Gigi (1958), based on the 1944 Colette novel, shows The City of Light in all its Metrocolor, Belle Epoque glory. Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) is raising precocious granddaughter Gigi (Leslie Caron). Aunt Alicia (Isobel Jeans), once a great courtesan, (as, we infer was/is the girl’s mother), remains determined that her niece be married off to someone who will take care of her lavishly. To this end Gigi has weekly lessons in comportment, jewel recognition, dining, how to clip a cigar…
Friend of the family Gaston (Louis Jourdan) finds respite from his wealthy, boring life by visiting Madame Alvarez and Gigi, whom he thinks of as an amusing child. His romantic liaisons are brief, expensive, often scandalous, and formulaic. Eva Gabor has an attractive turn as one of these lovers.
Gaston’s hedonist uncle, Honoré Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier), finds his nephew’s lack of joie de vie incomprehensible. As we watch, Gigi grows up enough to attract Gaston displaying qualities he can’t find elsewhere. They awkwardly come together. Scenes with Madame Alvarez and Lachaille offer later life perspective. An opulent fairy tale with lovely, lyric music. Nine Academy Awards including Best Picture.
An American in Paris– Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 film inspired by George Gershwin’s orchestral An American in Paris. World War II veteran and struggling artist Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) finds a rich patron in American expatriate Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) who intends him to also become her next lover.
Unfortunately for her, Jerry sees Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) in a cellar boite (nightclub), experiences love at first sight, and pursues her. Lise, alas, is affianced (for the wrong reasons) to much older entertainer Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary). Jerry’s best friend Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) provides his darkly comic foil.
The gentle romance boasts terrific musical numbers including super tap and an incomparable, 17 minute ballet sequence with sets and costumes referring well known impressionist artists that cost the studio approximately $450,000 to produce. Seven Academy Awards including Best Motion Picture. If this has somehow slipped by you, indulge.
Funny Face (1957) was directed by Stanley Donan (little in common with the show of the same name). Audrey Hepburn as serious/shy book store clerk/amateur philosopher Jo Stockton and Fred Astaire as fashion photographer Dick Avery (based on Richard Avedon) in “the” fashion musical. Perfect pairing.
When Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (the great Kay Thompson) decides she needs a new model with something IN her beautiful head (models are portrayed as brainless), she takes Avery’s advice and conscripts Jo to travel to Paris and present a couture collection. The girl agrees in order to GET to Paris and meet a certain Gallic philosopher. She and Avery shoot the collection and fall in love. Of course. There are, however, misunderstandings. Of course. Paris shines. As do featured actors. And it’s Gershwin!
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