An American in Paris

Released:  1951

Cast:  Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch

Oscar Wins:  Best Picture, Best Art-Set Decoration, Color (E. Preston Ames, Cedric Gibbons, F. Keogh Gleason, Edwin B. Willis), Best Cinematography, Color (John Alton, Alfred Gilks), Best Costume Design, Color (Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, Irene Sharaff), Best Musical Score (Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green), Best Writing, Scoring and Screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner), Academy Honorary Awar(Gene Kelly)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Director (Vincente Minnelli), Best Film Editing (Adrienne Fazan)

SUMMARY:  After finishing his service in the military in WWII, Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) remained in Paris and became a painter.  Jerry now lives in a tiny attic apartment, near his friend Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), a concert pianist.  Through his work, Adam knows Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary), who has become a famous French singer.  At the beginning of the movie, Henri visits Adam (who introduces Jerry) and tells her of his recent engagement.  Just after Jerry sets up on the street that day, he is approached by a wealthy woman named Milo Roberts (Nina Foch).  Milo believes that Jerry has talent, and wants to buy all of his paintings.  She invites him back to her apartment, and invites him to a party later that night.  However, when Jerry arrives that evening, he fnds that the “party” only consists of two people:  Jerry and Milo.  Jerry gets the impression that Milo is interested in more than his art, and tells her he has no interest in being a kept man, but Milo insists she only wants to help Jerry launch his art career  After Jerry agrees to stay, the two go out to dinner, where they meet some influential friends of Milo’s.  However, Jerry is more interested in a girl sitting at the next table, Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron).  Jerry bluffs his way into a dance with her, even though Lise is obviously less than thrilled with the situation.  Milo is also less than thrilled:  on the way home, she berates Jerry for ignoring her in front of her friends.

The next day, Jerry tries to call Lise at work, but she again rebuffs him.  At lunch, Milo tells Jerry that a collector is interested in his work, and that she wants to bring him by later that day.  Jerry is still preoccupied with Lise, though:  before meeting the collector, he goes by the store where Lise works, and talks her into having dinner with him — though she is careful not to be seen in public with him.  A few days later, Milo surprised Jerry with a studio apartment she has rented for him:  Jerry accepts it only on the condition that he repay the money when he gets established.  Milo has also arranged a show for Jerry, to be held in only three months.  Jerry begins painting almost nonstop, although he continues to see Lise frequently.  Everything goes well until the two stop by Jerry’s apartment to drop off work, and Lise leaves without warning.  A confused Jerry vents to Adam, who realizes that both Henri and Jerry are in love with the same woman.  When Henri arrives, he and Jerry talk about the girl they love, not knowing that it is the same person.  Henri advises Jerry to tell his girlfriend that he loves her, and Jerry takes the advice.  She responds by telling him that she is marrying Henri and going to America with him.  Even though she loves Jerry, she feels that she cannot betray Henri, who took care of her when she was a child during the war.  Jerry then abruptly goes to Milo’s apartment and invites her to a costume party, and kisses her.  Milo is thrilled that Jerry seems to finally be interested in a relationship with her, but at the party, she learns from Adam that he is really in love with someone else.  Henri and Lise are also at the party, and Lise and Jerry sneak a moment together to say goodbye.  Unbeknownst to them, Henri overhears their conversation.  Henri and Lise leave soon after, and Jerry has a huge daydream about dancing with Lise in Paris.  The daydream ends when Jerry hears a car:  Henri has brought Lise back, and she rushes to reunite with Jerry.

MY TAKE:  This movie was inspired by a 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin, also called “An American in Paris”.  It also incorporates a lot of other Gershwin music.  The music is great, but it kind of seems like the movie was a story written to include certain music, rather than a story that had music added.  It makes the plot seems weak, and there are several scenes that don’t make a whole lot of sense.  One of them is the epic daydream Adam has, in which he is the piano player, conductor, every orchestra member, and the audience members — it’s fun to watch him play the piece, but it has virtually no impact on the plot.  The same can be said of the huge “American in Paris” ballet — it’s always fun to watch Gene Kelly dance, especially with a partner like Leslie Caron, but I don’t really know why it was in the movie.  It doesn’t further the plot or reveal anything important — we already know they can dance.  The movie itself tends to drag at points, but the music and the dancing is great.  It won Best Picture, but I’m not sure it deserved that — it’s good, not spectacular.

Fun fact:  the ballet at the end lasts 17 minutes, and cost almost half a million dollars to produce.

RATING:  Okay.

 

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