Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The old David Belasco theatrical warhorse Zaza, which starred Mrs. Leslie Carter way back in 1899, had already been filmed by Pauline Frederick in 1915 and by Gloria Swanson in 1923 when this Claudette Colbert version hit the screens in early 1939. Doing her own singing and dancing, Colbert plays the title character, a saucy fin de siecle Parisian cabaret performer who falls in love with wealthy rogue Dufresne (Herbert Marshall). Quitting show biz to be with Dufresne for all time, Zaza is taken aback to discover that he's already married. Sorrowfully she returns to the stage, singing a farewell to Dufresne before an audience that seems to include everyone in Paris. Bert Lahr steals the show as Zaza's zany but golden-hearted music-hall partner; in fact he's a lot livelier than the near-comatose Herbert Marshall, who seems preoccupied with more important matters throughout the film. Screenwriter Zoe Akins did her best to make the "naughty" Belasco original conform to the stringent censorship standards of 1939. Still, the Hays Office found plenty with which to nitpick: Commenting on Zaza's angry exclamation "Pig! Pig! Pig! Pig! Pig!", the Hays folks demanded "Delete two 'Pigs'."