Happy Memorial Day! I think it’s the perfect Dance Movie Monday for one of my all time favorite dance movie’s ever – An American In Paris!
Released in 1951, and the winner of 6 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) An American In Paris tells the story of an ex-GI who stays in Paris after the war to try his hand at being a painter. Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, the film follows Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) as he finds himself caught in a complicated love triangle, or rectangle rather, between himself, Lise Bouvier (Caron) a wealthy American art collector and a famous French singer.
That description doesn’t even begin to capture the beauty and joy of this film though. Brilliantly directed by Vincent Minnelli, with choreography by Kelly, and bursting with the music of George and Ira Gershwin, An American In Paris is simply 2 hours of MGM musical magic – portraying the look and feel of Paris that we all romanticize and dream about (well I do anyway.)
Nearing the end of the film, Kelly and Minnelli boldly included a long ballet sequence – a day-dream of Mulligan’s as he tries to come to grips his freshly broken heart. The ballet brings to life French impressionist paintings, and iconic Paris landmarks in ways that colorfully stirs the imagination. In a word, it’s stunning.
The Verdict: Clearly I am a huge fan of this film and I cannot recommend it enough to dancers, movie geeks, and civilians alike. It’s just perfect and a visual “moveable feast.” While there are moments of less-than-perfect ballet technique from the young Caron (she was only 18 or 19 when they filmed it) it’s completely forgivable for the time. And her charm and stage presence are second to none. It’s no wonder she went on to have such a successful screen career after this film!
I’ll admit that I hold this film mostly responsible for my interest in taking up ballet (I was pretty much just a tapper before seeing An American In Paris.) But after seeing Leslie Caron dance around in pointe shoes in every color of the rainbow, I was hooked. I wanted to do that too!
Also, as a devoted Gene Kelly fan, An American In Paris is in the running for my favorite movie of all time, along with Singin’ In The Rain. So forgive me if I sound a bit obsessed… It’s mostly because I am!
If you’ve never seen An American In Paris you’re in for a big treat!
And if you’re in LA, you can actually see it the way it was meant to be seen (on the big screen) at the Egyptian Theater this coming Sunday, May 31st! This special screening from the American Cinematheque will include a discussion with scenic artist John Moffitt, cinematographer and film historian Michael Lonzo, costume designer Mikael Sharafyan (nephew of Irene Sharaff) and Patricia Ward Kelly, author and widow of Gene Kelly and creative director of “Gene Kelly: The Legacy.”