Oscar: Best Actress–Minnelli, Liza in Cabaret (1972)

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Liza Minnelli won the 1972 Best Actress Oscar for Bob Fosse’s musical “Cabaret.”  It was her second (and last) Oscar nomination.

Bob Fosse’s dazzling musical “Cabaret” signaled a resurrection of the genre in a form more appropriate to the zeitgeist of the 1970s; the movie was released in the midst of the Vietnam War and after a decade of political assassinations. The late 1960s have not been particularly good for the Hollywood musical–witness Barbra Streisand’s “Funny Girl,” which was O.K., and her “Hello, Dolly!” which was not, not to mention “Paint Your Wagon,” with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing.

This intelligent, socially conscious, masterfully crafted version of the stage success features increased realism along with a rather serious subject matter, particularly for a Hollywood musical. There is a rearrangement of the musical numbers and subplots, and a greater emphasis is placed on the authentic musical talent of the stars, particularly Liza Minnelli, who has never been as charismatic and dominant before.
Fosse’s chilling musical about decadence in the Weimar Republic, his second movie, is stylishly directed and choreographed, featuring a fantastic performance from Liza Minnelli, who won the Best Actress Oscar (see below). In “Cabaret,” Fosse made a huge leap forward as a filmmaker in command of technical skills.
Jay Presson Allen’s screenplay, based on Joe Masteroff’s stage play, John Van Druten’s stage play, “I Am a Camera,” and the writings of Christopher Isherwood, borrows a great deal from the Broadway musical’s book.
The story revolves around Englishman Brian Roberts (Michael York), who arrives in Berlin, takes a small flat where he meets the eccentric and promiscuous Sally Bowles (Minnelli), who earns her living as a singer at the seedy cabaret Kit Kat Club.
In a bravura turn, Joel Grey plays the sleazy emcee of the club in which she performs. And significantly, he is the one who is assigned the last line: “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten. I told you so. We have no troubles here. Here life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the girls are beautiful.”
Brian, a bisexual, becomes involved with Sally as well as with a wealthy German playboy Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem).
Though most of the musical takes place indoors, often at the sleazy nightclub, the tale is set against the broader context of the rise of Nazism, manifest in fights between civilians and uniformed soldiers on the street, agit-prop pamphlets, anti-Semitic slogans and so on.
Liza Minnelli’s knockout performance nearly obscures the film’s social message, which becomes more obvious and poignant toward the end of the saga.  You will get shivers watching the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” in which a young fresh-faced youth is gradually transformed into a Nazi. The final fadeout imagery is indelible.
In her second Oscar-nominated turn, Liza Minnelli literally becomes a star before our eyes, even if her playing Sally Bowles’ tragic mediocrity is not plausible (Liza’s talent is huge as an actress, dancer, and actress).
Fosse wisely scrapped some weak songs from the original score and songwriters Kander and Ebb added some new ones. “The Money Makes the World Go Around,” sung by Joel Grey is a showstopper, and so is “Mein Herr,” in which Minnelli rivals Marlene Dietrich (“Blue Angel”) in evoking the Weimar-era decadence.
Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli)
Brian Roberts (Michael York)
Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem)
Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey)
Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper)
Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson)
Fraulein Schneider (Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel)
Fraulein Maur (Sigrid von Richthofen)
Fraulein Kost (Helen Vita)
Bobby (Gerd Vespermann)
Produced by Cy Feuer
Directed by Bob Fosse
Script: Jay Presson Allen
Camera: Geoffrey Unsworth
Editing: David Bretherton
Music Ralph Burns
Art direction: Jurgen Kiebach, Rolf Zehetbauer
Choreography: Bob Fosse
Costume: Charlotte Fleming
Running time: 125 Minutes
Oscar Nominations: 10
Picture, produced by Cy Feuer
Director: Bob Fosse
Actress: Liza Minnelli
Supporting Actor: Joel Grey
Screenplay (Adapted): Jay Allen Presson
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Art Direction-Set Decoration: Rolf Zehetbauer and Jurgen Kiebach; Herbert Strabel
Editing: David Bretherton
Sound: Robert Knudson and David Hildyard
Scoring: Ralph Burns
Oscar Awards: 8
Supporting Actor
Art Direction