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...and thank goodness. Despite the good songs, the movie version of "My Fair
Lady" hits a dull thud. In the words of Gaston Lachaille, "it's a
But this review isn't about "My Fair Lady". It's about one of the greatest musicals ever to be placed on cellulod - "Gigi", exquisite and as light as air!
Where do you start? The score and musical direction by Conrad Salinger and Andre Previn is one of the best. Vincente Minelli's direction frames Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan wonderously and builds the chemistry between the two photogenic stars. Great support is provided by Hermione Gingold and the redoubtable Maurice Chevalier. Paris has never looked as glorious on film as this - amazing costume design, art direction, and set pieces.
And the songs - absolute classics! Lerner and Loewe really hit their stride with this - "Thank Heaven for Little Girls", "I Remember It Well", "The Night They Invented Champagne", and the beautiful title tune.
This movie has often served as an introduction to Maurice Chevalier for movie watchers, and he illuminates the screen. If you want to see him in another of the greatest musicals, watch "Love Me Tonight" with Jeanette MacDonald.
Thank heaven for this movie - it's a world that I would love to inhabit! I give it 10 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Admired by novelists as diverse as Jean Cocteau and François Mauriac,
Colette was arguably the finest French writer of her sex in the 20th
century... Her main themes were joys and pains of love and female
sexuality in the male-dominated world... All her provocative works
(sometimes scandalous) were written with extraordinary insight,
sensitivity, and sensuality...
"Gigi" was made into a modest French film in 1948 by Jacqueline Audry, and ten years later, was brought to the screen as an Oscar-winning musical film dancing off with no fewer than nine Academy Awards including Best Picture...
'Gigi' is the delightful story of a young French girl raised and lavished by her grandmother, and her great-aunt, to follow the family tradition by becoming a courtesan... The film opens in the City of Lights, in a period that had its own visual style, the early 1900s, where Honoré Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier), standing in the lovely park of 'The Bois De Boulogne,' announces himself as 'a lover and collector of beautiful things.'
He sings "Thank Heaven for Little girls" with all the captivating smile and enduring charm that kept him an international super star for four decades... Honoré's ravenous appetite for life is contrasted with the world-weariness of his suave aristocrat nephew Gaston (Louis Jourdan), who, in the song 'It's a Bore!,' express his total indifference to absolutely everything...
Soon we are swept into the private world of Gigi, the adorable Parisian schoolgirl trained to follow the family tradition... Gigi is a potential coquette who steals everyone's heart... She knows how to test the quality of a cigar, and learns the refinements and graces of her family's exalted profession along with some of Aunt Alicia's basic recommendations...
Gigi progress from a Parisian gamine of the belle époque, to 'a definite allure.' Gaston, a longtime friend of the family, regards Gigi as a silly child, until he realizes that there has been a breathless change... Gigi shocks and upsets everyone by refusing to become Gaston's latest conquest... To her, the glory of romance and the music of love are not quite enough...
Leslie Caron is an absolute delight as the irrepressible Gigi... With her fleeting facial expressions, she captures brilliantly the transformation of a teasing tomboy into the hesitant, uncertain blooming of adult sexuality...
Louis Jourdan behaves like a perfect Gaston Lachaille... He makes his offer in good faith before any emotional advance... His character is a harmonious mixture of worldly cynicism and romantic idealism... His manners and behavior, and even his singing voice, are perfectly suited to the character...
Gaston is a high-living Parisian lover, a bon vivant, rich and famous... A very elegant bachelor bored with the high society life... The only woman he enjoys is one of his uncle's old girlfriends, Madame Alvarez, whose granddaughter, Gigi, strikes him as particularly irreverent... He brings to Gigi her caramels, licorice and champagne... He lets her cheat at cards... He is captivated by her boyish enthusiasm, even when he is refused, rejected, rebuffed, and repudiated...
Maurice Chevalier is outstanding as Gaston's elderly charming uncle... Honoré hasn't let his advancing age interfere with his exuberant enjoyment of chasing beautiful women... For him love is all... He is the 'Prince of Love,' with all the exuberance, the impudence and the occasional awkwardness of youth...
