Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) was a world famous French actor and singer. He first struck fame in his native France, where he was a popular music hall star during the 1910s and 1920s and scored many hits like "Valentine", "Mimi"
. In 1927 he moved to Hollywood, where sound films were just getting in vogue, thus opening an entire market for movie musicals. Chevalier starred in many of them, including The Love Parade (1929), The Big Pond (1930), Love Me Tonight (1932)
and Gigi (1958)
. He appeared alongside famous American movie stars of the day, including Jeanette Mac Donald
, Nelson Eddy, Claudette Colbert
, Leslie Caron, Charles Boyer, Jayne Mansfield
and Frank Sinatra
. For decades Maurice Chevalier was the most famous French entertainer on the planet, easily recognizable due to his iconic yellow boater hat, tuxedo and heavy French accent. Even The Marx Brothers
built an entire comedic scene around him in Monkey Business (1931)
, despite not appearing in the film at all
. He appeared as himself in the I Love Lucy
episode "Lucy Goes To Mexico" (1958)
. Younger generations may recognize his voice from The Aristocrats (1970)
, where he sings the title song.
Chevalier's French accent has in fact become the archetype of the Funny Foreigner
. Whenever a comedian imitates a Frenchman he is indirectly mimicking the way Chevalier spoke English in his native accent, including his famous "hon hon hon"
laugh. It has become such a Stock Parody
, comparable to Poirot Speak
and Mock Cousteau
that we even included a separate page for it: Maurice Chevalier Accent
for Maurice Chevalier Accent
Maurice Chevalier provides examples of the following tropes:
- Academy Award: He won an honorary Academy Award in 1958.
- Borrowed Catch Phrase: His signature "hon hon hon" laugh has become the standard way French people laugh in comedy, even to people who have no idea that Chevalier originated this stereotype.
- Clothes Make the Legend: His yellow boater hat and tuxedo.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Chevalier served France during the First World War, where he fought in combat and was even wounded by a shrapnel and taken a as a prison of war by the German army. During the Second World War he performed for prisoners of war in Germany at the camp he was interned in World War I and succeeded in liberating ten people in exchange. After the war he was accused of collaborationism, but acquitted by a French convened court. Still the English-speaking press remained hostile and refused him a visa for several years. Ironically enough he was also accused of being a Communist during the 1950s, because he took part in a Communist demonstration in Paris (1944) and performed at a Communist benefit against nuclear arms (1949).
- Funny Foreigner: In most Hollywood films he appeared in Chevalier is always the happy and charming Frenchman.
- The Hat Makes the Man: What would Chevalier be without it?
- Iconic Item: His yellow boater hat and tuxedo.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Maurice Chevalier's accent is often treated this way in comedy.
- One Woman Song: "Louise", "Mimi", "Valentine",...
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Just look at the image on this page.
- Signature Laugh: His often imitated "hon hon hon" laugh.