An American in Paris (1951) Poster


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Even though Vincente Minnelli is credited as the sole director, he was sometimes tied up with his divorce from Judy Garland and other directing projects, leaving Gene Kelly to take over the directing duties.
The 17-minute dance sequence at the end took a month to film. It cost half a million dollars.
No words are spoken during the last 20 minutes and 25 seconds of the film.
Leslie Caron had suffered from malnutrition during WWII and was not used to the rigorous schedule of filming a movie. Because she would tire so easily, she was only able to work every other day.
Leslie Caron didn't speak English when she landed her first major role. She had a vague understanding of the language due to having an American mother, but was not conversant. Luckily for her, the part didn't have many lines and was comprised of mostly dancing, a skill that Caron was very fluent in.
Gene Kelly discovered Leslie Caron while vacationing in Paris where he saw her perform in a ballet.
A major reason Gene Kelly suggested Leslie Caron as the female lead was because he felt this movie needed a "real" French girl playing Lise, not just an American actress playing one.
Gene Kelly's favorite of all of his musicals.
Oscar Levant, more of a pianist than an actor, signed onto the film because he was actually a friend of George Gershwin.
At 38 Gene Kelly was 19 years older than his co-star Leslie Caron.
Alan Jay Lerner began writing the screenplay in December 1949, and finished it in a 12-hour stretch in March 1950 on the night before his wedding.
Arthur Freed originally just wanted to buy the rights to the George Gershwin number "American in Paris," but Ira Gershwin made the condition that he'd only sell on the condition that if a musical were to use the song, it would use only Gershwin numbers as its other songs.
Despite the objections of Gene Kelly who wanted to shoot on location in Paris, the movie was shot at MGM Studios in California, on 44 sets built for the film. It was reportedly difficult for the studio to secure travel arrangements or locations for shooting. Two shots in the picture are from Paris, but they don't involve Kelly.
Leslie Caron had never seen a Gene Kelly film and didn't really know who he was when he arrived in Paris to make a screen test with her.
Film debut of Leslie Caron.
Gene Kelly directed the whole "Embraceable You" sequence.
The ballet sequence was almost cut because the shooting was behind schedule, but MGM studio head Dore Schary stood by Arthur Freed, Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly in withholding the release of the movie because he felt the movie wouldn't be effective without it.
According to Leslie Caron, her introductory dance sequence, which included a seductive dance with a chair, was considered too suggestive by some censors. Gene Kelly directed the brief fantasy dance sequences shown as Lise is introduced.
During filming, Nina Foch came down with chicken pox. She went back to work as soon as she was able, but as a result, a whole team of makeup artists had to work to cover her pockmarks.
The film's most famous sequence - the climactic ballet - was not conceived until midway through production and was largely brought about due to Nina Foch's unavailability (the actress was out of the film for three days due to contracting chicken pox). Alan Jay Lerner came up with the idea for the ballet, and wrote it, in those three days.
Costume designer Irene Sharaff used 25 different shades of yellow for the Toulouse-Lautrec segment of the final ballet.
Irene Sharaff designed a style for each of the ballet sequence sets, reflecting various French impressionist painters: Raoul Dufy (the Place de la Concorde), Edouard Manet (the flower market), Maurice Utrillo (a Paris street), Henri Rousseau (the fair), Vincent van Gogh (the Place de l'Opera), and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (the Moulin Rouge). The backgrounds took six weeks to build, with 30 painters working nonstop.
A scene in which Gene Kelly dances and sings "I've Got a Crush on You" while in his pajamas was filmed but did not make final cut. Kelly created a similar number with the song "All I Do Is Dream of You" for his next movie musical, Singin' in the Rain (1952), and it also ended up on the cutting room floor.
A famous painter was hired to create the paintings that Gene Kelly displays on the streets of Paris.
Leslie Caron's costumes were largely borrowed from Elizabeth Taylor's in Father of the Bride (1950).
Gene Kelly screened The Red Shoes (1948) for the MGM executives to persuade them to back a dance film.
With this project, Arthur Freed saw the chance to combine two of his personal favorites - the music of George Gershwin and French Impressionism.
