The Moulin Rouge’s reputation drew numerous artists onto its infamous stage. The cabaret with its bar also became a sort of well-known theatrical stage where performing was a privilege. Actors and singers like Mistinguett contributed to the cabaret’s legend while others like Edith Piaf and Yves Montand kept it going strong.
The performer Jeanne Bourgeois, who would take on the stage name Mistinguett, performed at the Moulin Rouge in 1909 for the first time. She also appeared at the Folies Bergères where she would meet Maurice Chevalier with whom she had a 10-year love affair. Her influence on the Moulin Rouge is undeniable, not only as its star performer but also as its Co-Director and Costume Director. Mistinguett is without a doubt one of the many people who made the cabaret what it is today.
Jean Gabin, leading actor in the 1969 film Le Clan des Siciliens with Alain Delon and Lino Ventura, began his career as an operetta singer. His talent was picked up on by Mistinguett during an audition for the Moulin Rouge. His first revue with the Moulin Rouge troupe was Paris qui tourne. He would later become Mistinguett’s partner after she and fellow performer Maurice Chevalier separated.
When Edith Piaf sang at the Moulin Rouge in 1944 she was already a well-known artist. “La Môme,” or “the kid” as she was called, had not yet recorded La Vie en Rose. She was nevertheless a huge star who succeeded as both cabaret singer and music-hall performer. For her first show at the Moulin Rouge she was accompanied by a young artist named Yves Montand. Their meeting would give rise to Montand’s career.
Although he had just arrived in Paris when he would meet “La Môme,” Montand would sing before Edith Piaf during their acts in Moulin Rouge. A love story was born from their encounter and above all a burgeoning career that kicked off in 1945. The success of his song “La Bicyclette” (1968) spread to East Europe and even to the USA. Montand also appeared on Broadway and acted alongside Marilyn Monroe in George Cukor’s 1960 film, Le Milliardaire.
For these artists, the Moulin Rouge would forever represent the place where their careers took off. Although certain would eventually perform at other cabarets such as les Folies Bergères, or even appear on the big screen, the Moulin Rouge was a firsthand witness to their incredible destinies.