Monday, February 22, 2016
As I have said before in this blog, I prefer musicals created originally for the movies, like the Warner Bros. films with the kaleidoscopic routines of Busby Berkeley, the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies, or the sublime Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952), and not the musicals like West Side Story (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, 1961) or My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964), that were translated to film from the stage. My admiration for Cabaret would seem to be an exception to that rule, except that when Fosse became director, he jettisoned the book that had been written by Joe Masteroff for the 1966 Broadway musical and went back to the source, Christopher Isherwood's 1939 The Berlin Stories. Jay Presson Allen had been commissioned to write the screenplay, but Hugh Wheeler (credited as "research consultant") heavily revised what she had written. Fosse also dropped many of the songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, though he added new ones by them: "Money, Money" and "Mein Herr," along with one of their older songs not from the Broadway version, "Maybe This Time." And he made the significant decision to keep the musical numbers confined to the Kit Kat Klub stage -- a touch of cinematic realism that seems essential to a story set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis. The result is a musical essentially created (or at least re-created) for the movies. It received 10 Oscar nominations and won eight of them, including awards for Minnelli, Grey, and Fosse, as well as for Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography. The only categories in which it lost were best picture and best adapted screenplay, which went to The Godfather and its screenwriters, Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.