I feel like I’ve known Maurice Chevalier my whole life. It really is an interesting realization, as I’ve only seen a handful of his movie roles.
Whether it is Pepé Le Pew, the cartoon skunk based on Chevalier, or his rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from Gigi, many little Classic Hollywood fans spring from the womb knowing who Maurice Chevalier is. In fact, in the almost fifty years since his passing, his persona is just as prevalent now as it was during his life.
I bet you can hear his voice in your head with just this gif.
A Career in Review:
If You Can Only Watch One:
Gigi is of course the most iconic we see Chevalier in regards to his Classic Hollywood output and for fans of musicals, it is worth a watch for Chevalier and co-star Hermione Gingold alone.
However, Chevalier (like contemporary Rudy Vallée) came to these roles in the 1950s and 1960s with a star persona established in the 1920s and 1930s. Luckily, TCM is including some picks from this era. This allows audiences to gain an appreciation of where this persona comes from and to see the roots of his popularity.
Chevalier is a performer who could (through certain perspectives) be seen as cartoonish. I mean, the man was quite literally turned into a cartoon skunk. However, in showing movies like The Merry Widow and The Smiling Lieutenant, it opens up an eye on what made Chevalier the figure he became into the fifties.
All in all, that’s a long way of saying… dive into some early Chevalier!
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Podcaster, film historian, and general lover of all things classic film and television. Studying the contributions of women behind the camera in classic television.
You can find me on Twitter @kpierce624!