Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

French Cancan (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

French Cancan (1954, Fr./It.) (aka Only the French Can)

In director Jean Renoir's Technicolored comedy/melodrama about the revival of the notorious dance known as the can-can in the 1880s at the Moulin Rouge:

  • the story: the exploits of fictional, womanizing, veteran impresario Henri 'Zizi' Danglard (Jean Gabin) - the struggling, in-debted owner of Le Paravent Chinois (Chinese Screen), featuring courtesan and Egyptian belly dancer 'La Belle Abbesse' (Maria Felix) - Danglard's own mistress (known as Lola De Castro)
  • the night scene of Danglard visiting a dance-hall/nightclub in Paris' older Montmartre district (where the old-fashioned and outdated working-class dance known as the can-can was still being performed), and becoming inspired to close down his Chinese Screen and open a new dance theatre on the site of the current failing club known as the White Queen - with a renamed and revived "French Can-Can" group of high-kicking choristers as headliners performing in his newly-built renamed club, the Moulin Rouge
  • the two love triangles that developed, with resultant jealousies, between Gabin and Nini (Françoise Arnoul) - a working girl (bakery shop and laundress) - and her other two lovers: her baker boyfriend-lover Paolo (Franco Pastorino), and her rich Middle Eastern suitor Prince Alexandre (Giani Esposito)
  • the amazing catfight between Lola and girl-turned-cancan star Nini
  • the sequence of Danglard's entreaties to Nini, his lead dancer, at her dressing room, of his love and begging her to appear for opening night as the star of his new show: ("I'll give you some good advice. If you want a lover, Alexandre's perfect. If you want a husband, marry Paulo. Choose between jewels and palaces or a happy retirement by the fireside, with honor and dignity, but I can't give you either! Do I look like Prince Charming? Only one thing matters to me - what I create. And what do I create? You! Her! There have been others before. There'll be others to come. In the end, you think it matters what you and I want? All that counts is what they want. We're at the service of the public. You know why it breaks my heart to see you go? They can smash the place to pieces for all I care! But the profession's losing a good trouper. I thought you were one of us. If not, get out!")
Danglard's Speech to Nini: "We're at the service of the public"
  • the visually-stunning and exciting 20 minute end scene of dancing choristers in the new Moulin Rouge dance-hall/nightclub in the final dance segment

Lola (Maria Felix) as Belly Dancer 'La Belle Abbesse'

Plans for the Moulin Rouge

The Real Moulin Rouge

Danglard with Nini

Rehearsals for the Can-Can Dancers


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