Can-Can [based on the musical by Abe Burrows] is a serviceable musical. The more discriminating will find it wanting. It’s Las Vegas, 1960; not Montmartre, 1896. The production somehow conveys the feeling that Clan members Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine will soon be joined by other mem- bers of the group for another ‘summit’ meeting.
MacLaine is bouncy, outgoing, scintillating, vivacious and appealing – but French she ain’t. Sinatra is, well, Sinatra, complete with the ring-a-ding-ding vocabularly of the insiders. The juxtaposition of Sinatra and MacLaine on the one hand, and authentic Parisians Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan on the other is jarring.
As the proprietor of a cafe that pays off the gendarmes so that the imbibers can witness the illegal dance, MacLaine has the opportunity to indulge in uninhibited and brash clowning and frenzied dancing. Sinatra is her wisecracking playboy-lawyer who aptly handles her legal and private affairs. Both Chevalier and Jourdan, who clicked so strongly in Gigi, are wasted in thankless roles as corruptible and incorruptible judges, respectively.
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The musical score has been enhanced with three Cole Porter songs that were not in the original Broadway musical – ‘Let’s Do It’, ‘Just One of Those Things’ and ‘You Do Something to Me.’ The best tune from the original, as sung by Sinatra, is still ‘C’est Magnifique.’
The dance numbers, for the most part, are the highlights of the film, particularly MacLaine’s Apache dance. The famous ‘Adam and Eve’ ballet falls somewhat flat, although it does show off to good advantage Marc Wilder and Juliet Prowse. The can-can is fun, but about as lewd and lascivious as a Maypole dance.
1960: Nominations: Best Color Costume Design, Scoring of a Musical Picture