Isabel Jeans is perfect as Aunt Alicia, the ancient rich courtesan... She trains Gigi in securing a lineup of wealthy lovers... At one point, she instructs Gigi on the relative values of the exquisite stones in her jewel box, ticking off the particular merits of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds... Gigi listens to her aunt's artistic feat, inspiring the same delighted admiration for the large square-cut emerald her aunt got from a King, and which she slips onto Gigi's finger with the observation that 'only the most beautiful emeralds contain that miracle of elusive blue.'
The songs are perfect reflections of the characters who sing them...
At Maxim's, Gaston sings knowingly of his waning romance with the 'pretty but common' Liane (Eva Gabor) in 'She Is Not Thinking of Me.' In an outdoor café, Honoré sings of the relaxed and comfortable feelings that come with old age in 'I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore.' In Trouville, Honoré and the deliciously bizarre Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) recall their past romance with 'I Remember It Well.' And, most of all, Louis Jourdan sings 'Gigi' sweeping the movie audience in its words and music..
Minnelli's exquisite 'Gigi' brought together all the best elements of musical movies into a delightful pastiche of sumptuous music, elegant dancing, and enchantingly memorable characters... He simply hit the jackpot with his choices in actors, guiding flawlessly their interpretations...
This exquisite musical had a total of nine nominations and nine Oscars and awards in almost every category... It was highly unusual that none of the excellent cast received acting nominations... However, Maurice Chevalier was presented with a "Special Oscar."
Having seen this film several times, I definitely have to rate Gigi as one
of the most charming musicals ever made. The delightful score, by Lerner
Loewe, includes songs such as "I Remember it Well," "The Night They
Champagne," "Thank Heaven For Little Girls," as well as the title track,
"Gigi," sung with surprising candor and earnestness by Louis Jourdan.
Although reminiscent of their work on My Fair Lady, this score not only
stands beautifully on its own but also grows in depth with each
The three principals, Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, and Maurice Chevalier, along with the Paris locales helps maintain a distinctively French flavor, especially in the way the characters relate and interact.
For everyone who has commented on the political incorrectness of the story, a closer look will actually reveal the true feminist perspective of Colette's work which was groundbreaking for its time: 1) the story is a commentary and observation of the limited social and economic options for women outside of marriage during the turn of the century Paris, 2) Although Gigi (Caron) never fully masters her lessons and grooming, she is able to capture Gaston's (Jourdan) heart precisely because of her imperfections, and 3) most importantly, it is Gaston rather than Gigi who is forced to truly transform himself and defy the social conventions of the time to bring the story to its resolution.
Compare this to My Fair Lady, which offers similar social commentary but resolves itself in a more standard way: For example 1) Eliza Dolittle only becomes noticeable and lovable after transforming her outward appearance and speech patterns 2) Although Professor Higgins finally realizes his love for Eliza at the end, it is Eliza who is forced to submit her will by effecting a reconciliation that does nothing to resolve any of the issues raised in the scenes leading up to that point.
Definitely see Gigi and judge for yourself. (By the way, the widescreen version is sooooo much better. This is especially apparent in numbers such as "I Remember It Well" where entire characters are forced to be cut out of the screen.)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Leslie Caron as the title
character, "Gigi" (1958) is nothing short of sweet and delightful. Gigi
is a coltish teen in 1900's Paris who lives with her grandmother Madame
Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and who loves to hang out with family friend
Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan), an international jet-setter and
playboy whose every relationship is documented in the papers. The
pseudo-narrator of the film is Henri Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier),
Gaston's uncle and a notorious playboy in his own right, who loves to
give his nephew relationship advice, solicited or not. Gigi is being
bred by her grandmother and aunt to become a refined woman so she can
become a mistress for rich and powerful men, so it comes as both a
surprise and delight to the women to discover that Gaston may be a
suitable candidate. However, Gigi's innocence may not allow this to
happen, as she struggles with making the transition between carefree
girl to a refined lady with social responsibilities.
