Cabaret (United States, 1972)


Figure 1.--The most poweful scene in "Cabaret" begins with this innocent-looking boy singing in a peaceful setting. The song at first adds to the idelic setting.

One of the most powerful scenes depictung the Hitler Youth is a scene in Cabaret. Ther scene takes place at a idelic Bavarian or Berlin festival. The scene is light hearted. The camera pans to an innocent-looking young blond, blue eyed German boy singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". He wears alight tan shirt. The camera slowly pans down until the Hitler Youth uniform with cross-strap and swastika arm band becomes visible. The boy puts on his cap and gives the Nazi salute at the end of the song. He wears below the knee knickerbockers tucked into heavy socks. The shift from pure inosence to the sinister future is the most poweful momment in the film. The inference of the song "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" becomes chillingly obvious. In many ways it encapsulates the Hitler Youth. The opening of the film was the Michael York character arriving in Berlin. By the time he encounters the HJ singer, he has fallen for Sally Bowles and the German baron has fallen for him (eternal triangle). This must be nearly halfway through the movie. The last time I saw Cabaret on stage, the Nazi song formed the powerful conclusion to Act one.

Filmography

Cabaret was, and still remains, one of the most daringly modern of Broadway musicals; with its overall style and the seediness of the Berlin night-club in which it is set. Cabaret was first produced in 1966, and the popular film version, shot much later in 1972. Cabaret's director wanted to "present a challenge to audiences conditioned to the jolly predictability of musical theatre". The film and theatre versions tell two similar, but not identical stories. An earlier film adaptation of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood, was the film, 'I am a camera'.

Story

Act One

The goings on at the Kit Kat Klub appear typical of Berlin nightlife in the late 1930's, but they also serve as a metaphor for the chaotic world outside, and the rise of Nazism. The musical is set in pre-Second World War Berlin. Based on the Diaries of Christopher Isherwood, it tells the story of Cliff, a writer and his acquaintance with a Cabaret performer, Sally Bowles, whom he meets in the sordid 'Kit Kat Klub'. It has a sub-plot of a Jewish couple Fraulein Schneider, and Herr Schultz, who have to come to terms with the uncertainty of their future together. The story is emphasised throughout by the eccentric, and sometimes camp 'Emcee', played superbly in the film version by Joel Gray. The musical not only delights our ears and eyes, but moves our souls. This is the combination that has long made Cabaret so entertaining.

The musical begins in the seedy Kit-Kat Klub, in Berlin. The first person to greet us is the camp and entertaining Emcee. Song: "Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome."

Sitting alone in a train carriage heading towards Berlin is Clifford Bradshaw, an American Novelist, hoping to gain inspiration from the famous city, to write his new novel. Another man enters the carriage. This is Ernst Ludwig, a native of Berlin. He engages Cliff in conversation. We find out that Ernst has smuggled goods in one of his briefcases. This is silk stockings and perfumes from Paris. Ernst recommends to Cliff, an excellent place to stay in Berlin, at the Fraulein Schneiders place and Cliff agrees to give Ernst English lessons. Cliff decides to take Ernst's advice and rent a room from Fraulein Schneider. Although she haggles, Cliff states that he can afford very little, and they agree a room and price of fifty marks. Schneider tells Cliff of her previous life as a wealthy woman, and the changes that she has experienced to lead her to this state of destitution. Song: "So what."


Figure 2.--The camera slowly pans down until the brown shirt and leather shoulder belt of the Hitler Youth uniform becomes apparent, complete with the Hitler Youth arm band. Note the destinctive white stripe.

Back at the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee introduces us to the Vivacious Sally Bowles, the lead Klub performer, and the delectable Kit Kat Girls. Song: "Don't tell Mama." Cliff makes contact with Sally using the telephone's which are situated on all the tables in the club, to allow people to speak to each other. Sally introduces herself. She is English, and finds Cliff's accent and poetry a real turn on. The klub comes alive with activity. Song: "The Telephone Song."

Back in Cliff's room, we see Ernst taking his first English lesson. He realises Cliff needs money, and suggests that he supplements his income by making visits to Paris for him. Sally enters and we find that she and Ernst are well acquainted. Sally pleads with Cliff to let her stay in his room, as she has been thrown out of her present room, at the klub. Song: "Perfectly Marvellous."

'But I've only got one narrow bed', explains Cliff. 'We'll think of something!' says Sally. The Emcee takes up on the naughty aspect of this with the next song. Song: "Two Ladies."

