Here’s a little something different for Groovy Friday. No girls in go-go boots this week, but groovy just the same. It’s film and recording legend Maurice Chevalier doing The Twist at the age of seventy-three. Not bad moves for an old guy. I want to be Maurice Chevalier when I grow up.
Most people know Chevalier (if they know him at all) from his films of the 50s and 60s such as “Gigi” or “Can-Can” or the insufferable Disney film “In Search of the Castaways.” If you’re a fan of classic film, you may be familiar with his earlier Hollywood career in such classics as “Love Me Tonight” and “The Merry Widow”. But how much do you really know about Maurice Chevalier? In a rather large and incomplete nutshell, here’s the story.
Born in 1888, Maurice Chevalier was a moderately successful performer on the French stage when World War I broke out. He fought on the front lines where he suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and was taken prisoner by the German army. He spent two years in a POW camp during which he learned to speak English. After his release at the end of the war, he resumed his career and used his English speaking skills to expand his audience to London and, eventually, Hollywood.
During World War II, he remained in France and performed in propaganda shows sponsored by the Vichy government, shows intended to assure the French populace that nothing had changed in France since the Nazi occupation. Meanwhile, he was harboring a Jewish family in the south of France. The Nazis knew about that and used it to pressure Chevalier to perform shows at German POW camps, including the one he had been held in during the first World War. In exchange, he secured the release of ten French prisoners. After the war, he was accused of collaboration with the Nazis but was acquitted by a French court. Still, he was refused entry to the U.S. for many years because of this and because of his later associations with post-war Communists.
Eventually, all was forgiven and he was welcomed back to the U.S. and Hollywood. Who can stay mad at that twinkly face?
War hero? Nazi stooge? Communist? Favorite uncle? You be the judge.
Have a groovy weekend!
Groovy Friday extra!
For those of you who may miss the pageantry and pulchritude of the usual Groovy Friday post, here’s a clip of Maurice performing “Mimi,” a song he introduced in the 1932 film “Love Me Tonight”, music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Not groovy enough to be a main post, but certainly worthy of being an “extra”.