With Tom Hooper touting his live sung approach on “Les Miserables” as a game changer for the genre, now’s a better time than ever to revisit “Cabaret,” Bob Fosse’s Academy Award-winning sensation that truly revolutionized the film musical by dealing with taboo themes like homosexuality, abortion and promiscuity in a frank and thoughtful manner. Remastered for the first time in over 20 years, “Cabaret” arrived on Blu-ray last week, in honor of its 41st anniversay (more on that number below).
Prior to a special screening of the remastered film at New York’s legendary Ziegfeld Theatre, Indiewire sat down with three of the film’s cast members (Oscar-winner Joel Grey, Michael York and Marisa Berenson) and the team behind the restoration to discuss the making of the classic. Below are five of the most surprising facts gleamed from the chat.
#1. Joel Grey Smelled Like “Fifty People” While Rehearsing “Money” Opposite Liza Minnelli
Grey: “When Liza and I were rehearsing ‘Money,’ Bob likes to see things in costume. They hadn’t made the costumes yet. So they got a tailcoat for me from stock — and this tailcoat must have been worn by hundreds of men during the days when they didn’t know about deodorant. When it came from the cleaners it seemed fine. The minute my body heat got going, it brought them all to life. Liza ended up dancing with about 50 people (laughs). It created a tension for sure, but the tension was right in that number.”
#2. Joel Grey’s Favorite Number Doesn’t Involve Liza
Grey: “My favorite number is the gorilla one. It’s the most complex song. Beautiful melody, charming lyrics, romantic and ugly.”
#3. Bob Fosse Wanted a “Michael York-type,” But the Actor Still Had to Audition for the Part
York: “I had been living in London at the time, although working internationally, and the jungle telegraph beat out that Bob Fosse was coming to town to do a movie of ‘Cabaret’ and they were casting it and they were looking for a ‘Michael York-type.’ So I called my agent and said, ‘What do you think? Could I pass as a Michael York-type?’ Then to add to the zaniness, the only time Fosse and the producer were together was when I was out of the country, filming in, of all places, Puerto Rico. Instead of going to the beach, some instinct made me fly overnight of London. I went straight from Heathrow to the Dorchester. Anyways, apparently I was the last person in the room so I was very lucky.”
#4. Bob Fosse Played a Really Nasty Trick on Marisa Berenson
Berenson: “He [Fosse] would really play all kinds of tricks on me. He would come up before a take and whisper obscene things in my ear so that I would either go red or feel very uncomfortable because that character was so repressed and virgin-like. He wanted that quality of this girl who would be embarrassed by all these terrible things he’d say to me (laughs). He’d have fun doing that. The scene where my dog was killed: I opened the door and there was an entire animal’s guts lying there! How could you not react well to something like that?”
#5. The Reason the Film Arrives on Blu-ray on Its 41st Anniversary, and Not Its 40th…
Ned Price, Vice President of Mastering at Warner Bros. Technical Operations who oversaw the restoration: “One of the reels was scratched. The scratch was clear through the emulsion and it was so large. It wasn’t a fine scratch where you could just merge things, you literally had to hand paint. I call it hand painting. We tried to develop software that would basically use pieces of existing film and cover it, but the scratch was too large and everything was wrong. It had this glass rod effect. It just wasn’t suitable for the film. So literally it came to the point where we were painting in, using pieces of the image. But you really have to do it by hand. Part of the length was trying to do it in cost efficient manner and build a toolkit so that next time I could use it again. We tried that for a couple months and ultimately it didn’t pay off. We ended up having to hand paint it.”