Zaza (1939): Cukor’s Comedy, Hays Censorship, and Commercial Fate

On February 3, 1938, David O. Selznick agreed to lend George Cukor’s services to Paramount to direct the romantic comedy, Zaza.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Cukor was then engaged in pre-production of Gone With the Wind, which took much longer than expected.  Though he made a lot of money during this waiting period, Cukor had plenty of free time on his hands, which made him restless and eager to work on another picture.

Under the loan-out terms between Selznick and the studio, Cukor would receive separate card credits on the main credit title, and his name would be in type at least 60 percent as large as the type used for the title.

Based on an old French play about the loves and sorrows of a tumultuous French music hall siren, Zaza had an illustrious history, serving as a star vehicle for generations. Back in 1889, the great French actress Rejane played the title role in Paris, and in 1920, the legendary diva Geraldine Farrar sang the role at the Metropolitan Opera.

The story was previously done twice as a silent feature, by Paramount in 1915 with Pauline Frederick, and in 1923 with Gloria Swanson.

Cukor perceived the Paramount remake as “terribly old-fashioned and terribly French,” what with “that endless exploration of unfaithfulness and the suffering that comes with love,” themes that he had dealt with more effectively in the 1937 romantic tragedy, Camille, starring Garbo and Robert Taylor.

In the end, Claudette Colbert was cast as Zaza, a music hall performer, who falls in love with a handsome chance acquaintance, Dufresne (Herbert Marshall), only to become heartbroken upon learning that he is married and has a child.

Zaza_3What intrigued Cukor was not the illicit affair, but the relationship between public and private life, the tension between life onstage and off.  In his movie, the audience got a real sense of a touring company’s daily life, where privacy was impossible; the whole troupe knows and talks about Zaza’s affair.

At Paramount, Cukor met with less resistance to the demands of a period film than he had at Metro. Hans Dreier, known for his atmospheric sets, came up with an interesting design for Zaza, creating an authentic outdoor cabaret complete with earth on floor. For Cukor, the period feeling was as good as Camille. The picture was photographed by Charles Lang, known for his ability to make women look ravishing–Zaza features stunning shots of Colbert in big feathered hats.

It may come as no surprise that very few children appear in Cukor’s films. “The idea of working with a child absolutely appalls me, as working with an animal appalls me.” Cukor understood that manipulation is the key to getting a good performance from children, and he hated that. Cukor was devastated by reports that Vincente Minnelli told Margaret O’Brien that her dog was dead in order to get her to cry in Meet Me in St. Louis.

Colbert seemed to be more personal and personable in Zaza than in her other recent films. Cukor thought that as a comedienne Colbert used only part of her talent and elegance; her range was wider than she was given chance to display.  Besides, Zaza was the only film in which Colbert had chance to display her pretty voice.

Zaza_2Cukor brought his friend Fanny Brice on the set to coach her, as Colbert told me, “It was wonderful, no other director would do such a thing. That’s going a long way and indicative of the kind of director he was.” Brice taught Colbert how to contact an audience, how to command the stage. “You know, kid,” she told Colbert in her heavy Brooklyn accent, “when you sing a ballad, if you touch your own flesh, it’s a kind of comfort to ya.” Brice placed her beautiful hands at the base of her neck, and showed Colbert how to make each member of the audience feel she was looking directly at him with her penetrating eyes and radiant smile. “When they calm down,” Brice said, “especially if it’s a serious song, I fasten my eyes right below the balcony, and I sing.”


Zaza_1When shooting ended, Zaza got an absolute turndown by the Hays office and cuts were demanded. “It was so stupid,” Colbert said, “because Zaza had been a big success at the turn of the century, and all of a sudden the Hays Office thought it was risque.” But morals in 1939 were so rigid and the authority of the Hays office so absolute, that most of the film’s pristine shock had to be expunged. “These long despairing scenes were all cut,” Cukor later lamented.

Despite problems with the Hays office, Paramount’s top brass thought that the film was one of studio’s best in years. With some confidence, the company traveled to a double preview, in Oakland and San Francisco. At the first night in Oakland, the preview began well and the film played beautifully for almost an hour, but then “all hell broke loose.”

