An American in Paris (1951)

Worth a Watch

Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Written by Alan Jay Lerner

Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, Nina Foch

Release Date: October 4, 1951

Running Time: 1hr 54min

Rating: Not Rated

Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) is a former GI living in post WWII Paris, looking to make it as a painter, with not much success. Still, he maintains a positive attitude while enjoying the beauty of the city of lights and its colorful residents. This includes his best friend/neighbor (and fellow American), Adam Cook (Levant) a neurotic and quick witted pianist and Henri Baurel (Guétary), a popular French singer.

One day he catches the attention of wealthy socialite and heiress, Milo Roberts (Foch), who says she wants to help him advance his art career (though she’s clearly interested in more than art!). While on a date with Milo he meets Lise Bouvier (Caron) and is instantly smitten. Lise is also attracted to Jerry, but unbeknownst to him she is romantically involved with Henri, who kept her safe during the war. [Adam is (at first) the only one aware of the love triangle going on, leading to a very amusing scene of him drinking copious amounts of brandy and coffee, plus lighting up multiple cigarettes, while Jerry and Henri talk (then sing and dance) about how smitten they are.]

Will Jerry and Lise end up together and live happily ever after? It’s a Hollywood romantic musical, I’m sure most know the outcome! [This movie is also 60+ years old, I would hardly call these spoilers.] You can also guarantee there’s gonna be some crazy elaborate dance numbers set to catchy music, along with colorful costumes and elaborate sets.

The film was was an enormous success, earning $7 million against a $2.7 million budget. It went on to to be nominated for eight Academy Award nominations and winning six (including Best Picture), as well as earning other industry honors. In 1993, it was selected for preservation by the United States Library of Congress in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It is ranked #9 among AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals.

This was a movie I knew about for years, but just didn’t get around to seeing until now. I’m very glad I did, as this movie is fantastic! It’s a simple but well told story, with lots of a energy, humor, and charm. It’s easy to see why Gene Kelly was such a big star in the musical world, his charisma and talents were undeniable. And what a dancer!

The rest of the cast is a lot of fun too, with Oscar Levant stealing every scene he’s in with his hilarious one liners and skills on the piano. This was Leslie Caron’s film debut, and boy does she shine! She started her career as a ballet dancer, and she’s plenty capable of keeping up with Kelly; the chemistry is electric.

Should you see it? If you like musicals, older films, lighthearted romances, then absolutely you should!

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