Moulin Rouge in Paris

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Moulin Rouge (, Red Mill) is a cabaret built in 1889 by Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia. Close to Montmartre in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement, it is marked by the red windmill on its roof. The closest métro station is Blanche.

The Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. Today the Moulin Rouge is a tourist destination, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. Much of the romance of turn-of-the-century France is still present in the club's decor.


Birth of the Moulin Rouge


  • The Belle Époque, a period of peace and optimism marked by industrial progress and a particularly rich cultural exuberance. The Exposition Universelles of 1889 and 1900 are symbols of this period. The Eiffel Tower was also constructed in 1889, epitomising the spirit of progress along with the culturally transgressive Moulin Rouge.
  • Japonism, an artistic movement inspired by the Orient with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as its most brilliant disciple, is at its height.
  • Montmartre, which, at the heart of an increasingly vast and impersonal Paris, manages to retain a bucolic village atmosphere. Festivities and artists mixing with pleasure and beauty as their values.
  • 6 October 1889: The Moulin Rouge opens, in the Jardin de Paris, at the foot of the Montmartre hill. Its creator Joseph Oller and his Manager Charles Zidler are formidable businessmen who understand perfectly the public’s tastes. The aim is to allow the very rich to come and slum it in a fashionable district, Montmartre. The extravagant setting – the garden is adorned with a gigantic elephant – allows people from all walks of life to mix. Workers, residents of the Place Blanche, artists, the middle classes, businessmen, elegant women and foreigners passing through Paris rub shoulders. Nicknamed “The First Palace of Women" by Oller and Zidler, the cabaret quickly becomes a great success.
  • The ingredients for its success:
  • 1937: the Cotton Club, all the rage in New York, is put on at the Moulin Rouge; Ray Ventura and his Collegians also appear.
  • 1939–1945: the Second World War interrupts the Moulin Rouge’s sparkle.
  • 1944: a few days after the liberation of Paris, Edith Piaf, whose talent is already evident, performs at the Moulin Rouge, with Yves Montand, a newcomer chosen to appear with her.

The age of renewal

  • 22 June 1951: Georges France, called Jo France, founder of the Balajo, acquires the Moulin Rouge and starts major renovation work. He gives Henri Mahé, one of the most fashionable architects of the day, the task of improving and fitting out the new auditorium. The décor envisaged by Jo France and largely realized by Henri Mahé still delights today’s visitors to the Moulin Rouge.
  • The evening dances, the acts and of course the famous French cancan are all back at the Moulin Rouge.
  • 19 May 1953: the 25th “Bal des Petits Lits Blancs“, organised by the novelist Guy des Cars, takes place at the Moulin Rouge in the presence of the French President, Monsieur Vincent Auriol, and it includes, for the first time on a European stage, Bing Crosby. The evening attracts 1,200 artists and stars from around the world, including Josephine Baker who sings “J’ai deux amours”.
  • Between 1951 and 1960, a succession of famous artists appears: Luis Mariano, Charles Trénet, Charles Aznavour, Line Renaud, Bourvil, Fernand Raynaud, Lena Horne.
  • 1955: Jo France transfers the Moulin Rouge to the brothers Joseph and Louis Clérico who already own the Lido. Jean Bauchet becomes Manager. The famous French cancan is still performed, soon to be choreographed by Ruggero Angeletti.
  • 1957: Doris Haug creates the “Doriss Girls” troop at the Moulin Rouge. Initially four girls, today there are sixty.
  • 1959: the Moulin Rouge is transformed with the creation and fitting out of new kitchens so as to offer the increasingly international clientele a dinner-show with a gastronomic menu and revues that soon acquire a worldwide reputation.
  • 1960 The “Revue Japonaise” makes news. Entirely composed of Japanese artists, the revue launches the Kabuki in Montmartre

