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A singer marries a famous composer, and after a while she gets the itch to go back on the stage. However, her husband won't let her. When she hears that a popular French singer named "Raquel" is coming to New York, she decides to go to Raquel with a plan--unbeknownst to her husband, "Raquel" is actually her sister, and her plan is for them to switch places so she can fulfill her dream of going back on the stage. However, things don't go quite as planned. Written by
Don't be misled by the title of the film. Moulin Rouge does not take place in Paris at all. It's a pleasant backstage musical comedy story though no one will mistake it for 42nd Street.
It gives Constance Bennett a chance to imitate Fifi d'Orsay and play a dual role as twin sisters. Once upon a time Connie and Connie were a sister act. But one Connie went to France and became a big musical French star like a Caucasian Josephine Baker and the other Connie stayed in America and married Franchot Tone. But no one knows American Connie has a twin sister with a decided French accent like Fifi d'Orsay.
French Connie's been imported by producer Tullio Carminati to star in his Broadway revue. American Connie wants to get back into show business, but husband Tone isn't having that at all.
Anyway French Connie wants a break, so the sisters agree to switch. Of course this causes complications as Franchot is much taken with who he thinks is a French star that bears a fascinating resemblance to his wife and Carminati is on the make himself for her.
I think most of you can see where this is going. Like the Busby Berkeley films which Moulin Rouge tries so hard to imitate, the plot is just a flimsy device for the final numbers in the show.
The film has two things going for it that make it slightly better than some ersatz Berkeley. The first is the song writing team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, imported from Warner Brothers and some Berkeley films they were writing. The second is choreographer Robert Muskert who has only two film credits, Moulin Rouge and the Paul Whiteman revue, The King of Jazz. But he's more importantly known as the founder and first choreographer of the New York City Radio Hall Rockettes. Look in that chorus line and you might spot a young Lucille Ball.
Bennett gets to sing two great Harry Warren songs. The first is a duet with Russ Columbo later re-prised by the Boswell Sisters, Coffee in the Morning. And the second is that famous torch ballad Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Two decades later Boulevard of Broken Dreams was revived and became a big mega-hit for a young and up and coming singer named Tony Bennett.
I have to say Constance Bennett did quite well with both numbers. She also turned in a fine performance. And Franchot Tone got to wear tails again.
And you thought he'd get a break from that just cause he was on a loan out from MGM.
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