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Liza Minnelli: Money Makes the World Go Round

American actress and singer Liza Minnelli is perhaps most famous for her role as singer Sally Bowles in the decadent musical, Cabaret. The Los Angeles-born star was 26 when she played the iconic role of a young American cabaret singer performing in Berlin in 1931.

Minnelli won an Academy Award for her role in Cabaret in 1972. It was almost inevitable that she would become a major star on the big screen, since her mother was the legendary singer Judy Garland. Her father was Vincente Minnelli, director of Garland's most famous films, such as Meet Me in St Louis.

Liza Minnelli

© Allied Artists Pictures Corporation 1972



Born into the show business family in 1946, the young Liza moved to New York when she was only 16 to seek theatre work. She made her debut in 1963 in the off-Broadway musical, Best Foot Forward.

She also won critical acclaim for her non-musical performances, such as the comedy-drama, The Sterile Cuckoo, in 1969, but it was Cabaret that thrust her into the public eye and established her as a true superstar. The musical drama was directed by Bob Fosse and starred Minnelli and British actor Michael York as her lover, a quiet academic English teacher called Brian Roberts.

Roberts was the complete opposite to the vibrant and loud Bowles, who was a resident vocalist at the Kit Kat Klub. She was determined to seduce him, as he was a challenge after he admitted to three failed relationships behind him.

The unlikely duo became friends and Roberts witnesses Bowles' anarchic, bohemian lifestyle in the years before World War II. In spite of their initial reservations, they become lovers on the basis that previous relationships had failed because they were "the wrong girls".


Musical score

Written by John Kander and Fred Ebb and adapted by Ralph Burns, Cabaret's musical score contains many classic songs, such as Willkommen, Sitting Pretty and Money Makes the World Go Round. They are sung as part of the cabaret show at the notorious Kit Kat Klub.


Based on a book by Joe Masteroff, the film was adapted from a 1966 stage musical. The club is a metaphor for ominous political events in Germany and the musical opened on Broadway on 20th November 1966 and was a massive hit. It ran for 1,165 performances, starring Jill Haworth as Sally. A 1998 revival of the Cabaret stage show ran for an amazing 2,377 performances.

The film won eight Academy Awards, including Minnelli's best actress and Joel Grey's best supporting actor awards as the master of ceremonies. Grey reprised his stage role for the film.

The movie made a number of changes from the Broadway show, including dropping some of the songs. In the play, Bowles was British, but she became American in the film.


Money song

The movie's most famous and iconic scene is when Bowles and the master of ceremonies sing Money Makes the World Go Round. As the title suggests, it's all about how money is vital to creating a good quality of life.

It's sung from the point of view of someone who doesn't have a lot of money, making it more a song of wishful thinking. Bowles dreams of having plenty of money so that if she's ever left by her lover, she can recover on her "14-carat yacht".

After imagining what it would be like to have unlimited amounts of money, she looks at what reality is like for millions of people living in poverty. The lyrics describe people who "haven't any coal in the stove", so they are freezing in winter. There are people who "haven't any shoes" and their coat is as "thin as paper".

The song describes asking the rotund pastor for advice on alleviating poverty and he advocates eternal love, but then hunger goes "rat-a-tat" at the window and love quickly goes flying out of the door when you have nothing to eat.


Material world

Although the song is sung in a raunchy and glamorous cabaret style, the lyrics are actually very poignant, concluding that "money is all that makes the world go round". The narrator believes that everything in the world will stop without money.

This statement is true to some extent because without money, people can't purchase shelter or food - two things that are vital to having a reasonable quality of life. However, critics of the song suggest it emphasises the fact that in today’s world, people become too preoccupied with acquiring wealth.

They point out that an unhealthy obsession with making a fortune can make some people neglect other aspects of their life, giving them a distorted view of success, based purely on material wealth. They may rate earning a fortune and having a large house or a flashy car as being more important than having good relationships with people.

Even the critics can't deny its sentiments that money enables people to enjoy a better quality of life, without the stress of wondering how household bills and other expenses are going to be paid!


Recent career

Minnelli's vibrant performance of Money Makes the World Go Round is one of the most memorable moments of her long career.

She has starred in a host of hit films, such as New York New York in 1977, Arthur 2 in 1988 and Stepping Out in 1991. She has appeared in a multitude of TV specials including Judy and Liza at the Palladium, when she performed live with her mother, and Frank, Liza and Sammy, when she sang with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

Now aged 72, she is still performing, having made her debut at the age of three, when she appeared in the final scene of In the Good Old Summertime in 1949 - a musical starring her mother, Judy Garland.

In 2010, she had a cameo role in Sex and the City 2, when she performed Beyoncé's hit single, Single Ladies. In 2012, she headlined a live show at Hampton Court Palace Festival and in 2014, she appeared on Cher's Dressed to Kill tour in Brooklyn.


Retail economy

In the words of the famous song, money does indeed make the world go round. In terms of the retail economy, uncertainty about the UK's future in the light of Brexit made 2018 a tough year for businesses.

Yet in spite of the dramatic headlines, according to a study by Deloitte, retailers are fighting back in 2019. Some larger retailers have closed stores and streamlined their operations, reducing the size of their portfolio, but at the same time, new brands have popped up.

Although clothing and footwear stores have been hardest hit by the current economic climate, hair and beauty salons are booming, with around 1,000 new businesses springing up in town centres across the UK since 2013.

Independent supermarkets and convenience stores have also grown in almost every town centre. In addition, specialist vaping shops have really taken off, with the number increasing by around 800% in the past five years, as health-conscious consumers attempt to stop smoking.

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