Published on July 4, 2016
Victor/Victoria is a 1982 British-American musical comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras, and John Rhys-Davies. The film was produced by Tony Adams, directed by Blake Edwards, and scored by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. It was adapted in 1995 as a Broadway musical. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won the Academy Award for Original Music Score. It is a remake of the 1933 German film Viktor und Viktoria.
Set in 1934 Paris, the film opens with Richard di Nardo, a young hustler, emerging from the bed of middle-aged Carroll Todd (Robert Preston), aka Toddy; Richard dresses, takes money from Toddy’s wallet and leaves Toddy’s apartment. Going about his day, Toddy, a performer at Chez Lui in Paris, sees Labisse, the club owner, auditioning a frail, impoverished soprano, Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews). After the audition, Labisse drily writes her off, and she responds by sustaining a pitch to shatter his wine glass using resonant frequency. That night, Richard comes to Chez Lui as part of a straight foursome and Toddy incites a brawl by insulting Richard and the women in his group. Labisse fires Toddy and bans him from the club. Walking home, he spots Victoria dining at a restaurant, and she invites him to join her. As neither of them can pay for the meal, she dumps a cockroach in her salad to avoid paying their check, but it escapes and the whole place breaks out in havoc.
The duo run out through the rain to Toddy’s, and he invites her to stay when she finds that the rain has shrunk her cheap clothes. The next morning Richard shows up to collect his things. Victoria, who is wearing his clothes, hides in Toddy’s closet. When she thinks that Richard might harm Toddy, she ambushes Richard and literally kicks him out. Witnessing this, Toddy is struck with the inspiration of passing Victoria off as a man (the illusion convinced Richard who stumbles downstairs to his friends waiting in the car claiming a strange man wearing his clothes hit him) and presenting her to Andre Cassell (John Rhys-Davies), the most successful agent in Paris, as a female impersonator.
Cassell accepts her as Count Victor Grazinski, a gay Polish female impersonator and Toddy’s new boyfriend. Cassell gets her a nightclub show and invites a collection of club owners to the opening. Among the guests is King Marchand (James Garner), an owner of multiple clubs in Chicago, who is in league with the mob. King attends with his ditzy moll Norma Cassidy (Lesley Ann Warren) and burly bodyguard Bernstein (Alex Karras), aka Squash. Victor is a hit, and King is smitten, but devastated and incredulous when she is “revealed” as a man at the end of her act. King is convinced that “Victor” is not a man.
After a quarrel with Norma and his subsequent failure with her later that night, King sends her back to America. Determined to get the truth of Victor’s gender, King sneaks into Victoria and Toddy’s suite and confirms his suspicion when he spies her getting into the bath. He keeps his knowledge secret and invites Victoria, Toddy, and Cassell to Chez Lui, where Toddy is now welcomed due to Victor’s status as a big star. Another fight breaks out with exactly the same foursome as before; Squash and Toddy are arrested with the bulk of the club clientele, but King and Victoria escape. King kisses Victoria pretending that he does not care about Victoria’s gender (although he of course actually knows that she is a woman), leading them to get together.
Squash returns to the suite and catches King with Victoria in bed. King tries to explain, but soon receives a shocker himself – Squash reveals himself to be gay. Meanwhile, Labisse hires a P.I., Charles Bovin, to investigate Victor. Victoria and King live together for a while, but keeping up the public act of Victoria being a man strains the relationship and King ends it. Back in Chicago, Norma tells King’s club partner Sal Andretti (Norman Chancer), that King is having an affair with Victor.
At the same time that Victoria has decided to give up the persona of Victor in order to be with King, Sal arrives and demands that King transfer his share of the empire to Sal for a small portion of its worth. Squash tells Victoria what’s happening, and she interrupts the paperwork signing to show Norma that she is really a woman, and prevent King from having to lose his stake. That night at the club Cassell tells Toddy and Victoria that Labisse has lodged a complaint against him and “Victor” for perpetrating a fraud. The Inspector tells Labisse that the performer is a man and Labisse is an idiot.
In the end, Victoria joins King in the club as her real self. King is stunned, as moments earlier, the announcer had said that Victor was going to perform. Toddy is revealed as the performer, having masqueraded as “Victor” to fool the Inspector. After an intentionally disastrous, but hilarious performance, Toddy claims that this is his last performance. The film ends with King, Squash, Victoria, Cassell and the public applauding enthusiastically.
Julie Andrews as Victoria Grant/Count Victor Grazinski
James Garner as King Marchand
Robert Preston as Carroll “Toddy” Todd
Lesley Ann Warren as Norma Cassidy
Alex Karras as “Squash” Bernstein
John Rhys-Davies as Andre Cassell
Graham Stark as the Waiter
Peter Arne as Labisse
Malcolm Jamieson as Richard Di Nardo
David Gant as the diner manager
Sherloque Tanney as Charles Bovin
Michael Robbins as Manager of Victoria’s hotel
Maria Charles as Madame President
Glen Murphy as Boxer
Geoffrey Beevers as Police Inspector
Norman Alden as Man in Hotel with Shoes (uncredited)
Neil Cunningham as the MC
Jay Benedict as Guy Longois