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Maurice Chevalier

Best known for the musicals The Merry Widow and Gigi, and numerous chart topping songs in the 1930s and 1940s.

Maurice Chevalier c. 1932

Filmography
1929Innocents of Paris 
The Love Parade 
1930Paramount on Parade  
The Big Pond  
Playboy of Paris 
1931The Little Cafe  
The Smiling Lieutenant 
1932One Hour with You  
Love Me Tonight  
1933A Bedtime Story  
The Way to Love  
1934The Merry Widow  
1935Folies Bergère de Paris 
1936With a Smile  
The Beloved Vagabond 
1937The Man of the Hour 
1938Break the News 
1939Man About Town 
Personal Column  
1950A Royal Affair  
Just Me  
1953Hit Parade  
1954100 Years of Love 
My Seven Little Sins  
1957Love in the Afternoon 
1958Gigi 
1959Count Your Blessings 
1960Can-Can  
 A Breath of Scandal
 Pepe 
1961Fanny 
 Black Tights 
1962Jessica  
 In Search of the Castaways  
1963A New Kind of Love  
1964Panic Button 
I’d Rather Be Rich 
1967Monkeys, Go Home!  
Awards

Maurice Chevalier was nominated for two Academy Awards and received an Honorary Oscar in 1959.

1930NomineeBest Actor in a Leading Role – The Big Pond (1930)
  Best Actor in a Leading Role – The Love Parade (1929)
1959Honorary AwardFor his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century.

An artist carries on throughout his life a mysterious, uninterrupted conversation with his public. ~ Maurice Chevalier

Maurice Auguste Chevalier was born on September 12, 1888 in Paris. His father was a French house painter. His mother, Joséphine van den Bosch, was French of Belgian descent.

Chevalier worked a number of jobs: a carpenter’s apprentice, electrician, printer, and even as a doll painter. He started in show business in 1901. He was singing, unpaid, at a café when a member of the theatre saw him and suggested he try for a local musical. He got the part. Chevalier made a name as a mimic and a singer. His act in l’Alcazar in Marseille was so successful, he made a triumphant return to Paris.

In 1909, he became the partner of the biggest female star in France, Fréhel. However, due to her alcoholism and drug addiction, their liaison ended in 1911. Chevalier then started a relationship with 36-year-old Mistinguett at the Folies Bergère, where he was her 23-year-old dance partner; they eventually played out a public romance.

When World War I broke out, Chevalier was in the middle of his national service, already in the front line, where he was wounded by shrapnel in the back in the first weeks of combat and was taken as a prisoner of war in Germany for two years. In 1916, he was released through the secret intervention of Mistinguett’s admirer, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the only king of a neutral country who was related to both the British and German royal families.

In 1917, Chevalier became a star in le Casino de Paris and played before British soldiers and Americans. He discovered jazz and ragtime and started thinking about touring the United States. In the prison camp, he had studied English and had an advantage over other French artists. He went to London, where he found new success at the Palace Theatre, even though he still sang in French.

After the war, Chevalier went back to Paris and created several songs still known today, such as “Valentine” (1924). He played in a few pictures, including Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris (a rare drama for Chaplin, in which his character of The Tramp does not appear) and made a huge impression in the operetta Dédé. He met the American composers George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and brought Dédé to Broadway in 1922. The same year he met Yvonne Vallée, a young dancer, who became his wife in 1927.