Musicals are a rare genre on my "films I adore" list, but "Gigi" has long been a favorite film of mine, despite its sappy moments and sometimes corny jokes. What makes "Gigi" such a good film is its unmitigated Charm with a capital "C"; one can't help but grin a little when Chevalier sings "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" because he doesn't stop flashing that high voltage smile himself. And I cannot get through the scene between Chevalier and Gingold when they sing "I Remember it Well" by the seaside without tearing up because it is just so damn cute. Sure, the revelations and epiphanies are pretty easy and kind of out of nowhere, but considering it is an MGM musical from the 1950's, I would be surprised if there weren't these kinds of things. Everyone in the film looks like they are having a good time (particularly Chevalier), and the great Lerner-Loewe music against the Parisian backdrop is enough to sell me.
"Gigi", while being a 10-time Oscar winner (including Best Picture) has unfortunately been marginalized by some as a typical MGM fluff piece, could be a hard sell, particularly to the jaded Generation Y - and - younger audience. However, since I myself am probably one of the most cynical film-viewers I personally know of, take my word for it "Gigi" is a lot of fun, and a good way to spend two hours. 8/10 --Shelly
"Gigi" is undoubtedly as good as it is because it was a musical written
expressly for the screen (it had been an enormously popular Broadway
play starring Audrey Hepburn). Lerner and Loewe were coming off their
huge success with "My Fair Lady" on Broadway, and were at the height of
their powers when they created the classic songs and screenplay for
this film. And although Leslie Caron's vocals were dubbed (thankfully
not by Marni Nixon), the rest of the cast acquits themselves with
aplomb and a good deal of style, particularly the heartstoppingly suave
and beautiful Louis Jourdan (who was much older than he looked at the
time, as was Caron -- he was 38, she was 27). The breathtaking Art
Nouveau sets and fin de siecle costumes were all designed by Cecil
Beaton and are even more gorgeous than those he did for the film
version of "My Fair Lady" a few years later.
This film is very faithful to Colette's original short story in both humor and spirit, and while I have no illusions that it is a completely truthful portrait of life in early 20th century Paris, it is a delightful, romantic story, one that is as lovely now as it was in the 1950s, or indeed, at the turn of the century. It really did deserve the Best Picture Oscar.
The ability to do fine musicals was one of Hollywood's endearing traits.
However, in Gigi they produced a GREAT musical that is in a class by
The score, the libretto, the costumes, photography et al won Oscars and
However, the cast led by Caron and Chevalier all deserved a special Oscar. They were cast perfectly and performed to perfection. Could there be a better Gigi than Caron? Her ability to go from a charming child to a beautiful women is overwhelming. The songs that Chevalier has made into classics, appear to have been written especially for him. Could one visualize any other personality performing these songs?
Jourdan is perfect in his role and so is Gingold. Thank heaven!!! Lastly, I must pay homage to that city on the Seine. It is the ultimate star and should have gotten a special award.
I agree with those readers that have called Gigi the best Hollywood musical; it is really the perfect musical. Thank heaven!!!
Although MGM and other studios would continue in the genre for several
more years, GIGI is the last great musical of Hollywood's golden age.
It is also one of the few titles consistently mentioned when critics
dispute which film should be considered the single finest musical ever
created by Hollywood, a film that rivals the likes of SINGIN' IN THE
RAIN and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.
Based on a novella by Colette, GIGI tells the story of a French family of the belle epoch--a family, it seems, of women who have made their living from the favors of famous men. Still something of a gawky schoolgirl, Gigi (Leslie Caron) is being trained to become a courtesan, and when she suddenly blossoms she captures the heart of Paris sophisticate Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan.) But much to her family's horror, when the arrangements are completed Gigi suddenly declines! The cast is absolutely flawless. Caron was born to play Gigi, and is as charming as the awkward youth as she is as the suddenly beautiful young woman; Jordan's appeal as the worldly and world weary Gaston is tremendous. But the real joy of the cast is in its supporting cast, which includes Maurice Chevalier as Gaston's uncle; Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans as Gigi's grandmother and great aunt; and Eva Gabor as Gaston's current mistress. Chevalier and Gingold play their roles with precisely the right mixture of charm and severity, and their duet "I Remember It Well" is among the highlights of the film, while Jeans and Gabor give such great comic turns that their small roles become as memorable as the leads.
