Cast & Crew
In 1910, coal miner Raoul De Baere dreams of being a professional dancer and uses his brother Mike's financial support in making his dreams a reality. His first performance is at a beer garden in New Jersey, but he soon moves on to Paris and a more elegant club, where Mike acts as his manager. Raoul is constantly frustrated by the amorous advances of his dance partner, Leona, because he does not believe in mixing business with pleasure. He fires her after he auditions Helen Hathaway, who signs with him to perform at the Essex Club in London. Raoul makes Helen promise that she will refuse him if he ever falls in love with her. They are a tremendous success as a dance team, and are not romantically involved. Raoul's ambitions continue to skyrocket and he plans to open his own nightclub. While vacationing in Belgium, Raoul and Helen fall in love despite their promise to each other. On the opening night of his club in Paris, Raoul presents his dance "Bolero," but the club is buzzing with talk of war and their performance is ignored. Seeking success no matter the cost, Raoul works the crowd into rousing support of the war effort by promising to enlist. When Helen realizes Raoul's enlistment is a publicity stunt, she is disillusioned and leaves him. During the war, she marries Lord Coray, while Mike and Raoul fight in the trenches. Raoul sustains an injury to his heart, and is told by a doctor that he must not dance again. After the war, however, Raoul reopens his club. Coray and Helen attend the opening night, and when Raoul's partner stands him up, Helen performs with him. Elated by their success, Raoul intends to continue the performance, but suddenly dies of heart failure.
Frank G. Dunn
According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Paramount paid composer Maurice Ravel for the right to use the name of his famous composition Bolero as the title of this film. Upon discovering that the title was in the public domain, Paramount decided to use the music score as well, for which he was not compensated. A contemporary advertisement billed Sally Rand as "The Original Fan Dancer of Chicago World Fair Fame," and dubbed the film the "first picture to deal with the life and loves of a male dancer." According to information in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS library, the Detroit Legion of Decency banned this film for its Catholic membership. Scenes commonly eliminated by state censors include portions of Sally Rand's fan dance and Mike's line, "She needs a treatment quick!" In a 1948 article in The Saturday Evening Post, George Raft stated that this was one of the roles he best liked because it featured dancing, and was based on the life of Maurice Mouvet, a famous French dancer. Included in the Paramount story files at the AMPAS library is an unofficial biography of Mouvet, written by Ruth Ridenour, which stipulates that the material is "confidential and to be used only as a basis for picture material." Raft and Carole Lombard were later teamed in Paramount's 1935 dance film Rumba (see below). According to modern sources, Miriam Hopkins was originally considered for the lead role. In 1959, Raft negotiated unsuccessfully for the remake and television rights to Bolero. The "Bolero" dance number was recreated in the 1961 film biography of Raft called The George Raft Story (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.1780).