Sixty years ago today, the premiere of the movie musical Gigi starred an aging Maurice Chevalier singing “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.” The sentiment was real, according to Pete Martin’s interview with Chevalier a few months later.
In “I Call on Maurice Chevalier,” the writer met the legendary performer on a tour of sorts in Seattle to talk about life, love, and cocktail parties. Pushing 70 years old, Chevalier was perfectly happy to play the role of uncle or grandfather in a musical instead of romantic lead. In fact, he thought it sad, perhaps embarrassing, to continue chasing after “lover” roles in advanced age. When Martin asked Chevalier whether it was in bad taste for an older man to chase after young girls, the French performer’s answer was enlightened, and likely different than the reporter was expecting to hear:
I think it’s not good for any man, even a young man, to chase any girl. Love is the same as success: one should meet it halfway. When it happens, you should clasp it to yourself in the middle of the road, if that’s where you find it. It should be like the coming together of the negative and positive poles of a magnet. When you are going to fall in love with somebody, most of the time she has shown you already that she likes you. If you just fall madly in love with a person who does not even look at you — who, in fact, is high-hatting you — you are falling in love with the wrong person. To me, love is only good if it is gladly shared. That is when it becomes something deliciously and irresistibly important.
Chevalier’s prolific performing career spanned Europe and the United States. He preferred an intimate bottle of wine to a crowded cocktail party, and — unlike his American counterparts — he always employed a subtle compliment over a brutish pickup line.