Fifty Million Frenchmen
A Musical Comedy Tour of Paris in Two Acts, a Prologue and 10 Scenes. Book by Herbert Fields. Music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
Lyric Theatre, New York - Opened 27th November, 1929; closed 5th July, 1930 (254 perfs)
The impetuous Peter Forbes falls in love with Looloo Carroll on first sight. He bets his friend Michael Cummins $25,000 that he can win Looloo without flaunting his money,
Taking a job as a guide he pursues his new heartthrob and wins her away from the Grand Duke Ivan Ivanovitch of Russia whom Looloo's social-climbing parents had chosen for her.
The year is 1929, the month is June: the season when thousands of Americans invade Paris—and all the Parisians leave town.
Among the first arrivals are Mr. and Mrs. Emmit Carroll, a pair of vulgar social climbers from Terre Haute, Indiana. On holiday with their daughter, Looloo, and her school chum, Joyce Wheeler, the Carrolls waste no time storming the Ritz Bar, the place where, according to Mrs. Carroll, everybody meets everybody else. Alas, the Carrolls arrive a full hour before cocktail time, and the bar is empty—except for three thirsty college boys on vacation.
One of them, Peter Forbes, has been dragging his buddies, Michael Cummins and Billy Baxter, to every tourist trap in Paris in search of a beautiful girl he spotted on the boat coming over. Peter glances across the bar; and behold!—it's the girl from the boat: Looloo Carroll. Before Peter has a chance to make his move, however, his pal Billy suggests a little wager: He bets Peter fifty thousand francs that he can't live in Paris without his line of credit and, at the same time, win Looloo’s hand in marriage. At the end of one month—that would be July 4th—he must throw a party at the Chateau Madrid and announce his engagement.
Peter, confident that his charm matters more to a girl like Looloo than his family fortune, accepts the bet. He then rushes to Looloo, introduces himself, and proposes marriage. Much to her surprise, Looloo agrees to take his offer seriously. Within a few days, Peter has found work as a tour guide but unfortunately, his schedule allows no time to call on Looloo. Michael, meanwhile, has taken a shine to Joyce and insists on following her all over town. Stopping at the American Express Company, he finds his friend Peter much in demand: first, by a discerning American lady named Violet Hildegarde, who's come abroad hoping to be shocked; then by an aspiring cabaret artist, May DeVere, whose mind is definitely not on her work.
Nearly a week passes before Peter catches up with Looloo, who, in his absence, has taken up with Billy. Forced by the conditions of the bet to keep his job a secret, he explains to Looloo that he has been busy taking people to places of interest. Looloo suggests some activities that appeal to her: the new revue at the Casino de Paris—or perhaps tea at the Crillon; or a drive through the Bois in an open barouche. But Peter, reaching into his empty pockets, realises that he can only afford to meet Looloo on the corner later, a suggestion that sends her off in a huff. Seething, she allows Billy to flirt with her while Peter returns to work.
At a bookstall along the Left Bank, Violet is hunting for a copy of a novel that's been banned in the States: Ulysses. Billy appears and turns on the charm, but his plea for companionship falls on deaf ears. He moves on, and Violet is left to reflect on the loose morals of the modern world.
The following Sunday, everybody is off to the races. An American horse, Yankee Doodle, seems unbeatable, but Louis Pernasse, manager of the Hotel Claridge, informs Peter that the final race has been fixed: Horse number six, Toujours Moi, will win.
May enters and spots Pernasse; knowing that he sometimes moonlights as maitre d' at the Chateau Madrid, she decides to audition her act for him. Pernasse offers her a job, then takes her money, along with Peter's remaining fifty francs, to place a bet on Toujours Moi. Looloo has also chosen Toujours Moi to win the next race. When she bumps into Peter, and realises that he has only fifty francs to his name, she gives him an additional two thousand to bet and assures him that he can pay her back at a later date.
Peter wonders how Looloo can be so generous, and she confesses the reason. As Peter heads for the betting booth, Joyce appears with a dilemma. Michael has proposed to her and told her that if she doesn't accept he'll commit suicide. Should she let him? Or marry him, and kill herself? Looloo insists that it's Joyce's decision, but expresses confidence that her friend will do the right thing. At the starting gate, Toujours Moi is unveiled and revealed to be a scrawny old nag. As the race begins, Billy takes great pleasure in announcing how poorly Toujours Moi is running: a bad third, then a bad fourth, 6 then—suddenly all the other horses turn and run in the wrong direction. Toujours Moi gains the lead. As the horses head for the home stretch,Toujours Moi and Yankee Doodle are neck and neck, and as they approach the finish mark, the winner is—Yankee Doodle. Peter, more depressed than ever, tears up the tickets— but wait! Yankee Doodle is disqualified for running in front of Toujours Moi. Peter has a winning ticket—torn into bits. Looloo rushes in to celebrate their victory, but when Peter reveals his blunder, she refuses to believe him. It's true what her friends have said—he's merely after her money: He was planning on keeping the winnings for himself.