F as in…

  • 1962: Jacki Clérico, son of Jospeh Clérico, takes control of the Moulin Rouge. It is the start of a new era: Enlargement of the auditorium, installation of a giant aquarium and the first aquatic ballet
  • 1962: Revue “Cancan”, devised by Doris Haug and Ruggero Angeletti.
  • Since 1963 and the success of the “Frou-Frou” revue, out of superstition Jacki Clérico chooses only revue titles that start with the letter F. Naturally, the famous French cancan is performed at every revue.
    • 1963-1965 : “Frou-Frou”
    • 1965-1967 : “Frisson”
    • 1967-1970 : “Fascination”
    • 1970-1973 : “Fantastic”
    • 1973-1976 : “Festival”
    • 1976-1978 : “Follement”
    • 1978-1983 : “Frénésie”
    • 1983-1988 : “Femmes, femmes, femmes”
    • 1988-1999 : “Formidable”
    • Since 1999: “Féérie”
  • 7 September 1979: the Moulin Rouge, the centre of Paris night life, celebrates its 90th birthday. On stage, for the first time in Paris, Ginger Rogers is surrounded by various stars including Thierry Le Luron, Dalida, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Claude Brialy, Georges Chakiris, the Village People, Zizi Jeanmaire.
  • 23 November 1981: the Moulin Rouge closes for one evening only so as to present its show to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 4 February 1982: one-off show with Liza Minnelli.
  • 3 July 1984: gala with Dean Martin.
  • 25 September 1984: gala with Frank Sinatra.
  • 1 December 1986: the world's most famous classical dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, creates an original ballet by Maurice Béjart at the Moulin Rouge.
  • 20 February 1988: Dazzling at 90 years old, the Moulin Rouge was to be even more amazing at 100. The premier of the revue “Formidable” is a “Royal Variety Performance in Paris”, one of the most prestigious official events in Britain, attended each year in London by a member of the Royal Family. For the second time, the show took place in France, at the Moulin Rouge. Presided over in 1983 by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, on 20 February 1988 His Royal Highness Prince Edward is the guest of honour.
  • Spring 1989: one-off performance by the Moulin Rouge in London before their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales.
  • 6 October 1989: Centenary gala with Charles Aznavour, Lauren Bacall, Ray Charles, Tony Curtis, Ella Fitzgerald, Gipsy Kings, Margaux Hemingway, Barbara Hendricks, Dorothy Lamour, Jerry Lewis, Jane Russel, Charles Trénet, Esther Williams.
  • 1994: Cartier gala in aid of the Artists’ Foundation against AIDS with a private concert by Elton John.
  • 1995: Lancôme gala – launch of the perfume “Poème” with Juliette Binoche. Private concert with Charles Aznavour and Jessye Norman.
  • 14 November 1999: last showing of the Centenary revue “Formidable”, seen by more than 4.5 million spectators between 1988 and 1999.
  • 23 December 1999: first showing of the new revue “Féerie”.
  • February 2009: for the Year of France in Brazil, and as part of the Rio Carnival, the Moulin Rouge is produced on the mythical Copacabana beach.
  • October 2009: the most famous cabaret in the world celebrates its 120th birthday.

