''On the Riviera'' is a 1951 Technicolor musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox. Directed by Walter Lang and produced by Sol C. Siegel from a screenplay by Valentine Davies and Phoebe and Henry Ephron, it is the studio's fourth film based on the 1934 play ''The Red Cat'' by Rudolph Lothar and Hans Adler. This version stars Danny Kaye, Gene Tierney and Corinne Calvet, with Marcel Dalio, Henri Letondal and Sig Ruman. The studio had signed Kaye for a one-picture deal, and revived the story as a vehicle for the multi-talented actor, who had a history of playing dual or multiple roles. ''On the Riviera'' was nominated for two Academy Awards: Scoring of a Musical Picture (by Alfred Newman) and Best Art Direction in Color (Art Directors Lyle R. Wheeler, Leland Fuller, Joseph C. Wright, and Set Decorators Thomas Little and Walter M. Scott).


Jack Martin (Danny Kaye) is an American entertainer. He has a skit in his show, making fun of, Captain Henri Duran (also Kaye). On one particular evening, the Captain and his wife, Lili (Gene Tierney) come to see Jack's impersonation. To the surprise of the couple, the act is amazingly realistic. Backstage, the Captain meets Jack's girlfriend, Colette (Corinne Calvet), and invites her to a party he is going to hold. Colette declines. Later in the evening, Jack meets Lili and is attracted to her beauty. He does an impersonation of the Captain for her. But the real Captain receives a telegram that his airline is in danger because a contract is not being renewed and he has already purchased 51% of the stock. He has to leave France. Jack is hired to play the Captain to confuse his rival, Periton (Jean Murat), but at the stock market, he buys the remainder of the airline stock. That evening, at the party, Jack is hired again to play the Captain. He does not want Lili to know, but Lili is informed without his knowing. He sweeps her off her feet and they stay close to each other for the remainder of the evening. Meanwhile, Colette is furious to discover that Jack is at the party and decides to go there as well, where she discovers that he is impersonating the Captain. To make matters worse, the real Captain returns to his house, confusing all involved. Periton corners Jack instead and talks to him in French, which Jack can't understand.


* Danny Kaye - Jack Martin / Henri Duran * Gene Tierney - Lili Duran * Corinne Calvet - Colette * Marcel Dalio - Philippe Lebrix * Jean Murat - Felix Periton * Henri Letondal - Louis Foral * Clinton Sundberg - Antoine * Sig Ruman - Gapeaux * Joyce Mackenzie - Mimi (as Joyce MacKenzie) * Monique Chantal - Minette * Marina Koshetz - Mme. Louise Cornet * Ann Codee - Mme. Periton * Mari Blanchard - Eugenie


''The Red Cat'', which was produced for the stage by 20th Century Fox's Darryl Zanuck, ran for only 13 performances, but the studio benefited from the film adaptations. The first two were directed by Roy Del Ruth: ''Folies Bergère'' (1935) stars Maurice Chevalier, Merle Oberon and Ann Sothern, and a 1935 French-language version,
L'homme des Folies Bergère
'' stars Chevalier and Natalie Paley. Irving Cummings directed the 1941 adaptation, ''That Night in Rio,'' which stars Don Ameche, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda. ''On the Riviera'' had trouble with the censors, who wrote: "the last part of the story...seems to be based in large measure on the suspicion of illicit relationships between the various characters." However, the final script was approved, with Lili's temporary confusion over the identity of the man with whom she spent the night intact. Kaye's wife, songwriter and lyricist Sylvia Fine, wrote four pieces for the picture. One of those, ''Popo the Puppet'', became a signature song for Kaye. In the film, it is presented as an elaborate production number with flying marionettes, seen over color television. On Sunday, May 20, 1951, The New York Times featured a four-column-wide photo of the French puppet sequence at the top of Page 225. The color television sequences in this film would have fascinated the audience in 1951, when color TV was a rarity. The first color television broadcasts in the United States occurred in 1951 and 1953. (In France, where the film is set, the first color broadcast was in 1967.) Coaxial cable and closed circuit transmission preceded the broadcast format. Gwen Verdon, credited as Gwyneth Verdon, appears in dance sequences choreographed and staged by Jack Cole. This was her first appearance on film. The set decoration (nominated for an Academy Award) includes a portrait of Lili Duran. It is the portrait of Gene Tierney as Laura Hunt created for the 1944 film, Laura.


New York Times critic Bosley Crowther recalled the two previous versions of the story for his readers and continued: “Now, brushed up slightly by Valentine Davies and Phoebe and Henry Ephron; equipped with four musical numbers by Mr. Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine, and turned out in gorgeous Technicolor that does justice to a splash production and a well-fed cast, it does service for Mr. Kaye's talents... (S)omething better could certainly have been found for this brilliant comedian's performance than this hackneyed and unexciting tale... the plot is too mixed up to follow and isn't very funny anyhow... Gene Tierney looks better in new garments than the old story looks upon her. And Corinne Calvet is pretty but neglected.. Marcel Dalio and Henri Letondal do a Tweedledum and Tweedledee routine... There are also lots of pretty girls.“ At the time of the film's release, Variety staff praised “the glib script, loaded with fast and furious dialog quips... Full range of the Kaye talent is used, both in the music-comedy divisions and in straight performance. It’s a wow delivery he gives. Four tunes, three of which are used to back the potent production numbers, were cleffed by Sylvia Fine to show off the Kaye talent for fun-making.” Writing for Turner Classic Movies in the 21st century, Jay S. Steinburg observes: “The studio dusted off a mistaken-identity screenplay that it had already utilized twice before; still, it proved an ideal fit for its star's strengths, and combined with beautiful female leads, colorful locales, and engaging set pieces, it delivered an entertainment that still holds up well.“ Leonard Maltin gives the film 3 out of 4 stars: “Bouncy musicomedy with Danny in dual role as entertainer and French military hero. 'Ballin' the Jack,' other songs in lively film. Gwen Verdon is one of chorus girls.”


External links

* * *
On the Riviera
' at the AFI catalog * {{DEFAULTSORT:On The Riviera Category:1951 films Category:1951 musical comedy films Category:American films Category:American musical comedy films Category:American romantic comedy films Category:American film remakes Category:English-language films Category:Films scored by Alfred Newman Category:American films based on plays Category:Films directed by Walter Lang Category:Films featuring a Best Musical or Comedy Actor Golden Globe winning performance Category:Films set on the French Riviera Category:20th Century Fox films Category:Films produced by Sol C. Siegel