The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (song)
"The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo" is a popular British music hall song of the 19th century, written in 1892 by Fred Gilbert. Gilbert confirmed that his inspiration was the gambler and confidence trickster Charles Wells, who won over a million francs at the Monte Carlo casino, using the profits from previous fraud, though he died penniless in 1926. Others suggested as the model include Joseph Jagger and Kenneth MacKenzie Clark, father of famed art historian Kenneth Clark.
The song was popularised by singer and comedian Charles Coborn, and quickly became a staple of his act, performed on tour in different languages throughout the world. The song remained popular from the 1890s until the late 1940s, and is still referenced in popular culture today. Financier George Soros was called "The Man Who Broke the Bank of England" in 1992, following the infamous Black Wednesday which saw Britain's exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
The song title inspired the 1935 US romantic comedy The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. Although the song appears in the film, the narrative bears little relation to either the song or to the story of Charles Wells. The film and song were involved in the copyright case Francis, Day & Hunter Ltd v Twentieth Century Fox Corp.
The song appears in Booth Tarkington's 1918 novel The Magnificent Ambersons, as well as in Orson Welles' 1942 film adaptation. In the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) sings the tune while riding across the desert to the camp of Prince Faisal.
A parody titled The Tanks That Broke the Ranks Out in Picardy was written in 1916.
The melody of the song is used in the season eleven episode of American Dad!, "The Shrink". After the lead character, Stan, employs a CIA shrink ray in order to live in a miniature city of his own creation, the character sings "The Man Who Built the World in His Basement".
I've just got here, through Paris, from the sunny southern shore;
I to Monte Carlo went, just to raise my winter's rent.
Dame Fortune smiled upon me as she'd never done before,
And I've now such lots of money, I'm a gent.
Yes, I've now such lots of money, I'm a gent.
As I walk along the Bois de Boulogne
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
"He must be a Millionaire."
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.
I stay indoors till after lunch, and then my daily walk
To the great Triumphal Arch is one grand triumphal march,
Observed by each observer with the keenness of a hawk,
I'm a mass of money, linen, silk and starch -
I'm a mass of money, linen, silk and starch.
I patronised the tables at the Monte Carlo hell
Till they hadn't got a sou for a Christian or a Jew;
So I quickly went to Paris for the charms of mad'moiselle,
Who's the lodestone of my heart - what can I do,
When with twenty tongues she swears that she'll be true?
- Michael Kilgarriff (1998) Sing Us One of the Old Songs: A Guide to Popular Song 1860-1920
- Secrest, Meryle (1984). Kenneth Clark: A Biography. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. p. 6.