A is for An American in Paris, a musical from 1951. It won six Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay for Alan Jay Lerner, Best Picture, Cinematography, Set Decoration, Costume Design, and Best Music (scoring of a musical picture). Although nominated, Vincente Minnelli did not win for Best Director.
The film takes place in post World War II Paris. GI Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) has remained in the city and is an artist, painting scenes of the beautiful city and selling them on the streets. Jerry as narrator introduces us to his story at the beginning of the film, and makes every movement in his very tiny apartment a dance.
His best friend, Adam Cook (Oscar Levant, who was a brilliant musician and composer), also lives in the building, and is a concert pianist lacking an audience. The third gentleman central to the story is a Frenchman, Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary) who is a stage entertainer.
The female interests are Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) and Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). Milo decides to become a patron of the arts by promoting Jerry’s work, but not without some ulterior motives for she is attracted to Jerry.
The young Lise is engaged to Henri, but Jerry spies her in a club and goes after her. This really is how it looks; he practically stalks her. This is a part of the film that was not well written. We never see what the connections are between Lise and Jerry and why they are in love. Conversation is practically absent. What they do together is dance, and that of course is quite delightful. Leslie Caron was an accomplished ballet dancer, and her introduction to us through the love-smitten eyes of Henri showcases her talents in bold colors and variations of dance that really do her credit.
Even the relationship between Jerry and Milo is better defined in their dialogue and interactions. We know exactly what their relationship is and is not, and the two actors do a great job depicting it.
The film has some memorable songs, written by Ira Gershwin (lyrics) and George Gershwin (music). Gene Kelly choreographed all the dances, including the beautiful introduction to Lise, as well as the totally amped up fantasy dance sequence at the end of the film. He was quite a talent.
Nina Foch was a tall, beautiful blonde who had a long career in acting, and incidentally was married for a time to James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio fame. She also taught acting classes. Oscar Levant was well known for keeping the music of George Gershwin alive after he died. It would have been lovely to hear him play on stage.
An American in Paris is a classic musical that is well worth your time. Have you seen it, and what are your thoughts about the relationship between Jerry and Lise? Despite my criticisms of that part of the story, I basically enjoy the film for the music and dancing, and for the Paris setting.