In the story, Zaza goes to Paris, confirms her lover’s marriage without his knowledge, returns home and awaits his arrival.  She hopes everything will be the same, but as he enters, preceded by a huge bouquet of white roses, the audience began to hiss. “Not Friday-night students-at-the-flicks hissing, but the real hissing,” Dmytryk recalled. Though one of the film’s best scenes unrolled on screen, no one heard it, as the audience’s angry reaction continued right through the bitter end.

Shocked by this turn of events, a few emergency cuts were made the next morning. They now hoped that a more cosmopolitan San Francisco audience would find the film acceptable. The viewers were indeed somewhat younger and more sophisticated, but the reaction was the same. Audiences simply could not forgive the hero for deceiving Zaza, making a “loose woman” out of her. Interestingly, there was evidence that watching the film alone, a person would accept its morality, but that same person when surrounded by others, joined in a “mob” reaction. Zaza demonstrated that “censorship never led, it merely reflected the common attitudes of the public.”

The return to Hollywood was a “nightmare of despair.” according to Cukor.  The ending was reshot, and further cuts were made. But each time the film was tested with an audience, whether in or outside big cities, the reaction was similar.

There was little more that Paramount could do. By that time, Colbert was shooting Midnight, under the helm of Lubitsch, whoch would be a big success.

One day, Colbert’s brother came down on the set with news that he had just seen the final version of Zaza. “They’ve cut and ruined it,” he reported. “I was very upset,” said the actress, “In fact, I couldn’t see the film for a very long time.”

Cukor, too, was furious–the film that he made, his real take, would never be seen by the public.

It did not help that Zaza was released at a bad time, just after New Year’s, on January 5, 1939.  The film quietly opened, and just as quietly died at the box-office.

Negative reaction from the press, led by gossip columnist Louella Parsons, made things worse.  And the universal condemnation from local and state religious organizations “killed” the romantic comedy before it had a chance to play.

Zaza would become one of the few commercial flops in Cukor’s career, a frustrating experience that he would seldom talk about.

But the work process with Colbert was rewarding for both director and actress, and they remained friends for the duration of their lives, even after Colbert retired and relocated to New York City.


