Can-Can (1960): Cole Porter Musical Starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine

Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine bring charismatic star power to Cole Porter’s musical, set in Paris in 1896, about the decadence of Can-Can dance.

Nonetheless, director Walter Lang is not Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen and so the picture is just a second-rate musical.

Loosely adapted from the original play, the film depicts the efforts of French lawyer François Durnais (Frank Sinatra) to prevent the police from closing down the club owned by Simone Pistache (MacLaine), the vivacious and perky proprietor and his woman, because it features the risqu Can Can dance. At that time, Can-Can was considered salacious dance—dirty dancing–outlawed by the French authorities.

Durnais gains the support of Judge Paul Barriere, played by vet Maurice Chevalier, but the younger, harsher policeman Phillippe Forrestier (Louis Jourdan) is determined to raid the place.

As expected, upon visiting the place, the cop falls head over heels for Simone, who is not intrigued by him. However, she decides to use Forrestier as an opportunity to force the reluctant bachelor Durnais into marriage.

The movie contains some good Cole Porter songs, such as “I Love Paris” and “C’est Magnifique,” as well as Porter songs that were not in the original production, like “Let’s Do It,” “Just One of Those Things,” and “You Do Something to Me.

Sinatra and MacLaine, who had appeared together as lovers in Minnelli’s melodrama, “Some Came Running,” enjoy nice rapport. For some, the movie is a sampler of American-Gallic collaboration, cast by members of the Rat Pack as well as popular French Chevalier and Jordan (who were last seen together in Minnelli’s 1958 Oscar winning musical “Gigi.”

End Note

The Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev requested to visit the set of the film, which brought a lot of international publicity to the production.

Oscar Nominations:: 2
Scoring of a Motion Picture: Nelson Riddle
Costume Design (Color): Irene Sharaff

Oscar Awards: None
The Scoring Oscar went to Moris Stoloff and Harry Sukman for “Song Without End,” and the Costume award to Valles and Bill Thomas for Spartacus.


Fox (Suffolk-Jack Cummings Productions)
Running time: 131 Minutes
Directed By: Walter Lang
Written By: Dorothy Kingsley, Charles Lederer

Francois Durnais (Frank Sinatra)
Simone Pistache (Shirley MacLaine)
Paul Barriere (Maurice Chevalier)
Philippe Forrestier (Louis Jordan)
Claudine (Juliet Prowse)
Andre Headwaiter (Marcel Dalio)