In the traditional manner of musical theater, characters in the stage version of Cabaret sing to express emotion and advance the plot, but in the film version, musical numbers are confined to the stage of the cabaret and to a beer garden. Only two of the film's major characters sing any songs.

Cabaret was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1973, and nearly performed a clean sweep, winning 8, including Best Director (Bob Fosse), Best Actress (Liza Minnelli), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Joel Grey), and winning for Cinematography, Editing, Music, Art Direction (Rolf Zehetbauer, Hans Jürgen Kiebach, Herbert Strabel) and Sound (losing Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay to The Godfather). It won 7 BAFTA awards, including Best Film, Best Direction and Best Actress, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture . Cabaret was produced by ABC Pictures and first distributed in the US by Allied Artists. Warner Bros. is the current US distributor.

In 1995, Cabaret was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

In 2006, Cabaret ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals; the song "Cabaret" was ranked #18 on their 100 Years...100 Songs list in 2004.

In 2007, this film ranked #63 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies.

Cabaret was shot mainly in low light and has a Expressionist feel in the musical sequences.


In early 1930s 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 that on three previous occasions he has tried to have physical 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 Republicmarker. 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. After a (presumably) bad sexual experience with Brian, Max loses interest in the two, and departs from 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 Cambridgemarker, but Sally realizes they could never coexist in such a life 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, singing "Cabaret" to a highly appreciative audience.

A subplot in Cabaret 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 and even kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub, a scene midway through the film shows everyday Germans rising in song to rally around Nazism, and the final shot of the film reflects (literally) that the cabaret's audience is dominated by Nazi party members.

While he does not play a role in the main plot or subplot, the "Master of Ceremonies" (Joel Grey) serves in the role of storyteller throughout the film, acting as a bit of voyeur in the circus atmosphere. His surface demeanor is one of benevolence and hospitality ("Wilkommen"), but when the floor show gets underway, he exposes the audience (and the viewer) to the seedy world of the Cabaret. His intermittent songs in the Kit Kat Klub are risque and pointedly mock the Nazis. But even so, as the show (and the film) draws to a close, he sees the writing on the wall: he bids the audience good night, his smile now seems drawn, he performs a hurried bow, and quickly disappears behind the curtain. The camera slowly pans to a mirror, 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 becomes the strident "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" as the camera shifts to show that the boy is wearing a brown Hitler Youth uniform and lifts his hand in the Nazi salute. One by one, nearly all guests in the beer garden 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 between film and stage version

The film is significantly different from the Broadway musical. To accommodate Minnelli, Sally Bowles is Americanizedmarker. 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 cut several of the songs from the book, leaving only the songs that are sung within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, and "Tomorrow Belongs to Me"-- sung in a beer garden, though in the stage play, it is sung at a private party. Kander and Ebb wrote several new songs for the movie and removed others; "Don't Tell Mama" was replaced by "Mein Herr," and "The Money Song" (retained in an instrumental version as "Sitting Pretty") was replaced by "Money, Money." Interestingly, "Mein Herr" and "Money, Money," which were composed for the film version, have, due to their popularity, now been added to performances of the Stage Musical alongside the original numbers. The song "Maybe This Time," which Sally performs at the cabaret, was not written for the film. Kander and Ebb had written it years earlier (for their unproduced musical Golden Gate), thus making it ineligible for an Academy Award nomination.

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?

Minnelli continues to perform "Cabaret" at most of her concerts. "Maybe This Time" has become one of her standards; she has also had success with "So What?," a song that was performed in the Broadway original by Lotte Lenya. A fine medley from "Cabaret" appears on the DVD "Liza With A Z." Louis Armstrong recorded "Cabaret" twice, hoping to turn it into another "Hello, Dolly." Tony Bennett performs "Maybe This Time" in concert with altered lyrics. "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" has been adopted as an anthem of sorts by White Pride groups, who downplay or deny the fact that the song was written by two Jewish gay men.

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

DVD and Blu-ray

The film was first released to DVD in 1998. There have been two subsequent releases in 2003 and 2008.

The international home video rights to the film are owned by Freemantle, while Warner Bros. (which inherited the film from Lorimar, Fre Allied Artists' successor-in-interest) has domestic rights. Today, Warner shares the film's copyright with production partner ABC.

Fremantel originally planned a Blu-ray release of the film, and several dates in 2008 and 2009 had been put forward, but have now announced they no longer plan to release the film on Blu-ray.

Possible remake

In 2005, Renee Zellweger was 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.". However, the idea appears to have been dropped.

See also



External links

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