Cast & Crew
[The following plot summary is based on the English-language version of this film, Folies Bergère de Paris ; character names refer to that version.] After Eugene Charlier, star of the Folies Bergère in Paris, impersonates in his act the flirtatious Baron Cassini, the real baron, Fernand, goes backstage to congratulate Charlier and meets Charlier's lover Mimi, whom he tries to seduce. Meanwhile, Genevieve, the baroness, who is disillusioned with the baron's cheating and their passionless marriage, calls Charlier to her table, but she is taken aback when he flirts with her. When Henri Baneffe and Gustave Chatillard, the officials at the baron's bank, learn that the baron has gone to London to avoid bankruptcy by trying to get a loan to repay the twenty million francs he lost on the Nero mine in Mozambique, they hire Charlier to impersonate the baron during a reception for the premier of France. Genevieve plays along with the deception, although Charlier does not know that she knows he is not Fernand, and as a jest, she encourages his romantic inclinations. When Monsieur Paulet, the finance minister, asks to buy the baron's shares of stock in the Nero mine, Charlier unwittingly gets the price up to twenty-five million francs. Meanwhile, Mimi, angry at Charlier's absence, goes to visit the baron, whereupon Charlier, as the baron, kisses her to test her fidelity. She backs away until she recognizes the scratch marks she gave Charlier earlier, and then, to make him jealous, asks him to make violent love to her. Charlier slaps her, they argue and he leaves. The real baron returns and, having learned that Genevieve earlier had flirted with Charlier, tries to seduce her. Realizing the ruse, Genevieve kisses the baron passionately and leaves him thinking that she has betrayed him, but the next day, the baron, now aware of his wife's game, convinces her that he just arrived in town that morning. Ill with despair because she thinks that she earlier kissed Charlier, Genevieve learns the truth when he comes for a letter of recommendation. Although she tries to confuse the baron further, he kisses her passionately to prove that the earlier kiss was his. Later, he and the baroness watch Charlier, who has reconciled with Mimi, perform again in the Folies Bergère.
Roy Del Ruth
Joseph M. Schenck
This was a French-language version of the 1935 film Folies Bergère de Paris. The onscreen credits for the French version of the film were taken from a screen credit sheet in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library. Reviews of the New York opening of the play The Red Cat, upon which this film was based, noted that it was presented with the backing of Twentieth Century Pictures. The Variety reviewer of the film commented that the play was a flop. According to the Motion Picture Herald review of the play, the character of "Baron Cassini" was based on "a combination of Otto Kahn, Match King [Ivar] Kreuger, with a touch of the late Monsieur [Serge Alexandre] Stavisky."
According to a Daily Variety news item dated October 20, 1934, attorneys for the Folies Bergère in Paris attempted to halt production, charging that the film would cause the show irreparable damage. The studio, however, went ahead with the preparation and, according to the news item, photographed the theater from every angle. According to Dancing Times, Twentieth Century Pictures Vice-President in Charge of Production Darryl Zanuck, acquired in Paris the rights to use the title Folies Bergère.
According to a pressbook in the copyright descriptions, Maurice Chevalier had been a star of the Folies Bergère, where he gained fame as the partner of the renowned performer Mistinguette. Modern sources state that Charles Boyer was first offered the leading role, but because of his recent marriage to Pat Paterson, he declined and suggested Chevalier.
The French version was shot simultaneously with the English-language version, according to the call sheets in the Produced Scripts Collection. Zanuck, in a letter in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, stated that for the French version, he brought over "the best known translators and adaptors headed by Mr. Marcel Achard" and that he "borrowed from the Theatre Française the leading actors and imported some of the best known screen names." The screen credits for the French version noted that actor Fernand Ledoux was from the Comédie Française. Gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky's column of January 15, 1935 in DN was devoted to the filming of a scene in the French version at which he was present on the set. As Skolsky described the scene, the camera followed Chevalier backstage to reveal an onstage tableau of "nude girls." Skolsky noted that the shooting of the scene drew many observers and that the scene was taken over and over again. He also stated that the members of the regular dancing chorus refused to work in the sequence, because they feared the harm that might come to their later careers because of the scene, should they become stars. The studio, according to Skolsky, was then forced to hire professional models. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA Director Joseph Breen inquired of Zanuck about the scene, and Zanuck informed him that the director of the French version "permitted several of the stage girls to walk through the various scenes with their breasts uncovered" and that he, Zanuck, allowed the director "to uncover the breasts of some of the people that were merely used as atmosphere backstage inasmuch as this picture has not been made for exhibition in America or any English speaking countries." Following this exchange, Will H. Hays, President of the MPPDA, informed Schenck that under an agreement reached by the MPPDA Board, there could be no deviation from the principles of the Production Code in the making of any picture in an American studio, and thus that there could be no shot allowed in the French version that would be objectionable under the Production Code. Hays commented in a letter to Schenck, "It would do real harm, indeed, if they ever start making in Hollywood pictures of nude breasts." Zanuck responded with an angry letter to Breen, in which he began, "Hasn't Mr. Hays got enough troubles of his own without trying to find something else to worry about?" He conceded that several scenes "photographed as background atmosphere only" contained "several French chorus girls with their breasts undraped. I have managed to eliminate them to the extent that they are quite inconspicuous." Zanuck went on to assure Breen, "Our French version could be seen tomorrow by any American audience and there would be nothing any more offensive in it than there is in the American version." In a letter dated March 21, 1935, Zanuck explained to Breen that he could not submit a print of the French version for review because the negative and only print had already been sent to France, where, because of an arrangement with the French United Artists Co., who financed the film, all further prints would be struck. However, Zanuck assured Breen that the French verison contained "no nude or undraped women-I saw to it that the one girl with her breasts uncovered was eliminated. You can assure the General [i.e. Hays] that he can sleep well; Hollywood has again upheld the true standards of France." On April 9, 1935, a contact in France wrote the Hays Office that he had viewed the film and "didn't see any naked breasts in it. All appear to be covered." When the French version played in New York in April 1936, Variety commented, "Rumor lane had it that the French version had been made a good deal more risque than the original. If so, it doesn't show as screened here."
Modern sources list as additional cast members in the French version, Ferdinand Munier, Albert Pollet, Mario Dominici and Olga Borget. Twentieth Century-Fox remade the film twice: in 1941 as That Night in Rio, directed by Irving Cummings and starring Alice Faye and Don Ameche; and in 1951 as On the Riviera, directed by Walter Lang and starring Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney.