Cabaret (1972 film)

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File:Original movie poster for Cabaret.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bob Fosse
Produced by Cy Feuer
Screenplay by Jay Allen
Based on <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
Starring <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
Music by Songs:
John Kander
Fred Ebb (Lyrics)
Adaptation score:
Ralph Burns
Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited by David Bretherton
ABC Pictures
Allied Artists
Distributed by Allied Artists
Release dates
<templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>
  • February 13, 1972 (1972-02-13)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,285,000[1]
Box office $42,765,000[2]

Cabaret is a 1972 musical film directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey.[3] The film is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic in 1931, under the ominous presence of the growing Nazi Party.

The film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from the novel The Berlin Stories (1939) by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 play I Am a Camera adapted from the same book. Only a few numbers from the stage score were used for the film; Kander and Ebb wrote new ones to replace those that were discarded. In the traditional manner of musical theater, every significant character in the stage version sings to express his/her own emotion and to advance the plot. In the film version, the musical numbers are entirely diegetic, taking place inside the club, with one exception ("Tomorrow Belongs to Me"), the only song not sung by either the MC/or Sally. In the sexually charged "Two Ladies", about a ménage à trois, the emcee is joined by two of the Kit Kat girls, who sing part of the song.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Director for Bob Fosse, Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, and five more technical awards. Today, Cabaret is considered one of the greatest musical films ever.[4][5][6]


In 1931 Berlin, young American Sally Bowles performs at the Kit Kat Klub. A new British arrival in the city, Brian Roberts, moves into the boarding house where Sally lives. A reserved academic and writer, Brian gives English lessons to earn a living while completing his doctorate. Sally tries seducing Brian and suspects he may be gay. Brian tells Sally that on three previous occasions he has tried to have physical relationships with women, all of which failed. They become friends, and Brian witnesses Sally's anarchic, bohemian life in the last days of the German Weimar Republic. Sally and Brian become lovers despite their earlier reservations; they conclude that his previous failures with women were because they were "the wrong three girls".

Sally befriends Maximilian von Heune, a rich playboy baron who takes her and Brian to his country estate; it becomes ambiguous which of the duo Max is seducing. After a sexual experience with Brian, Max loses interest in the two and departs for Argentina. During an argument, when Sally tells Brian that she has been having sex with Max, Brian reveals that he has as well. Brian and Sally later reconcile, and Sally reveals that Max left them money.

Sally learns that she is pregnant, but is unsure of the father. Brian offers to marry her and take her back to his university life in Cambridge. After a picnic between Sally and Brian in which Brian acts distant and uninterested, Sally starts to doubt continuing with the pregnancy, and ultimately has an abortion. When Brian confronts her, she shares her fears and the two reach an understanding. Brian departs for England and Sally continues her life in Berlin, embedding herself in the Kit Kat Club, but the final shot shows men in Nazi uniforms in the front row of the club, intimating that its days are numbered.




In 1971, Bob Fosse learned through Harold Prince, director of the original Broadway production, that Cy Feuer was producing a film adaptation of Cabaret through ABC Pictures and Allied Artists. This was the first film produced in the revival of Allied Artists. Determined to direct the film, Fosse urged Feuer to hire him. Chief executives Manny Wolf and Marty Baum preferred a bigger name director such as Joseph Mankiewicz or Gene Kelly. That Fosse had directed the unsuccessful film adaptation of Sweet Charity gave Wolf and Baum pause. Feuer appealed to the studio heads, citing Fosse’s talent for staging and shooting musical numbers, adding that if inordinate attention was given to filming the book scenes at the expense of the musical numbers, the whole film could fail. Fosse was ultimately hired. Over the next months, Fosse met with previously hired writer Jay Presson Allen to discuss the screenplay. Dissatisfied with Allen's script, he hired Hugh Wheeler to rewrite and revise her work. Wheeler is referred to as a "research consultant" while Allen retains screenwriting credit. The final script was based less on Joe Masteroff's original book of the stage version, and more on The Berlin Stories and I Am a Camera.

Fosse and Feuer traveled to Germany, where producers chose to shoot the film, in order to finish assembling the film crew. During this time, Fosse highly recommended Robert Surtees for cinematographer, but Feuer and the top executives saw Surtees’ work on Sweet Charity as one of the film’s many artistic problems. Producers eventually chose British cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth. Designers Rolf Zehetbauer, Hans Jürgen Kiebach and Herbert Strabel served as production designers. Charlotte Flemming designed costumes. Fosse dancer Kathy Doby and John Sharpe were brought on as Fosse’s dance aides.

Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles


Feuer had cast Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles and Joel Grey (reprising his stage role) long before Fosse was attached to the project. Fosse was given the option of using Grey as Emcee or walking away from the production. Fosse hired Michael York as Sally Bowles’ openly bisexual love interest. Several smaller roles, as well as the dancers in the film, were eventually cast in Germany.


Rehearsals and filming took place entirely in Germany. For reasons of economy, indoor scenes were shot at Bavaria Film Studios in Grünwald, outside Munich. Location shooting took place in and around Munich and Berlin, and in Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony. Editing was done in Los Angeles before the eventual theatrical release in February 1972.

Narrative and news reading

Although the songs throughout the film allude to and advance the narrative, every song except "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" is executed in the context of a Kit Kat Klub performance. The voice heard on the radio reading the news throughout the film in German was that of associate producer Harold Nebenzal, whose father Seymour Nebenzahl made such notable Weimar films as M (1931), Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), and Threepenny Opera (1931).

Differences between film and stage version

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The film is significantly different from the Broadway musical. In the stage version, Sally Bowles is English (as she was in Christopher Isherwood's "Sally Bowles"). In the film version, she is American. The character of Cliff Bradshaw was renamed Brian Roberts and made British (as was Isherwood, upon whom the character was based) rather than American as in the stage version. The characters and plot lines involving Fritz, Natalia and Max were pulled from I Am a Camera and did not appear in the stage version of Cabaret (or in "Sally Bowles"), and a minor character named Max in the stage version, the owner of the Kit Kat Club, bears no relation to the character in the film. In the film, Sally is a very good singer whereas the stage version often portrays her as being untalented.

Fosse cut several of the songs, leaving only those that are sung within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, and "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" – sung in a beer garden. (In the stage musical, it is sung first by the cabaret boys and then at a private party.) Kander and Ebb wrote several new songs for the movie and removed others; "Don't Tell Mama" was replaced by "Mein Herr", and "The Money Song" (retained in an instrumental version as "Sitting Pretty") was replaced by "Money, Money". "Mein Herr" and "Money, Money", which were composed for the film version were added to performances of the stage musical alongside the original numbers. The song "Maybe This Time", which Sally performs at the cabaret, was not written for the film. Kander and Ebb had written it years earlier for Kaye Ballard, thus it was ineligible for an Academy Award nomination. Although "Don't Tell Mama" and "Married" were removed as performed musical numbers, both were used in the film. The former's bridge section appears as instrumental music played on Sally's gramophone; the latter is initially played on the piano in Fraulein Schneider's parlor and later heard on Sally's gramophone in a German translation ("Heiraten") sung by cabaret singer Greta Keller.


All songs written and composed by John Kander and Fred Ebb

Cabaret: Original Soundtrack Recording[8][9]
No. Title Performer Length
1. "Willkommen"   Joel Grey 4:29
2. "Mein Herr"   Liza Minnelli 3:36
3. "Maybe This Time"   Liza Minnelli 3:11
4. "Money, Money"   Joel Grey, Liza Minnelli 3:04
5. "Two Ladies"   Joel Grey 3:11
6. "Sitting Pretty"   Instrumental 2:27
7. "Tomorrow Belongs to Me"   Mark Lambert 3:06
8. "Tiller Girls"   Joel Grey 1:41
9. "Heiraten (Married)"   Greta Keller 3:33
10. "If You Could See Her"   Joel Grey 3:54
11. "Cabaret"   Liza Minnelli 3:34
12. "Finale"   Joel Grey 2:28
Total length:

The following songs from the original Broadway production were omitted from the film version: "So What?", "Don't Tell Mama", "Telephone Song", "Perfectly Marvelous", "Why Should I Wake Up?", "The Money Song" (disparate from "Money, Money"), "It Couldn't Please Me More", "Meeskite" and "What Would You Do?"


The film was immediately successful at the box office. By May 1973 it had earned rentals of $4.5 million in North America and $3.5 million in other countries and reported a profit of $2,452,000.[1]

Critical reaction

The film currently holds a 97% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Great performances and evocative musical numbers help Cabaret secure its status as a stylish, socially conscious classic."[10]

In 1995, Cabaret was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

In 2013, film critic Peter Bradshaw listed Cabaret at number one on his list of "Top 10 musicals," describing it as "satanically catchy, terrifyingly seductive ... directed and choreographed with electric style by Bob Fosse ... Cabaret is drenched in the sexiest kind of cynicism and decadent despair."[11]

Roger Ebert make a positive review saying: "This is no ordinary musical. Part of its success comes because it doesn't fall for the old cliché that musicals have to make you happy. Instead of cheapening the movie version by lightening its load of despair, director Bob Fosse has gone right to the bleak heart of the material and stayed there well enough to win an Academy Award for Best Director." Variety says: "The film version of the 1966 John Kander-Fred Ebb Broadway musical] Cabaret is most unusual: it is literate, bawdy, sophisticated, sensual, cynical, heart-warming, and disturbingly thought-provoking. Liza Minnelli heads a strong cast. Bob Fosse’s generally excellent direction recreates the milieu of Germany some 40 years ago."[12] Jamie Russel from reviewed: " The first musical ever to be given an X certificate, Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" launched Liza Minnelli into Hollywood superstardom and reinvented the musical for the Age of Aquarius."[13]


The film earned a total of eight Academy Awards:

It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, losing both to The Godfather. Cabaret holds the record for most Academy Awards won by a film which did not win the Best Picture award.[14]

The film also won seven BAFTA Awards including Best Film, Best Direction and Best Actress as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy). It won the Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.[citation needed] The making of Cabaret is recounted in Cabaret (Music on Film) by Stephen Tropiano (Limelight Books, 2011).

American Film Institute recongnition

Home video

The film was first released to DVD in 1998. There have been subsequent releases in 2003, 2008, and 2012. The film's international ancillary distribution rights are owned by ABC (currently part of The Walt Disney Company), while Warner Bros. (which inherited the film from Lorimar, Allied Artists' successor-in-interest) has domestic distribution rights. Today, Warner shares the film's copyright with production partner ABC. Fremantle Media (owners of UK DVD rights under license from ABC/Disney) planned a Blu-ray release of the film in 2008 or 2009, but have since announced they no longer plan to do so.

In April 2012, Warner unveiled a 40th Anniversary screening of the new restoration of the film. Cabaret has been sold on standard-definition DVD from Warner Bros. But it was unavailable in high-def or for digital presentation because of a vertical scratch that ran through 1,000 feet, or 10 minutes, of one of its reels, said Ned Price, vice president of mastering and restoration for Warner Bros. The damage apparently was caused by a piece of dirt that had rolled through the length of the reel, starting with a scene in which York's character has a confrontation with a pro-Nazi boarding house resident, and cut into the emulsion. With the damaged images digitally "painted out" using bits from surrounding areas, "the difficult part was matching the grain structure so the fix was invisible". After automated digital repair attempts failed, the 1,000 feet of damaged film was hand painted using a computer stylus.[15]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses", Variety, 31 May 1973 p. 3
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  3. Obituary Variety, February 16, 1972, p. 18.
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  10. Cabaret at Rotten Tomatoes
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Francesco Mismirigo, Cabaret, un film allemand, Université de Genève, 1984

External links