Claudette Colbert (Zaza), Herbert Marshall (Dufresne), Bert Lahr (Cascart), Helen Westley (Anais), Constance Collier (Nathalie), Genevieve Tobin (Florianne), Walter Catlett (Malardot), Ann Todd (Toto), Rex O'Malley (Bussy), Ernest Cossart (Marchand), Rex Evans (Michelin), Robert C. Fischer (Pierre), Janet Waldo (Simone), Dorothy Tree (Madame Dufresne), Monty Woolley (Fouget), Maurice Murphy (Henri), Duncan Renaldo (animal trainer), Olive Tell (Jeanne Liseron), John Sutton, Michael Brooke, Philip Warren (dandies), Alexander Leftwich (Larou), Fredrika Brown (Pierre's wife), Clarence Harvey, John Power (conductors), Maude Hume (woman), Tom Ricketts (old gentleman), Olaf Hytten (waiter), Hala Linda (animal trainer's wife), Frank Puglia (rug merchant), Walter Soderling, Harry Allen (porters), Caroline Cooke, Mayor Farrell (vendors), Alice Keating (maid), Dorothy Dayton, Harriette Haddon, Helaine Moler, Dorothy White, Louise Seidel (dancers), Billie Bourne, Darlyn Hackley, Virginia Larsen, Grace Richey, Virginia Rooney, Lillian Ross, Peggy Russell (tiller girls), Jacqueline Dax, Penny Gill, Dorothy Hamburg, Jessie Jenard, Emily La Rue, Mae Packer, Colleen Ward, Jeanne Blanche (French girls), Kenneth Harlan (waiter).
Director: GEORGE CUKOR. Assistant director: Hal Walker. Script: Zoë Akins. Based on the play by Pierre Berton. Director of photography: Charles Lang, Jr. Editor: Edward Dymtryk. Art directors: Hans Dreier, Robert Usher. Set decorators: A. E. Freudeman. Costumes: Edith Head. Music director: Boris Morros. Music adviser: Phil Boutelje. Songs: "Zaza" (Colbert, Lahr) and "Hello My Darling" (Colbert) by Frederick Hollander, Frank Loesser and Al Hoffman. Choreography: LeRoy Prinz. Special adviser: Alla Nazimova. Photographic effects: Gordon Jennings. Producer: Albert Lewin. Copyright 13 January 1939 by Paramount Pictures Corp. New York opening at the Paramount: 4 January 1939. U.S. release: January 1939. U.K. release: February 1939. Australian release: 13 April 1939. 9 reels. 7,686 feet. 85 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Parisian can-can dancer discovers to her horror that her lover is married.
NOTES: At least the fourth film version of the 1890s play. There's an Italian silent of 1909, a Hollywood effort in 1915 and Allan Dwan's famous Gloria Swanson vehicle of 1923. In 1900 Ruggiero Leoncavallo wrote and scored an operatic adaptation.
COMMENT: An "A" in everything but theme, this is a cleaned-up and somewhat dull version of the famous play, beautifully dressed and mounted, with a fine portrayal by Claudette Colbert and a top-flight support cast. Helen Westley tends to over-act, but Constance Collier and Genevieve Tobin are inspiring. It is difficult to recognize Walter Catlett under his make-up, though his voice gives him away. John Sutton also wears a disguising make-up, but makes a much better effort to change his voice and is almost wholly successful.
Although the story in its present form is a rather trite romantic impasse between Colbert and Marshall, it receives the full Albert Lewin treatment in costumes and decor. Cukor's direction has some style, though he concentrates his energies on the banal romance rather than the mise-en-scene. The photography is most attractive and Miss Colbert wears her costumes to admirable effect and handles her musical numbers superbly.
OTHER VIEWS: This old play had been a great vehicle for Mrs. Leslie Carter. It was very old-fashioned by now. Paramount decided to launch their new Continental star, Isa Miranda, in the title role. But she suffered an accident and Claudette Colbert took over. I had Zoë Akins translate directly from the French original, instead of using the standard Belasco version full of oo-la-las, amours, etc. — George Cukor.