Bolero (1934 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wesley Ruggles|
|Written by||Carey Wilson
|Music by||Ralph Rainger
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|February 23, 1934|
Bolero (1934) is a musical drama film starring George Raft and Carole Lombard, and directed by Wesley Ruggles. The movie was a rare chance for Raft to star and to play a dancer, which had been his profession in New York City, rather than portraying a gangster. The film takes its title from the Maurice Ravel composition Boléro (1928). The supporting cast features William Frawley, Ray Milland and Sally Rand.
The film opens shortly before World War I. Raoul De Baere (Raft) is a dancer from New York City, aiming to become king of the European nightclub circuit. He tries to get Annette (famed exotic dancer Sally Rand) to be his dancing partner, but she refuses. He recruits Helen Hathaway (Lombard) instead and devises a very athletic routine to be accompanied by Ravel's Boléro (an anachronism, as the composition was not written until 1928).
He falls in love with Helen, but this is unrequited, and she marries Lord Robert Coray (Ray Milland). Raoul serves in the United States Army in World War I and emerges with a weakened heart. Nevertheless, he vows to carry on with his career. He opens a smart nightclub in Paris, and recruits Annette (now desperate for work) as his new partner. On the opening night, as he is about to start the show, he finds her drunk and unable to perform. Fortunately, Helen is in the audience and agrees to stand in. Raoul hopes that she will rejoin him. Desperate to impress the audience, he overdoes his athletic routine, collapses and dies.
- George Raft as Raoul DeBaere
- Carole Lombard as Helen Hathaway
- Sally Rand as Arnette
- Ray Milland as Lord Robert Coray
- Frances Drake as Leona
- William Frawley as Mike DeBaere (Raoul's brother)
- Gertrude Michael - Lady D'Argon
The film predates the Hays Code, and at least two scenes would have been banned by the code. Firstly, George Raft tells Carole Lombard, when she auditions in his hotel room, to do so in her underwear; she complies. Later, Rand performs her famous fan dance, in which she hides her nudity with two strategically positioned ostrich feather fans.
A double was used for Lombard in many of the shots in the dance scenes.
Although regarded as a musical, the film has no singing.
The movie was a box office hit. It was such a success that the following year Raft and Lombard made another film with a fairly similar plot and title, Rumba. However, this was much less successful.
Parenthetically, internationally celebrated ballroom dancers Veloz and Yolanda were hired as uncredited dance doubles and choreographers for both Bolero and Rumba. This fact was kept as a trade secret for decades. The long shots in Bolero are in fact of Veloz and Yolanda, though there is no indication that this particular dance number was one that the famed dance team ever performed as part of its own repertoire, while in Rumba the dance steps are actually a simplified variation of a Veloz and Yolanda routine performed the previous year in the movie "Many Happy Returns", starring Burns and Allen. The dance music in "Rumba," however, was apparently written specifically for that movie, though no title is found in the credits.
- Clive Hirschhorn, The Hollywood Musical, pub. Octopus, 1981
- Everett Aaker, The Films of George Raft, McFarland & Company, 2013 p 47
- Clive Hirschhorn. The Hollywood Musical, pub. Octopus, 1981
- John Douglas Eames. The Paramount Story, pub. Octopus, 1985
- Radio Times Guide to Films; published by BBC Worldwide annually