Cabaret - Pre War Berlin

Cabaret was filmed in the early 70s with Liza Minelli, Michael York and Joel Gray. It tells of life in pre-WW2 Germany, as the Nazis began to take power. The movie, based on short stories written in the late 30s by Christopher Isherwood, won 8 oscars and featured the choreography of Bob Fosse.

The movie is a musical set in 1931 Berlin, but it is a very serious one that has just about every funny scene either mixed in with or pointing out a serious and/or violent one. It helps reflect both the wild decadance and encroaching violence which was pre-war Germany. A light skit about Germans spanking each other is cut in with a group of Nazis violently beating the theater owner. A song about money helps demonstrate just how poor the people of Berlin were at the time and how desperate they were to pay the bills. This fear helped allow the Nazi power to direct the population's anger at easy targets.

Liza is Sally Bowles, a young American woman who has been in Berlin for 3 months and wants to become a movie star. She's wildly enthusiastic and very outgoing. In comes Brian Roberts, a quiet Englishman who wants to make money by teaching Germans how to speak English. Sally tries to help him out, and even though Brian feels he's gay, she's able to get him interested in her.

The movie is very open about gays and straights, bisexuals and virgins, about having to sleep around for money, about gold digging and religious issues and political issues. There are dual and triple layers in every direction. Fritz, a Jew, hides his religion but falls in love with Natalia, who is a rich Jew. He at first wants her for her money but then falls in love with her. Sally and Brian fall in love, but run into Max, a wealthy noble. Sally wants to take advantage of Max's wealth and despite resisting strongly, Brian gets lured into the money game as well. Once Max has them both 'corrupted', which he states openly is his aim, he takes off on them and leaves them behind.

Joel Gray plays the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat club where Sally dances, and the music there is a character in and of itself. A song about threesomes fills in what's going on with Max - Sally - Brian. A song about loving a girl even though she looks different ends up being about Jews - and about Fritz and Natalia.

The movie helps to show how the Nazi fatherland ideals slid into the country - with pride in their Rhine lands, their strong children. Many Germans were angry at the Communists for sapping their strength, at the Jews for having a 'conspiracy' of wealth. They began to look on Nazis as a way to retain their nationality against these 'foreigners'. As Germans got poorer, they began to target the wealthy as being "wrong". And as the movement gained momentum, it became harder and harder to stop. The propaganda machines told people how to think and it soon became hard for them to consider other thoughts.

By the movie's end, Fritz has confessed his true religion to Natalia and they marry, hopefully escaping the country before the purges began. Sally has an abortion, knowing that a quiet married life would drive her and Brian insane. She goes back to her dancing, singing the classic "Cabaret" theme. Brian returns to England. And the Kit Kat dancers perform to a full house of Nazi soldiers.

Watch for the many bottles of Henkell Trocken, a German sparkling wine (or "Sekt") which is still extremely popular today. In one scene with Max they have this sparkler in a Turkenblut, which Max says is a famous German cocktail. It appears to be a mix of Sekt and grenadine. The name means "Turk's Blood".

If you're heading to Germany, the interiors were shot in Bavaria Studio, near Munich. They were based on actual bars in Berlin. Exteriors were shot in various locations in West Germany.







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