Cast & Crew
Douglas Hall, a Broadway writer, and his wife Helen love each other, but their argument over Helen's desire to resume her stage career, which ended five years earlier, threatens to end their marriage. When the scandalous, sensational French star Raquel is hired for Douglas' new show, Helen recognizes her from her photograph as Jill Williams, with whom she used to have a sister act in vaudeville. When Helen visits Jill, now a blonde with a phony French accent, Jill suggests that Helen impersonate her during rehearsals so that producers and agents will see her talent and Douglas will be able to recognize her abilities. While Jill goes to Atlantic City with her lover Rameau, Helen as "Raquel," flirts with the show's producer, Victor "Vicky" La Maire, who falls in love with her despite Douglas' warning about falling for an entertainer. When Douglas, who is annoyed that Helen has disappeared, congratulates "Raquel" on her performance, his uncontrollable attraction to her leads to a passionate kiss, and they make a date for that night. Greatly upset, but excited nevertheless, Helen faces the prospect of testing her husband's faithfulness: if he tries to make love to her, she will know that he is unfaithful; yet if he does not, she will think she has lost her appeal to him. That night, under the pretext of talking up Vicky to Helen, Douglas falls into a passionate embrace with her on the terrace, while Vicky plays a romantic song from inside. On opening night, Douglas suggests to Helen that they go away together the next night. Helen decides to leave that night, but Jill is delayed in returning. While Helen goes on as Raquel, Douglas, who confesses his misgivings to Vicky, writes her a note. After Jill returns, her husband, a French senator, interrupts her conversation with Helen and drags Jill into a taxi. Douglas and Vicky see them and follow, while unknown to them, Helen continues the show. When they return and Helen reveals her real identity to Douglas, he apologizes for doubting her performing ability. Helen calls this the "wrong" apology, and she is perturbed until she sees his note to "Raquel," which says that he still loves his wife. While still acting coy to each other, they play together on the piano the song that Helen sang in the show, and after Douglas says that he knew she was "Raquel," she calls him a liar.
The Boswell Sisters
Gregory La Cava
Joseph M. Schenck
Darryl F. Zanuck
The file for the film in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library includes a 1901 German play by Ludwig Fulda entitled Die Zwillingsfchwester, its translation by Louis N. Parker, entitled The Twin Sister and the screenplay by Hans Kraly for the 1925 Joseph Schenck Production Her Sister from Paris, which was adapted from Fulda's play. While the onscreen credits make no reference to the Fulda play, the plot of Moulin Rouge is similar to that of the 1925 film, in which a wife masquerades as her sister, a dancer, and makes her husband fall in love with her. Reviews comment that this film bears some similarity in plot to the Ferenc Molnar play The Guardsman (originally produced in 1911 in Budapest under the title Testör), in that both stories revolve around spouses who tests their mates' fidelity by disguising themselves and then attempt to seduce their spouses under their assumed identities. According to a July 1933 Hollywood Reporter news item, the script of Moulin Rouge that was being written then was an adaptation of a French stage production by Lajon de Bri. No information concerning that play has been located. A script in the Produced Scripts Collection by Nunnally Johnson and Henry Lehrman is entitled "Girl from Moulin Rouge."
According to information in the Produced Scripts Collection and news items, Gregory La Cava was assigned to direct this film in July 1933, and he prepared a script. News items state that Robert Montgomery was originally cast in the male lead, but because the film had a thirty-nine day shooting schedule and M-G-M would loan Montgomery for only twenty-four days, Twentieth Century Pictures production head Darryl Zanuck switched to Franchot Tone, whom M-G-M agreed to loan for the full period. Hollywood Reporter news items also state that the film was made at the RKO-Pathé Studios because of overcrowding at United Artists; that Helen Westley, Andrew Tombes, Russ Brown and Tullio Carminati, four stage stars, made their screen debuts in this film; and that Zanuck made a deal with Samuel Goldwyn to borrow the complete chorus of the Goldwyn Girls, who had been in Roman Scandals (see below). Modern sources list the following Goldwyn Girls who appeared in this film: Lucille Ball, Helen Wood, Vivian Kiefer, Myra Bratton, June Gale, Vivian Porter, Barbara Clay and Barbara Pepper. Other cast credits listed in modern sources include Eddie Foy, Jr. (Magician), Beverly and Betty Mae Crane (Apache dancers), Sam Savitsky (General), Lynton Brent (Assistant), Richard Carle (Sugar daddy in show), Irene Ware, Richard Powell, Stanley Blystone and Larry Steers.
This was Nunnally Johnson's first film with Twentieth Century. Variety stated that the show in the film called "LeMaire's Affairs" borrowed its name from a revue in the 1920s put on by Rufus LeMaire, which featured Sophie Tucker and Ted Lewis. According to a news items, the film was publicized with a special train from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. and then New York, carrying a number of motion picture stars, in a similar manner to the way 42nd Street, which was also a Zanuck production, was publicized in 1933. The 1925 Joseph Schenck Production Her Sister from Paris, which was based on the Fulda play, was released by First National, directed by Sidney Franklin and starred Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2451). In 1941, M-G-M produced Two-Faced Woman, which was also based on the Fulda play. That film was directed by George Cukor and starred Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas and Constance Bennett.