Maurice Chevalier

(1888—1972) French singer and actor

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French actor, singer, and entertainer. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and was an Officier de la Légion d'honneur.

After a poor childhood in his native Paris, with periods spent in childrens' homes, Chevalier drifted into a variety of jobs before turning to the theatre. He made his stage debut in 1906, and after appearing in such shows as Le Beau Gosse at the Eldorado gained wide popularity as Mistinguett's dancing partner at the Folies-Bergère (1910). His London debut came after World War I, during which he was wounded and taken prisoner, in Hullo, America (1919) at the Palace Theatre. As well as revue he also appeared in straight plays, beginning with Dédé (1921).

The advent of sound films provided ideal scope for his gaiety and warmth, distinctive voice, and debonair manner, and his Hollywood film career began with Innocents of Paris (1929), in which he sang one of his most popular songs, ‘Louise’. The same year he made his New York debut in Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolic. Notable early films included Lubitsch's first musical, The Love Parade (1930), and Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (1932), singing his famous song ‘Mimi’. In these and other musicals he was successfully cast opposite Jeanette MacDonald (1902–65). He also made two British films, The Beloved Vagabond (1936) and Break the News (1938). During World War II he remained in France and performed in Paris as well as in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. Exploited by the Germans, he had to face charges of collaboration after the war. He was, however, acquitted and resumed his career in 1946 in René Clair's Le Silence est d'or. Most memorable of his later films was Gigi (1958). A truly international star, Chevalier appeared on stage throughout the world and made many television appearances.

Subjects: Music.

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