Bolero (1934 film)

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Bolero 1934.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wesley Ruggles
Written by Carey Wilson
Kubec Glasmon
Ruth Ridenour
Horace Jackson
Starring George Raft
Carole Lombard
Sally Rand
Ray Milland
William Frawley
Music by Ralph Rainger
Maurice Ravel
Cinematography Leo Tover
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • February 23, 1934 (1934-02-23)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Bolero is a 1934 American pre-Code 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 (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.



The film was released before rigorous enforcement of the Hollywood Production Code would come into effect on July 1, 1934, under which 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,[1] the film has no songs.


The movie was a box-office hit.[2] It was such a success, the following year, Raft and Lombard made another film with a fairly similar plot and title, Rumba. However, this was much less successful.

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 no indication is given 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.


The dance routine was copied by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean for their famous ice dance routine to the same music.[citation needed]

Sally Rand's bubble dance was spoofed in Tex Avery's cartoon Hollywood Steps Out (1941).


  1. ^ Clive Hirschhorn, The Hollywood Musical, pub. Octopus, 1981
  2. ^ Everett Aaker, The Films of George Raft, McFarland & Company, 2013 p 47

Further reading[edit]

  • John Douglas Eames. The Paramount Story, pub. Octopus, 1985
  • Radio Times Guide to Films; published by BBC Worldwide annually

External links[edit]