The song "Stairway to Paradise" is the only one in the film that is presented as a show tune; the rest are all seamlessly integrated into the action. In the segment, Georges Guétary walks up a staircase adorned with showgirls whilst singing the number. Gene Kelly later said that probably the hardest thing he had to do in the film was teach Guetary how to climb steps while performing without tripping up. Another factor complicating the shooting of this sequence was the intensity of the studio lights which proved too hot for several of the showgirls who passed out.
Oscar Levant's dream sequence may be a tribute to Buster Keaton. In the opening sequence of The Play House (1921), Keaton also played every role - conductor, every member of the orchestra, stage hand, all nine actors on stage, and each member of the audience.
44 sets depicting Paris were built by master art director E. Preston Ames in Hollywood who himself had studied in the French capital and knew the city well.
The part of Jerry's sidekick, Adam Cook, was written specifically for Oscar Levant who was a close personal friend of Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli.
Georges Guétary was actually two years younger than Gene Kelly so gray was added to his hair to make him appear older.
Director Vincente Minnelli initially envisioned Maurice Chevalier for the role of Henri Baurel, but Chevalier had not appeared in America for many years based on questions related to his political leanings during WWII. Beyond this, Chevalier had no interest in playing a secondary part his own age. Where the role of Milo Roberts was concerned, Minnelli was leaning toward Celeste Holm when he was asked to consider contract player Nina Foch. Minnelli was pleased with Foch's reading, and she got the part.
Maurice Chevalier was originally considered for the part of Henri. However, Chevalier's collaborationist stance during WWII was one of the reasons that ruled him out.
There was a break in production after 1 November 1950, at which point Gene Kelly began rehearsing the ballet choreography. By the time production for that final sequence resumed on 6 December, Vincente Minnelli had finished directing another film - Father's Little Dividend (1951).
Producer Arthur Freed wanted Marge Champion to star in this movie, but at the time Champion didn't want to break up her dance act with her husband Gower Champion. So she persuaded Freed that he should cast a French girl in the role instead.
Arthur Freed got the idea of making the film when he attended a Hollywood Bowl production of George Gershwin classics and was particularly inspired by the "An American in Paris" number. Over the next three years, he discussed ideas with Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, Johnny Green and Alan Jay Lerner.
This was cinematographer John Alton's first film in color, having built up a solid reputation for his b&w noir work.
Fred Astaire was considered for the film but, as it had a slant towards ballet, Gene Kelly was the more obvious choice.
After Arthur Freed and Ira Gershwin reached an agreement during their weekly pool game, film rights to George Gershwin's "An American in Paris - A Tone Poem for Orchestra" were purchased for $158,750, and Ira received $56,250 as a consultant to write any necessary new lyrics for songs used.
The piece performed in Oscar Levant's dream sequence is the third movement, Allegro Agitato, from George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F Major. This movement is also the shortest one in the concerto.
This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1993.
Only Best Picture Oscar winner whose title begins with the word "An".
On the two-disc special edition DVD released in 2008 by Warner Home Video, footage of one musical scene has been restored as a bonus: Georges Guétary, accompanied by Oscar Levant at the piano, singing "Love Walked In" to Leslie Caron in a café. Audio extras include Gene Kelly crooning "I've Got a Crush on You," plus two versions of "But Not for Me": a Georges Guétary vocal and an Oscar Levant piano solo.
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The 18-minute ballet has its own credit in the movie's opening titles ("And Presenting The American In Paris Ballet")
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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The movie was named as one of "The 20 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time" by Premiere.
Oscar Levant and Gene Kelly both grew up in Pittsburgh. Kelly appeared in a Cap and Gown show at the University of Pittsburgh whose music was written by Oscar's talented musical brother, Benjamin, who went on to become a urologist.
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While in recent years, many have balked at the Best Screenplay Oscar awarded to Alan Jay Lerner, his script is actually quite ingenious in its ability to dodge the censorship of the era in telling a story the Production Code would likely have damned in another writer's hands. At its core, An American in Paris (1951) is the story of two 'kept' people who are unable to commit to one another for fear of losing what little security they have. As Lerner manages to convey the dark corners of this disagreeable scenario without explicitly stating any of it - and without sacrificing the audience's compassion for his characters - one could argue that the Oscar was not only appropriate, but actually well deserved.
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The first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Best Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe Awards.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Maurice Chevalier turned down the part later taken by Georges Guétary because he didn't get the girl at the end of the film.

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