AFI Movie Club: CABARET – American Film Institute
Cabaret Film Still - Liza Minnelli



CABARET, Bob Fosse’s groundbreaking musical film starring Liza Minnelli and set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party, ranked #5 on AFI’s 100 Years of Musicals list – and #63 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies: 10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films of all time. 

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CABARET – Reelgood

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Movie Trivia About CABARET

DID YOU KNOW? The original source material for CABARET can be traced back to a 1939 novel written by Christopher Isherwood, “Goodbye to Berlin.” It is believed that British cabaret performer, political activist and Communist writer Jean Ross was the inspiration for Sally – portrayed by Liza Minnelli in the film adaptation. 

DID YOU KNOW? John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Cabaret,” wrote several new songs for the film adaptation, including “Money” and “Maybe This Time” for Liza Minnelli. 

DID YOU KNOW? Joel Grey, who earned a Tony Award® for his portrayal of the Master of Ceremonies, reprised his role for the film adaptation. The iconic opening mirror scene in the film was inspired by the staging in the Broadway musical production: the curtain rose to reveal a large mirror on stage – reflecting the audience’s image back at them. 

DID YOU KNOW? The studio originally wanted a recognizable name as the director of CABARET. Gene Kelly was considered but declined as he was a recent widower and didn’t want to uproot his children for the shoot in Germany. Famed choreographer Bob Fosse would eventually land the coveted job of director. 

DID YOU KNOW? Liza Minnelli auditioned – unsuccessfully – for the role of Sally Bowles in the Broadway version of “Cabaret.” She maintained her connection to the production by singing the title song in her nightclub act and ultimately landed the lead role.    

DID YOU KNOW? CABARET was Liza Minnelli’s first singing role onscreen. For her iconic performance, Minnelli won an Academy Award® for Best Actress. 

DID YOU KNOW? Gwen Verdon – who was married to director Bob Fosse at the time of production – was intimately involved with dance rehearsals and wardrobe selection, but she did not receive any credit onscreen for her work. 

DID YOU KNOW? Upon its release, CABARET was censored in West Berlin. The sequence featuring the Hitler Youth singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” was removed from the film due to fear that it would stir up resentments in the audience by depicting Nazi sympathizers. However, the sequence was restored when the movie was broadcast on West German television. 

DID YOU KNOW? CABARET was released to critical acclaim and box-office success, earning $2 million in its first two weeks. The film became Allied Artists’ highest booked movie of all time. 

DID YOU KNOW? CABARET won eight of its 10 Oscar® nominations, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Music and Best Sound.   

DID YOU KNOW? CABARET was the last musical to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar® until CHICAGO in 2003, which was adapted from a Broadway musical directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse. 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-CABARET is based on Christopher Isherwood’s real-life and fantasized experiences while living in pre-World War II Berlin. His collected narratives in “The Berlin Stories” and “The Last of Mr. Norris” inspired other writers to create staged plays and musicals. Have you ever read a story that moved you to adapt it into your own version? Have you ever met people who captivate your imagination enough to fictionalize their experiences in stories? What happens in this process? 

-CABARET takes place in the waning days of the Weimar Republic with the ominous rise of the Nazi Party, but it was released in 1972, when America had weathered the Civil Rights Movement and was looking toward the end of the Vietnam War. What similarities do you think audiences saw between these two momentous transitional periods in world history? 

-In the staged musical “Cabaret,” Cliff’s bisexuality was removed from the story, but it was reinstated in the movie version. What do you think changed in society that allowed the opportunity to showcase same-sex relationships in the film, while the subject was deemed too taboo for Broadway?   

-How does CABARET represent anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazism? How does the world outside the Kit-Kat Club compare to the inner sanctum of the theater? What kind of narrative, musical and visual cues depict their culture clash? 

-Romance and love are portrayed in CABARET against the backdrop of economics and exploitation. Do you think women are empowered in CABARET? Whose point of view guides the story, and why is it important to see through this perspective? 
-How would you rate CABARET?

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, Liza Minnelli reveals the inspiration behind her character’s iconic look:

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