Looloo rushes off, leaving Peter alone and inconsolable (You Don't Know Paree). One week later, Pernasse and his staff are preparing a lavish reception for Mrs. Carroll (Somebody's Going to Throw a Big Party/It Isn't Done), who is scheming to improve her social status by marrying Looloo to an impoverished Grand Duke (The Queen of Terre Haute). When Mr. Carroll learns the cost of the festivities, he stumbles off to the nearest bar. Looloo, meanwhile, is as troubled as her father.Try as she may, she can't stop thinking about Peter—and certainly has no desire to wed a Russian aristocrat. She corners Joyce and suggests an alternative (Let's Step Out). Later that evening, Mrs. Carroll bemoans the botched reception: Her husband arrived an hour late, drunk, and Looloo didn't bother to show up at all. Now she'll never get into proper society. Violet, amused by the evening's events, recalls another social climber she once knew (The Tale of the Oyster).
The Fourth of July arrives, and Peter; now working as a dancing man at the Chateau Madrid, is busily preparing a party there that will be the culmination of his month-long travails.The evening begins with May's triumphant debut. Then Billy and Michael arrive, still trailing after Violet and Joyce; this time, however; the ladies acquiesce. Finally, Looloo appears, and Peter, with only a few minutes till midnight proposes once again. Looloo struggles for an answer—until Pernasse appears and insists that Peter dance with one of the customers.With Peter's menial occupation revealed, Looloo steps away, hurt and embarrassed. Peter turns on Pernasse, but the Frenchman is primed for a fight: He is still smarting over the race tickets that Peter tore up. Looloo overhears and realises that Peter was indeed telling her the truth that day about tearing up the tickets. She can trust him after all.
As the clock
strikes midnight, Looloo and Peter celebrate their
engagement—and Peter collects fifty thousand francs.
Record Liner notes by TOMMY KRASKER - Click on picture above to access New World Record
Cast (in order of appearance):
- Michael Cummins
- Billy Baxter
- Marcelle Fouchard
- Louis, a Bookmaker
- Joyce Wheeler
- Emmitt Carroll, of Terre Haute, Indiana
- Gladys Carroll, His Wife
- Peter Forbes, of The Street
- Looloo Carroll
- Sylvia, a Tourist
- May De Vere, a Cabaret Artist
- Mrs. De Vere, Her 'Ma'
- Mr. Ira Rosen, of Battle Creek, Michigan
- Mrs. Rosen
- Junior, Their Son
- Violet Hildegarde
- Boule de Neige, a Jockey
- Oscar, a Stable Boy
- Monsieur Pernasse, Manager at the Claridge
- Le Sahib Roussin, a Fakir
- The Grand Duke Ivan Ivanovitch of Russia
- Joe Zelli
- Maitre d'Hotel at the Chateau Madrid
- A Toast to Volstead (Opening) - Men's Ensemble
- You Do Something to Me - Peter, Looloo,
- The American Express - Ensemble
- You've Got That Thing - Michael, Joyce
- Find Me a Primitive Man - May de Vere, Boule de Neige, Oscar, Ensemble
- Where Would You Get Your Coat? - Violet
- Do You Want to See Paris? - Peter, California Collegians, Tourists
- At Longchamps Today - Ensemble
- (Yankee Doodle) - (Ensemble)
- The (Happy) Heaven of Harlem - Boule de Neige, Oscar, Chorus
- Why Shouldn't I Have You? - Joyce, Michael, Chorus
- Finale - Looloo, Peter
- (Somebody's Going to Throw a Big Party) - (Ensemble)
- It isn't Done - Ensemble
- I'm In Love - Looloo, Ensemble, Hollywood Dancers
- The Tale of an Oyster - Violet
- Paree, What Did You Do to Me? - Joyce, Michael
- You Don't Know Paree - Peter
- I'm Unlucky at Gambling - May de Vere, Hollywood Dancers
- I Worship You
- Please Don't Make Me Be Good
- The Queen of Terre Haute
- Watching the World Go By
- Down With Everybody But Us
- The Snake in the Grass (ballet)
- Why Don't We Try Staying At Home?
- That's Why I Love You
- The Heaven of Harlem
- My Harlem Wench
Added after the New York opening:
- Let's Step Out
- The Boyfriend Back Home
Scenes and Settings
The action takes place this summer.
- Prologue: The Foyer, Cocktail Room and Bar at the Ritz, Paris. 4 June.
- Scene 1: The American Express Company, Rue Scribe.
- Scene 2: A Bookstall on the Left Bank.
- Scene 3: The Café de la Paix, Place de L'Opera.
- Scene 4: On the Boulevard.
- Scene 5: The Racetrack at Longchamps.
- Scene 1: The Lounge of the Hotel Claridge.
- Scene 2: The Corridor at the Claridge.
- Scene 3: Zelli's.
- Scene 4: Les halles.
- Scene 5: The Chateau Madrid. 4 July.