27 December 2009

An American in Paris

As part of my Christmas residency on the sofa next to my Grandma watching old films, yesterday I watched the charming classic An American in Paris and fell in love all over again with the vivid colours, beautiful choreography and elegant costumes.

I love how old Hollywood studio productions go all out with stunning sets, symphonic scores, visionary styling and clothes and huge ensemble casts, especially when they're headed up by the ultimate song-and-dance man, Gene Kelly.

It swept the board for Oscars in 1951 including Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Music, and Best Writing. Gene Kelly also received an Honorary Award for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director an dancing and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." Unsurprisingly, no statues for best acting, as the plot barely comes into it - an optimistic post-WWII romantic tale of star-crossed lovers who lose each other but - phew! - reconcile in time for the Big Happy Ending.

The climactic finale comprising the colourful dream sequence ballet shows the two leads dancing before huge stylised paintings by various famous French artists, in various Paris locations, with Kelly's daydream interrupted by the carhorn of his girl coming back to him.

For me, Kelly's energetic choreography, the dreamy characters, elegant poise, Leslie Caron's preppy, gamine style and beautiful costumes and Gershwin's fantastic music and lyrics make An American in Paris the best musical from MGM's golden age.
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4 comments

My New Favourite Thing said...

I watched Gigi this morning - apparently the last great MGM musical. They just don't make 'em like they used to! Fantastic Christmas viewing!

Emma Louise Layla said...

I missed Gigi - I watched the first ten minutes but then I was forced to get out of my PJs and go shopping... They definitely don't make 'em like they used to. Nowadays film musicals = High School Musical #57. Bleurgh.

Katherine said...

Gene Kelly may be the ultimate song-and-dance man but surely Fred Astaire is THE dance man?

Emma Louise Layla said...

Fred Astaire is a close second. Gene Kelly could act, he could sing, he could dance; he's an all-rounder!

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