History of the Moulin Rouge Cabaret
By Anne Rohan

T he Belle Époque (1890-1914) stands out by its lack of concern and faith in progress; There were big technological changes, the spreading of electricity across France, the showing in 1895 of the first movie…

Joseph Oller

Joseph Oller

La Goulue Entering The Moulin Rouge cabaret

La Goulue Entering The Moulin Rouge

France was in growing developments because of the second industrial revolution.
French society was carried away by happiness, and leisure began to democratise. The upper middle class was getting coarser and coarser, a rupture of the past stiffness emerged, leading to a social and cultural mixing.
In these times of frivolities, "cafés-concerts" and cabarets like “Le Chat Noir”, “Le Mirliton”, “Les Folies Bergères” opened. They were places where aristocrats and workers distracted themselves, in full unrespect of the social rules. Very popular cabarets generally settled in the district of Montmartre, because it was the centre of the night life. Cabarets’ costumers used to like those places where they felt free; they could watch a show, or meet friends and even prostitutes.

Poster of the Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show

Poster of the Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show

Louise Weber - La Goulue

Louise Weber - La Goulue

The Moulin Rouge was inaugurated on 6th of October 1889 by Joseph Oller, inventor of the PMU and founder of the Olympia, and Charles Zidler. As soon as the cabaret opened, it attracted crowds, appealing the Parisians who were looking for the dazzling and the extravagant.
The inimitable atmosphere of elation that reigned in the cabaret gave it a big success, and it is nick-named “Le Premier Palais des Femmes”. Extravagant evenings called Grandes Revues were organised, mixing circus, dance, theatre; Music-Hall.

The popularity of the Moulin Rouge was increasing thanks to the French Cancan created by Nini Pattes-en-l’Air. It was inspired by the Quadrille, invented in 1850; eight minutes of dance on a boisterous rhythm on Offenbach’s music. With the French Cancan, young women, like the laundresses of Montmartre, lifted their leg as well as their underskirts.
Very appreciated by the audience and giving the Moulin Rouge an unique nature, this dance was sometimes said indecent.

La Goulue by Toulouse-Lautrec

La Goulue by Toulouse-Lautrec

Poster of the cabaret Le Chat Noir

Poster of the cabaret Le Chat Noir

The stage of the Moulin Rouge offered an opportunity to the most talented dancers of the capital city, like La Goulue, who made the French Cancan immortal, to become famous. Other dancers, thanks to the Revues, became well-known, like “Jeanne la Folle”, “La Môme Fromage”, “Grille d’Egout”, “Nini Pattes-en-l’Air”, “La Cascadeuse”… Amongst these women, only one man named “Le Désossé” danced on stage.
The talent of “Mistinguett”, a young beginner, was revealed in 1907. She has illuminated the stage many times since then. But the Moulin Rouge shows didn’t confine itself to French Cancan demonstrations, it was also known for its operetta shows.

After the First World War, Francis Salabert directed the Moulin Rouge. He was inspired by Broadway to give the Parisian cabaret shows a certain revival; he created “New York-Montmartre”. Mistinguett, who was becoming more and more famous, still livened up the cabaret in many Revues. As Mistinguett died, the impact of the Music-Hall on the French society changed.

Mistinguett

Mistinguett

The cinematography was becoming popular, and hiding the Revues in its shadow. The Pathé Company changed the Moulin Rouge into a movie theatre. The Second World War seemed to deafen the Moulin Rouge; the night life almost disappeared and the Parisians did not feel frivolous anymore.

In 1951, Georges France gave the Moulin Rouge the opportunity to win its fame back. A few years later, the “dîner-spectacle” appeared and attracted a great deal of Parisians.
The famous cabaret produced stars of the twentieth century, such as Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Fernand Raynaud, Line Renaud…

An inescapable curiosity of the Butte-Montmartre for over a hundred years, the Moulin Rouge has not lost none of its prestige. It stayed the symbol of Parisian leisure, and was made immortal at its apogee by Toulouse-Lautrec, who himself was a faithful customer. The painter was inspired by the Moulin Rouge to create several works known around the world, such as “La Goulue”. Nowadays, many visitors come and see the Moulin Rouge, and some of them attend to a dazzling, typically Parisian show.


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