Running time: 83 Minutes


Claudette Colbert as Zaza

Herbert Marshall as Dufresne

Bert Lahr as Cascart

Helen Westley as Anais

Constance Collier as Nathalie

Genevieve Tobin as Florianne

Walter Catlett as Marlardot

Ann E. Todd as Toto

Rex O’Malley as Bussy

Ernest Cossart as Marchand

Rex Evans as Michelin

Robert Fischer as Pierre

Janet Waldo as Simone

Dorothy Tree as Madame Dufresne

Duncan Renaldo as Animal trainer

xosotin chelseathông tin chuyển nhượngcâu lạc bộ bóng đá arsenalbóng đá atalantabundesligacầu thủ haalandUEFAevertonxosokeonhacaiketquabongdalichthidau7m.newskqbdtysokeobongdabongdalufutebol ao vivofutemaxmulticanaisonbetbsport.fitonbet88.oooi9bet.bizhi88.ooookvip.atf8bet.atfb88.cashvn88.cashshbet.atbóng đá world cupbóng đá inter milantin juventusbenzemala ligaclb leicester cityMUman citymessi lionelsalahnapolineymarpsgronaldoserie atottenhamvalenciaAS ROMALeverkusenac milanmbappenapolinewcastleaston villaliverpoolfa cupreal madridpremier leagueAjaxbao bong da247EPLbarcelonabournemouthaff cupasean footballbên lề sân cỏbáo bóng đá mớibóng đá cúp thế giớitin bóng đá ViệtUEFAbáo bóng đá việt namHuyền thoại bóng đágiải ngoại hạng anhSeagametap chi bong da the gioitin bong da lutrận đấu hôm nayviệt nam bóng đátin nong bong daBóng đá nữthể thao 7m24h bóng đábóng đá hôm naythe thao ngoai hang anhtin nhanh bóng đáphòng thay đồ bóng đábóng đá phủikèo nhà cái onbetbóng đá lu 2thông tin phòng thay đồthe thao vuaapp đánh lô đềdudoanxosoxổ số giải đặc biệthôm nay xổ sốkèo đẹp hôm nayketquaxosokq xskqxsmnsoi cầu ba miềnsoi cau thong kesxkt hôm naythế giới xổ sốxổ số 24hxo.soxoso3mienxo so ba mienxoso dac bietxosodientoanxổ số dự đoánvé số chiều xổxoso ket quaxosokienthietxoso kq hôm nayxoso ktxổ số megaxổ số mới nhất hôm nayxoso truc tiepxoso ViệtSX3MIENxs dự đoánxs mien bac hom nayxs miên namxsmientrungxsmn thu 7con số may mắn hôm nayKQXS 3 miền Bắc Trung Nam Nhanhdự đoán xổ số 3 miềndò vé sốdu doan xo so hom nayket qua xo xoket qua xo so.vntrúng thưởng xo sokq xoso trực tiếpket qua xskqxs 247số miền nams0x0 mienbacxosobamien hôm naysố đẹp hôm naysố đẹp trực tuyếnnuôi số đẹpxo so hom quaxoso ketquaxstruc tiep hom nayxổ số kiến thiết trực tiếpxổ số kq hôm nayso xo kq trực tuyenkết quả xổ số miền bắc trực tiếpxo so miền namxổ số miền nam trực tiếptrực tiếp xổ số hôm nayket wa xsKQ XOSOxoso onlinexo so truc tiep hom nayxsttso mien bac trong ngàyKQXS3Msố so mien bacdu doan xo so onlinedu doan cau loxổ số kenokqxs vnKQXOSOKQXS hôm naytrực tiếp kết quả xổ số ba miềncap lo dep nhat hom naysoi cầu chuẩn hôm nayso ket qua xo soXem kết quả xổ số nhanh nhấtSX3MIENXSMB chủ nhậtKQXSMNkết quả mở giải trực tuyếnGiờ vàng chốt số OnlineĐánh Đề Con Gìdò số miền namdò vé số hôm nayso mo so debach thủ lô đẹp nhất hôm naycầu đề hôm naykết quả xổ số kiến thiết toàn quốccau dep 88xsmb rong bach kimket qua xs 2023dự đoán xổ số hàng ngàyBạch thủ đề miền BắcSoi Cầu MB thần tàisoi cau vip 247soi cầu tốtsoi cầu miễn phísoi cau mb vipxsmb hom nayxs vietlottxsmn hôm naycầu lô đẹpthống kê lô kép xổ số miền Bắcquay thử xsmnxổ số thần tàiQuay thử XSMTxổ số chiều nayxo so mien nam hom nayweb đánh lô đề trực tuyến uy tínKQXS hôm nayxsmb ngày hôm