Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Gene Kelly and Nina Foch
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951). Director: Vincente Minnelli.

Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is a struggling American painter working in Paris. His friend, Adam (Oscar Levant) -- "the world's oldest child prodigy" -- is a struggling composer who dreams of conducting his own symphony. Adam is friends with musical star Henri (Georges Guetary), who is engaged to waif-like Lise (Leslie Caron, in her film debut). Lise was taken in and protected from the Nazis by Henri, and she feels that she owes him. The trouble is that Lise falls for Jerry when she meets him, and vice versa, even as his patroness, Milo (Nina Foch), is falling for him. This is all played out in Alan Jay Lerner's screenplay in gorgeous Technicolor, with lots of dancing and some vintage songs by the Gershwins. Highlights include Kelly, Guetary and Levant performing "By Strauss;" Kelly tap-dancing with a group of children to "I Got Rhythm;" Kelly and Caron dancing by the Seine (or what passes for same) to "Our Love is Here to Stay;" Kelly and Guetary singing "S'wonderful," both unaware that they're singing about the same woman; and the long, beautiful climactic ballet with Caron [Valentino] and Kelly as the principals. Guetary, born in Egypt but of Greek heritage, was a handsome and charming entertainer who mostly did films in Europe. His big number in this is "Stairway to Paradise," where he comes off like a French Desi Arnaz -- in other words, he can put over a song but he hasn't got much of a voice, which is much too high and even shrill at times. The role of Henri was supposed to be a much older man, and even putting some gray in Guetary's hair doesn't make him look older than Kelly, who was his senior by a couple of years. Kelly and Caron are excellent; Levant [The Cobweb] is good if typically (and tiresomely?) dsypepetic; Nina Foch [St. Benny the Dip] adds some substance to her thankless role of Milo; and there are brief appearances by Noel Neill and Madge Blake, the latter of whom appears to good advantage in a charming scene in a perfume shop. I don't think it's giving anything away to say that the two lovers get together at the end, but whether their union will actually work in the long run is highly questionable. Others have noted that the other people in love with Caron and Kelly are treated somewhat shabbily. If they withdraw their financial support, the two lovers may indeed find themselves starving on the streets of Paris!

Verdict: Very enjoyable musical with a lot of talent on display. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, yes, this is indeed a good one, and has been several years since I have seen it. My favorite of course is the more crowd-pleasing Singin in the Rain; American Paris is a bit recherche and artsy (directed by Minnelli rather than Donen), but still brilliant of course.
Now I must see it again!!

Itsme Movies Collections said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
William said...

I agree that "Singin' in the Rain" is the better picture, but this one sure has its delights.