The Learner & Lowe score is equal their great Broadway success MY FAIR LADY, and offers such enjoyable and memorable songs as "Gigi" and "The Night They Invented Champagne;" the script equals and merges with the music to considerable effect. Filmed largely on location in Paris, the look of the film is incredibly rich, and director Vincent Minnelli maintains a sprightly sense of humor with just enough darkness behind the bubbles to make us aware of the seriousness of the tale. Mixing intimacy with tremendous surface splash, GIGI is a cultural treasure, a film to enjoy and cherish forever and certainly a worthy contender for that disputed title of "Hollywood's finest musical." A personal favorite and highly, highly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
"My Fair Lady" is certainly Lerner and Loewe's crowning glory, but in my
mind, this is their most perfect creation. Anyone who thinks that Alan Jay
Lerner was not able to write and/or adapt a strong book without the help of
a G.B. Shaw needs to take in this gem of a musical based on the novel by
Although the creators were American, it is so effervescently French in spirit and tone. Lerner insisted that he and Loewe actually live temporarily in Paris while writing the score and screenplay so that they could incorporate the mood and feel of the city into their collaboration. This move paid off in spades. Paris is as much a character in this story as any of the protagonists, and it is displayed beautifully here. There is such color, joy, and romance in this musical. I also happen to think that it's extremely funny to boot. It is perfectly cast (the three main characters are all French, including the legendary Maurice Chevalier), the Cecil Beaton costumes are incredible, and the score is scintillating. The pace never lags for a second.
This musical is a must.
Ever since my sister and I were "leetle gerls" as sung by the
wonderful Maurice in the movie we have simply adored this film. There are so few treasures such as this one. Leslie Caron is nothing short of perfection in this role so young, and so beautiful. And too, I must mention the dashing young Louis Jordan as the much desired by all women, Gaston. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that beautiful song in my head as he has discovered his Gigi is a "woman" now and not a child. My sister and I will forever keep this movie close to our hearts. I suggest anyone who is a romantic or loves musicals to go and rent this one right away!!
It's almost as if Lerner & Lowe were competing with themselves when they
decided to write the music for "Gigi" -- once again, a story about a girl
being transformed into a young woman of charm (a Parisian courtesan) just as
Eliza was being molded into another creature by Professor Higgins. And
that's not the only similarity. The songs all have a "My Fair Lady"
similarity -- from 'The Night They Invented Champagne' to 'Gigi' to 'The
Parisiennes' -- all bear the flavor of their previous work in sound and
content. And yet they work beautifully for this story set in the city of
love and starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Herminone Gingold and Maurice
Production-wise, it's almost too lavish for its own good. Vincente Minnelli wrings every bit of artistic decor in the trappings, giving the viewer an almost claustrophobic feeling for the interior scenes. The outdoor shots are just as lavish--Louis Jourdan singing the title song among the fountains and architecture of French landmarks.
The cast is perfect. Leslie Caron makes an enchanting Gigi, Louis Jourdan is impossibly handsome as Gaston, and all of the other players were cast with a discerning eye.
But there is no denying that no matter how distasteful some will find the story of training a girl to become a courtesan to be (or how politically incorrect by today's standards), the score is as sparkling as the champagne they sing about. While, in my opinion, the score does not surpass "My Fair Lady" in range and cleverness, it certainly did well enough in winning nine Oscars, including the one for Best Picture of 1958. By all means, it has to be considered one of the last great musicals from the MGM period.
Only drawback: it's a bit overlong and could have used some editing for the slow moments.
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