Cabaret is a 1972 American musical film.

It was directed by Bob Fosse and it stars Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey. The film is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic in 1931 prior to the coming to power of the Nazis under Adolf Hitler.

It is based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from the Berlin stories of Christopher Isherwood and the play I Am a Camera they inspired. Only a few numbers from the stage score were used, with Kander and Ebb writing new ones to replace those that were discarded. In the traditional manner of Broadway musicals, characters in the stage version of Cabaret tend to burst into song anytime, anywhere, and nearly all the characters sing, yet in the filmed version, musical numbers are confined to the stage of the cabaret and to a beer garden. Aside from a chorus in the beer garden scene, only two of the film's major characters sing any songs.

The film is largely made in low light and has a film noir feel, although it was filmed in color.

The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

In 2006 this film ranked #5 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


Template:Spoiler Sally Bowles is an American singer in the Kit Kat night club in early 1930s Berlin. A new tenant, Brian Roberts, moves into a room in Sally's apartment building. A reserved English academic and writer, Brian gives English lessons to earn a living while completing his German studies. She unsuccessfully tries to seduce him and suspects he may be gay (Christopher Isherwood, on whose semi-autobiographical book the film is indirectly based, was indeed gay and reportedly "went to Berlin in search of boys to love"). Brian tells her that he has indeed tried to have romantic relationships with women, all of which have failed. They become friends, and Brian is witness to Sally's anarchic, bohemian life in the last days of the German Weimar Republic. The Nazis' violent rise is a powerful, ever-present undercurrent in the film. Though explicit evidence of their actions are only sporadically presented, one can track their progress through the changing actions and attitudes of the major and minor characters. While in the beginning of the film Nazis are sometimes harassed, towards the end one scene is presented where everyday Germans rise in song to rally around Nazism. Although the songs allude to and advance the narrative of the film, every song except "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" is executed in the context of a Kit Kat Club stage performance. The realism and seriousness of the movie is enhanced by limiting the musical numbers to the club stage instead of presenting characters who burst into song as they go about their usual business. Despite their earlier reservations, Sally and Brian eventually become lovers, and Brian concludes with irony that his previous failures with women were because they were "the wrong three girls".

Sally befriends a rich playboy baron named Maximilian von Heune, who takes them to his country estate. It becomes ambiguous over which of the duo Max is seducing, which is epitomized by a central scene in which the three dance intimately together in a wine-induced reverie.

Max eventually loses interest with the two, and leaves them back in Berlin. It is then revealed that he had slept with not only Sally, but Brian as well. After the ensuing argument, Brian storms off and picks a fight with a group of Nazis, who proceed to beat him senseless. Brian and Sally make up in the hospital, where Sally reveals that Max has left them an envelope of money.

Later on, Sally finds out that she's pregnant and she's unsure of whether Brian or Max is the father. Brian offers to marry her and take her back to his university life in Cambridge. Sally realizes they could never coexist in such a life, and goes ahead with a planned abortion. The film ends with Brian departing for England by train, and Sally continuing her life in Berlin.

The club's (unnamed) master of ceremonies is seen only in his stage persona, but provides repeated knowing looks to the camera that the party is about to end. A brief sequence which might be Sally's reminiscence or fantasy indicates that she had sexual relations with him at some time, or alternately that she fantasies of having such.

A subplot concerns a Jewish man, Fritz Wendel, who had been passing as a Christian, who falls for and marries Natalia Landauer, a wealthy Jewish heiress. Although they marry, we are left wondering what their ultimate fate will be.

Differences in film from stage version

To accommodate Minnelli, Sally Bowles is Americanized, with far more talent than the original character possessed. The character of Cliff Bradshaw was renamed Brian Roberts. To make the action more realistic and believable when removed from the stage, Fosse cut all the book songs that advanced the plot, leaving only the songs that are sung within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub. (The one exception to this is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," which is sung in a beer garden.) Kander and Ebb wrote several new songs for the movie and removed others; "Don't Tell Mama" was replaced by "Mein Herr" and "Sitting Pretty" (retained in various instrumental versions) by "Money, Money" (better known as "Money Makes the World Go Round"). Several characters were cut (including Herr Schultz, with Fraulein Schneider's part greatly reduced) and several from Isherwood's original stories put back in. The entire score was re-orchestrated, with all the numbers being accompanied by the stage band.

The score

  • Willkommen - performed by the Emcee and the Cabaret Girls
  • Mein Herr - performed by Sally Bowles
  • Tiller Girls - performed by the Emcee and the Cabaret Girls
  • Maybe This Time - performed by Sally Bowles
  • Money, Money - performed by the Emcee and Sally Bowles
  • Two Ladies - performed by the Emcee and by two of the Cabaret Girls
  • Tomorrow Belongs To Me - sung by Mark Lambert
  • If You Could See Her - performed by the Emcee and someone in a gorilla suit
  • (Life is a) Cabaret - performed by Sally Bowles


  • Brian expresses surprise that Sally Bowles is an American, a sly reference to the fact that in the musical on which the movie is based, Sally is British.
  • The song "Married", originally in the Broadway version, was cut from the movie. It can be heard playing on a radio in the background during the scene where Brian and Sally are discussing marriage, sung in German (the title thus becoming "Heirat".) The song "Sitting Pretty," replaced in the film by "Money", can also be heard several times coming from record players, including the scene in which Sally and Brian first go to Max's house.
  • In an interview given at the time of the film's release, Liza Minnelli said you could tell she was the star of the cabaret the movie is set in because she's the only performer with shaved armpits.
  • Cabaret has the distinction of winning the most Oscars (eight) without "Best Picture" (which went to The Godfather).
  • Both Billy Wilder and Gene Kelly turned down the offer to direct the project before it was accepted by Bob Fosse.
  • Liza Minnelli designed all her own hair and make-up with the help of her father, famed musical director Vincente Minnelli.
  • In preparation for his revival of the role of the Emcee in the film, Joel Grey did extensive research in order to achieve a completely authentic German accent.
  • "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb as a pastiche of the rousing German patriotic songs of the period (Die Wacht am Rhein[1] and the Horst Wessel Lied[2], for instance). Sung by a stereotypical Hitler Youth, it often has been mistaken for genuine. This has led to the songwriters (both Jewish, incidentally) being accused of anti-Semitism.
  • Speculation continues about the actual singer of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". Apparently, Bob Fosse's biography states that the song was recorded for the film by Broadway singer/actor, Mark Lambert. Lambert is said to have refused to dye his hair blond for filming so - in one of the film's most powerful scenes - a young German extra stood in for him and mimed the song on camera.

Books that inspired the film

  • The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood 1945
  • Sally Bowles by Christopher Isherwood 1937
  • The Berlin of Sally Bowles by Christopher Isherwood 1975

See also

  • 1930s Nostalgia Films
  • Chicago

External link

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