Films and documentaries about the Moulin Rouge

Films about the Moulin Rouge

  • Moulin Rouge Dancers 1&2 (1898) - USA - silent film about the Moulin Rouge
  • Queen of the Moulin Rouge (1922), directed by Ray C. Smallwood and Peter Milne - USA - silent film about the Moulin Rouge
  • Le Fantôme du Moulin Rouge (1925), directed by René Clair - with Sandra Milowanoff and Georges Voltier
  • Moulin rouge (1928), directed by Ewald André Dupont - With Olga Tschechowa, Eve Gray and Jean Bradin
  • Moulin rouge also titled L’étoile du Moulin Rouge (1934), directed by Sidney Lanfield - with Constance Bennett - USA
  • La Chaste Suzanne (1937/1938), directed by André Berthomieu - with Raimu and Henri Garat
  • La P’tite femme du Moulin Rouge (1945), directed by Benito Perojo - with Alberto Bello, Héctor Calcaño, Homero Cárpena, Tilda Thamar
  • Moulin Rouge (1952), directed by John Huston- with José Ferrer, Suzanne Flon and Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • French Cancan (1955), directed by Jean Renoir - with Jean Gabin, Françoise Arnoul, María Félix, Jean-Roger Caussimon, Gianni Esposito, Philippe Clay, and Michel Piccoli
  • Une Nuit au Moulin Rouge (1957), directed by Jean-Claude Roy - with Tilda Thamar, Noël Roquevert, Armand Bernard and Jean Tissier
  • La Chaste Suzanne (1963), directed by Luis César Amadori - with Armand Mestral, Noël Roquevert and Frédéric Duvallès - Spain/France
  • Moulin Rouge (2001), directed by Baz Luhrmann, with Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, and Richard Roxburgh

Documentaries about the Moulin Rouge

  • Quadrille dansé par les étoiles du Moulin-Rouge 1,2&3 (1899–1902), France - produced by Pathé (3 episodes of 20 min)
  • An Evening at the Moulin Rouge (1981), Réalisé par David Niles, produced by HBO (length : 60 min)
  • Les Dessous du Moulin Rouge (2000), Réalisé par Nils Tavernier, produced by Little Bear (length  : 52 min)
  • Coulisses d’une revue, le Moulin Rouge (2001), directed by par Philippe Pouchain and Yves Riou (length  : 60 min)
  • Moulin Rouge Forever (2002), directed by Philippe Pouchain and Yves Riou (length  : 55 min)
  • Moulin Rouge : la restauration and Une vie de passion au Moulin Rouge. Two documentaries available with the Moulin Rouge movie of John Huston.

Books about the Moulin Rouge

Illustrated book about the Moulin Rouge

  • The Moulin Rouge (1989), by Jacques Pessis and Jacques Crépineau - Publisher: St Martins
  • The Moulin Rouge (2002), by Jacques Pessis and Jacques Crépineau - Publisher: Le Cherche-Midi
  • Moulin Rouge, Paris (2002), by Christophe Mirambeau - Publisher: Assouline
  • Flipbook Moulin Rouge Paris France 23h18, Paris (2003), by Jean-Luc Planche - Publisher: Youpeka

Books about the Moulin Rouge and its characters

  • Moulin Rouge, a novel based on the life of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1950), by Pierre La Mure - Publisher: Random House
  • Jane Avril of the Moulin Rouge (1954), by Jose Shercliff - Publisher : Macrae Smith Co
  • Le Pétomane 1857-1945 a tribute to the unique act which shook and shattered the Moulin-Rouge (1967), By Jean Nohain and François Caradec - Publisher : Souvenir Press
  • Toulouse-Lautrec : The Moulin Rouge And The City Of Light, Paris (2003), by Robert Burleigh - Publisher: Harry N. Abrams


  • The Moulin Rouge in Paris was a source of inspiration for the Moulin Rouge Hotel in Las Vegas.
  • The film French Cancan (1955), directed by Jean Renoir, is a fictionalised history of the Moulin Rouge.
  • A Night at the Moulin Rouge, a 1951 film (also circulated under the title Ding Dong!) of burlesque acts of the Moulin Rouge club in Oakland, California.
  • The music video for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil' Kim and Mýa's "Lady Marmalade" was set at the Moulin Rouge.
  • Prince and his concert film Sign o' the Times (1987) featured the Moulin Rouge as part of his stage venue and props.

Notes and references

See also

  • French Cancan
  • Mistinguett
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Charles Gesmar
  • Colette
  • Line Renaud
  • Édith Piaf

External links

  • The Official Website of the Moulin Rouge (English, French)
  • The Official Moulin Rouge Store (English)