We are greeted with Fraulein Kost, also renting a room at Fraulein Schneiders place. Schneider enters and argues with Kost, 'I don't want to catch you bringing in any more sailors!' Herr Schultz enters with some fruit for Fraulein Schneider which he has taken from his shop. The 'rare' pineapple that she is greeted with, is enough to make her sing. Song: "It couldn't please me more."

The vicious Nazi undercurrent hits us now, with a group of Party members singing the rousing Nazi anthem. Song: "Tomorrow belongs to me."

Cliff is enjoying his stay in Berlin. He has much to write about, and much to do in the city and tells us of his enjoyment. He agrees with Ernst to bring back a parcel from Paris in a few days time, which he will be well paid for. He is also told that it is for some political party. Sally announces that she has become pregnant. The father of the child is not known, but Cliff could be a possibility. For Cliff, this puts a new perspective on their relationship. Song: "Why should I wake up."

We are transported back to the Kit Kat Klub, where the Emcee and girls do a tap routine. Song: "Sitting Pretty."


Figure 3.--The sinister conotations of the song "Tomorrow belongs to me" now becomes chillingly apparent. The boy, after finishing the song, puts on his cap and gives the NAZI salute.

Fraulein Kost is seen with three sailors coming out from her room. This is too much for Herr Schultz, who states that she should have more respect for his future wife. Considering their future together, Schultz and Schneider sing. Song: "Married."

An engagement Party is planned to be held in Herr Schultz's fruit shop. At the party, Sally presents the couple with a glass fruit bowl as a wedding gift. Schultz gets a little worse for wear, and entertains the party guests with a Jewish song he knows. Song: "Meeskite."

Ernst is also at the party. He is disgusted at the Jewish aspect to the party, and creates a scene. Cliff realises that the goods he is transporting from Paris are to fund the Nazi party. Fraulein Kost placates everyone, and invites Ernst to sing with her. The song is the Nazi anthem, to which eventually all the guests at the party (except the Jewish couple) find themselves singing. Song: "Tomorrow belongs to me."

Act Two

We are transported back to the Kit Kat Klub, where the girls are forming a Kick-line. One of the dancers is in fact the Emcee, who reveals his true identity (to the amusement of the audience) at the end of the song. Things are turning ugly for the newly engaged couple. A brick is thrown through the shop window, with the Nazi flag attached. Song: "Married" (reprise).

The Emcee appears with a gorilla, and gives us a song to reinforce the difficulties faced by the Jewish couple. Song: "If you could see her."

In Cliffs room, Fraulein Schneider returns the wedding gift. She explains that she can see no future in her marriage with Herr Schultz, and has broken off their engagement. Both Sally and Cliff attempt to reassure her that things will be alright, but she is adamant. Song: "What would you do?"

Cliff and Sally fall out. Sally wants to continue with her work at the Klub, but Cliff wants her to come back to America with him, and have the baby. Sally is torn between two worlds. Back at the Klub, Sally sings the Cabaret theme. Song: "Cabaret."

Later, in Cliff's room, Sally and Cliff slowly come to terms with the seperate lives that they now have to lead. We realise that Sally has had an abortion the previous night. Cliff leaves by train, the same way he arrived. Finale: "Ensemble."


Figure 4.--These two llok on aprovingly as the boy sings. Note the man on the left is a NAZI stromtrooper while the boy on the right belongs to the Hitler Youth, who had a white band in their arm band.

Hitler Youth


Music

The music was composed by John Kander, and the lyrics written by Fred Ebb. Quite a number of the songs from the musical were not used in the film.

Other Hitler Youth Films

The subject of NAZI Germany's Hitler Youth has fascinated fim makers since the very first years of the Third Reich. Several films have been made specifically on the Hitler Youth, but it is a rare film about NAZI Germany that does not include a required scene with Hitler Youth boys. The most notable such scene is from the Broadway musical Cabaret. Information on several other Hitler Youth films, several made in Germany, are avialable on HBC. The first such film was made in Germany, Hitler Jugend Quex. While it looks rather hokey to us today, it had a powerful impact in mid-190s Germany. The prevelence of the Hitler Youth in movies is extrodinary. The much larger Boy Scout movement is rarely depicted in films. The Hitler Youth, however, is rarely left out in a film with a German setting from the late 1920s to 1945.







Christopher Wagner







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Created: September 3, 2000
Last updated: September 3, 2000