50 Million Frenchmen (film)

Fifty Million Frenchmen is a 1931 American pre-Code musical comedy film directed by Lloyd Bacon. It was photographed entirely in Technicolor. The film was produced and released by Warner Brothers, and was based on Cole Porter's 1929 Broadway musical Fifty Million Frenchmen.

Fifty Million Frenchmen
Lobby card
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Written byJoseph Jackson
Eddie Welch
Al Boasberg
Based on1929 Musical play:
Cole Porter
Herbert Fields
E. Ray Goetz
StarringJohn Halliday
Claudia Dell
William Gaxton
Helen Broderick
Ole Olsen
Chic Johnson
Music byCole Porter
CinematographyDevereaux Jennings (Technicolor)
Edited byRobert O. Crandall
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • February 14, 1931 (1931-02-14)
Running time
74 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$430,000[1]

The film was originally intended to be released, in the United States, late in 1930, but was shelved due to public apathy towards musicals. Despite waiting a number of months, the public proved obstinate and the Warner Bros. reluctantly released the film in February 1931 after removing all the music. The film was released outside the United States as a full musical comedy in 1931.


Set in Paris, the story concerns the exploits of wealthy Jack Forbes (William Gaxton), who bets his friend Michael Cummings (John Halliday) that he can woo and win Looloo Carroll (Claudia Dell) without using any of his money or connections. Cummings hires Simon and Peter (Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson), a pair of erstwhile detectives, to make sure that Forbes doesn't win his bet.

Instead, Simon and Peter befriend our hero and decide to help him out. Olsen & Johnson have all the best material, notably an early double entendre encounter with a randy American tourist (Helen Broderick) and a scene in which Olsen impersonates a mind-reading fakir (Bela Lugosi) – who loses his clothes in the process! The finale has the comedians being chased by every law officer in Paris.



50 Million Frenchmen was originally a Cole Porter musical, but the songs were omitted from all prints of the film in the United States because box-office receipts for musical films at that time were down.

Box office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $401,000 domestically and $29,000 foreign.[1]


Only a black and white copy of the cut print released in 1931 in the United States seems to have survived. The complete film was released intact in countries outside the United States where a backlash against musicals never occurred. It is unknown whether a copy of this full version still exists.

See also


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 11 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
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