Maurice Chevalier was the prototype of the gallant French monsieur in the American cinema of the 1930s. He was born on September 12, 1888 in Paris, France. Before he went to Hollywood he worked as a farmer, circus acrobat, cabaret singer and, starting in 1908, a comical actor in French films, a few times even with the celebrated Max Linder. Chevalier fought as an infantryman in the French army during World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1914, spending two years in a POW camp. After the war he returned to the entertainment field, and eventually tried his luck in Hollywood. He made his first American movie in “The Love Parade” (1929), opposite Jeanette MacDonald. The two stars made three more pictures together, the most successful being ‘Love Me Tonight” (1932) and “The Merry Widow” (1934). In the late 1930s he returned to Europe, making several films in France and England. World War II interrupted his career and he was dogged by accusations of collaboration with the Nazi authorities occupying France, but he was later vindicated. In the 1950s he returned to Hollywood where he appeared in “Gigi” (1958), from which he took his signature songs, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I Remember it Well". He also received a special Oscar that year. In the 1960s he made a few more films, and in 1970 he sang the title song for Walt Disney's The Aristocats (1970). This marked his last contribution to the film industry. Chevalier passed away on January 1, 1972, in Paris, France (aged 83).
Publicity sitting circa 1932. Color enhanced image by Hollywood Pinups from the b&w vintage original.