nayXSMT chủ nhậtxổ số Power 6/55KQXS A trúng roycao thủ chốt sốbảng xổ số đặc biệtsoi cầu 247 vipsoi cầu wap 666Soi cầu miễn phí 888 VIPSoi Cau Chuan MBđộc thủ desố miền bắcthần tài cho sốKết quả xổ số thần tàiXem trực tiếp xổ sốXIN SỐ THẦN TÀI THỔ ĐỊACầu lô số đẹplô đẹp vip 24hsoi cầu miễn phí 888xổ số kiến thiết chiều nayXSMN thứ 7 hàng tuầnKết quả Xổ số Hồ Chí Minhnhà cái xổ số Việt NamXổ Số Đại PhátXổ số mới nhất Hôm Nayso xo mb hom nayxxmb88quay thu mbXo so Minh ChinhXS Minh Ngọc trực tiếp hôm nayXSMN 88XSTDxs than taixổ số UY TIN NHẤTxs vietlott 88SOI CẦU SIÊU CHUẨNSoiCauVietlô đẹp hôm nay vipket qua so xo hom naykqxsmb 30 ngàydự đoán xổ số 3 miềnSoi cầu 3 càng chuẩn xácbạch thủ lônuoi lo chuanbắt lô chuẩn theo ngàykq xo-solô 3 càngnuôi lô đề siêu vipcầu Lô Xiên XSMBđề về bao nhiêuSoi cầu x3xổ số kiến thiết ngày hôm nayquay thử xsmttruc tiep kết quả sxmntrực tiếp miền bắckết quả xổ số chấm vnbảng xs đặc biệt năm 2023soi cau xsmbxổ số hà nội hôm naysxmtxsmt hôm nayxs truc tiep mbketqua xo so onlinekqxs onlinexo số hôm nayXS3MTin xs hôm nayxsmn thu2XSMN hom nayxổ số miền bắc trực tiếp hôm naySO XOxsmbsxmn hôm nay188betlink188 xo sosoi cầu vip 88lô tô việtsoi lô việtXS247xs ba miềnchốt lô đẹp nhất hôm naychốt số xsmbCHƠI LÔ TÔsoi cau mn hom naychốt lô chuẩndu doan sxmtdự đoán xổ số onlinerồng bạch kim chốt 3 càng miễn phí hôm naythống kê lô gan miền bắcdàn đề lôCầu Kèo Đặc Biệtchốt cầu may mắnkết quả xổ số miền bắc hômSoi cầu vàng 777thẻ bài onlinedu doan mn 888soi cầu miền nam vipsoi cầu mt vipdàn de hôm nay7 cao thủ chốt sốsoi cau mien phi 7777 cao thủ chốt số nức tiếng3 càng miền bắcrồng bạch kim 777dàn de bất bạion newsddxsmn188betw88w88789bettf88sin88suvipsunwintf88five8812betsv88vn88Top 10 nhà cái uy tínsky88iwinlucky88nhacaisin88oxbetm88vn88w88789betiwinf8betrio66rio66lucky88oxbetvn88188bet789betMay-88five88one88sin88bk88xbetoxbetMU88188BETSV88RIO66ONBET88188betM88M88SV88Jun-68Jun-88one88iwinv9betw388OXBETw388w388onbetonbetonbetonbet88onbet88onbet88onbet88onbetonbetonbetonbetqh88mu88Nhà cái uy tínpog79vp777vp777vipbetvipbetuk88uk88typhu88typhu88tk88tk88sm66sm66me88me888live8live8livesm66me88win798livesm66me88win79pog79pog79vp777vp777uk88uk88tk88tk88luck8luck8kingbet86kingbet86k188k188hr99hr99123b8xbetvnvipbetsv66zbettaisunwin-vntyphu88vn138vwinvwinvi68ee881xbetrio66zbetvn138i9betvipfi88clubcf68onbet88ee88typhu88onbetonbetkhuyenmai12bet-moblie12betmoblietaimienphi247vi68clupcf68clupvipbeti9betqh88onb123onbefsoi cầunổ hũbắn cáđá gàđá gàgame bàicasinosoi cầuxóc đĩagame bàigiải mã giấc mơbầu cuaslot gamecasinonổ hủdàn đềBắn cácasinodàn đềnổ hũtài xỉuslot gamecasinobắn cáđá gàgame bàithể thaogame bàisoi cầukqsssoi cầucờ tướngbắn cágame bàixóc đĩa开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育亚新体育亚新体育亚新体育爱游戏爱游戏爱游戏华体会华体会华体会IM体育IM体育沙巴体育沙巴体育PM体育PM体育AG尊龙AG尊龙AG尊龙AG百家乐AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人<AG真人<皇冠体育皇冠体育PG电子PG电子万博体育万博体育KOK体育KOK体育欧宝体育江南体育江南体育江南体育半岛体育半岛体育半岛体育凯发娱乐凯发娱乐杏彩体育杏彩体育杏彩体育FB体育PM真人PM真人<米乐娱乐米乐娱乐天博体育天博体育开元棋牌开元棋牌j9九游会j9九游会开云体育AG百家乐AG百家乐AG真人AG真人爱游戏华体会华体会im体育kok体育开云体育开云体育开云体育乐鱼体育乐鱼体育欧宝体育ob体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育亚博体育开云体育开云体育棋牌棋牌沙巴体育买球平台新葡京娱乐开云体育mu88qh88