Moulin Rouge (1952)





Director:     John Houston. 

Starring:     Jos Ferrer (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and The Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jane Avril), Suzanne Flon (Myriamme Hayam), Claude Nollier (Countess de Toulouse-Lautrec), Katherine Kath (La Goulue), Muriel Smith (Aicha), Mary Clare (Madame Louet), Walter Crisham (Valentin Dessosse), Lee Montague (Maurice Joyant), Jim Grald (Pere Cotelle), Georges Lannes (Police Sgt. Patou), Harold Kasket (Zidler), Maureen Swanson (Denise de Frontiac), Tutte Lemkow (Aicha's partner), Jill Bennett (Sarah).

painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Moulin Rouge, Paris, 1890.  Sitting ringside at the nightclub, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec sketches on the table cloth the actions of the dancers and singers.  He loves to drink cognac as he sketches.  Henri comes from a line of nobility, his father being the Comte de Toulouse-Lautrec.  Henri has really short legs, a result of his legs ceasing to grow after his having fallen down a long flight of stairs; his bones not meeting as they should; having to rebreak them and reset them.  Two of the dancers get into a fight.

Henri's parents separated when he young.  And as a young man, he was rejected by Denise de Frontiac, a girl he liked very much.  He had the feeling that no woman would ever love him.  Henri decides to go to Paris to be a painter.  There he saves a prostitute from being arrested by the police.  She is grateful, but also takes advantage of him by asking him to let her stay with him for the night.  She stays a lot longer than a night.  He gives her 100 francs to buy a new dress, but she does not come back for a few days, which causes him a great deal of worry.  When she returns they get into an argument and she realizes that he loves her.  Later he paints her portrait.  She starts another fight when she demands to be paid for her sitting for the portrait even though Henri told her she could have the painting.  She walks out on him.  In a short while, she is back knocking at his door begging him to let her inside.  Henri, however, refuses to let her in. 

Henri's mother visits him and she sees that he is depressed.  He tells her about the prostitute, how she lives in a world that is a jungle filled with cruelty.  She tells him that he could come back home.  Henri tells his mother that he cannot return to the countryside.  Perhaps his friend, Vincent Van Gogh, can paint beautiful country painting, but he is a painter of the streets and the gutter.  She tells him to go after the woman.  Henri does look for and finds his prostitute.  She is very drunk in a bar and when she sees him she tells him off and calls him a runt and a cripple.  The painter returns home and turns the gas on to commit suicide.  But as he waits for the gas to do its work, his eyes are drawn to his paintings.  Soon he is up and working on his latest painting and turns off the gas. 

Henri returns to the Moulin Rouge where people are very glad to see him.  They scold him for not coming to the nightclub for such a long time.  Realizing he is appreciated at the club, Henri decides to paint a poster for the Moulin Rouge.  He also sends 1,500 francs to his prostitute for a pushcart. 

His father visits him to complain about the Moulin Rouge poster.  He does not like the notoriety it has brought to the Toulouse-Lautrec name.  Henri responds:  "We are fossils of a by-gone era."  His father tells him not to call him for help. 

1900.  Henri arrives in a drunken state for his the exhibit of his paintings.  He explains to his agent that he just cannot stop drinking and that he needs another straight one away. 

Henri goes dress buying with the star performer at the Moulin Rouge, Jane Avril.  There he meets again the woman he once mistakenly thought he was saving from suicide, Myriamme Hayam.  Jane arranges a meeting of the three and tells Myriamme that Henri will pick her up.  Henri tells Jane and others that he does not believe in love.  He sees women as being too materialistic.  Myriamme is not discouraged and tells him that she saw his art exhibit four times.  She also tells him that her father died of alcoholism.  Her husband died five years ago.  At her place, she shows Henri the one portrait she owns of his; the one of his prostitute. 

Myriamme and Henri attend the horse races.  There a previous suitor of Myriamme talks to her for a short while and tells her that he misses her.  On a boat ride together, Myriamme asks about his relationship to the prostitute in the portrait.  His only comment is that he had played the role of the fool.  He regrets that he painted the Moulin Rouge poster.  It became too big of a deal and thereby helped destroy the Moulin Rouge by making it very famous. 

Myriamme's suitor asks her to marry him.  Henri's response to the proposal is one of sarcasm and cynicism.  This convinces Myriamme that she can never win Henri's love and she leaves with her suitor.  She explains the situation to Henri in a letter.  He tries to find her, but is unsuccessful.  After that he starts drinking even more heavily.  One evening he falls down a flight of stairs.  On his death bed his father and mother visit him.  His father tells him: "Your pictures will hang in the Louvre."  Henri dies. 


Good movie. It's fictional, but the story is a good one about unrequited love for the famous painter.  And you get to see a lot of the works of Toulouse-Lautrec.  Jos Ferrer was great as the painter and the painter's fathers.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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