An American in Paris (1951) Poster

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The dream film that altered my life!
delh128 January 2001
In the year of distribution (1951) of An American in Paris, I had just been married. My husband and I saw the film, and laughed and cried over it. We enjoyed the spectacular dancing, the vibrant colors of clothes and sets, and the marvelous Gershwin music. We both swore that someday we would get to Paris.

Sadly, it was not to be for us, as my husband, Thanos, died 24 years later, having been sick for many years.

The following year an old friend invited me to visit him while he was on sabbatical from school. He had spent many years in Paris, teaching English there, and rented a little house in Neuilly. I said no, but all my friends said "GO! It's the opportunity of a lifetime." So I did, and fell in love with that glorious old city.

I cried because Thanos was not with me, and yet I felt he knew I had come here for both of us, and was glad for me. I have since visited the City of Light 5 times, and love it so very much. I am now too old and too disabled to do any more world traveling, but that city of romance is something that will always remind me of Thanos. That's why I still love to see the youthful Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron falling in love as WE were once young and in love - and the glorious city of Paris - the most beautiful place in the world!
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9/10
Experiencing Paris With Gershwin
bkoganbing28 September 2006
Gene Kelly came up with some really grand ideas for musicals while with MGM. Here he's at the top of his creative powers working with the Arthur Freed musical unit. Hard to believe when you watch An American In Paris that the players never left the back lot at MGM.

The magic of An American In Paris is due to the creative editing under the direction of Vincent Minnelli and the sets that MGM designed blended with some background establishing shots. The idea of the film originated with Kelly who wanted simply to do a film with a lengthy ballet sequence involving George Gershwin's tone poem An American in Paris. It sounded good to Arthur Freed who approached Ira Gershwin who said fine with him as long as they used other Gershwin material.

Gershwin got the kind of deal for Gershwin music that Irving Berlin normally got. Not one note of non-Gershwin music is heard in An American in Paris. Listen to some of the background music and you will hear things like Embraceable You and But Not For Me which are not real musical numbers.

Another guy who was a fair hand at writing lyrics, Alan Jay Lerner, wrote the story which admittedly is a thin one. All about an ex-GI played by Gene Kelly who after World War II never left France, just settled into an apartment on the Left Bank and proceeded to become a starving artist. He lives with eccentric composer Oscar Levant and does that ever sound like a redundancy.

Two women are interested in him. Another expatriate American played by Nina Foch who wants to sponsor him as a painter if he'll reciprocate in other matters. But Kelly falls for a shop girl played by Leslie Caron in her film debut. Caron also has musical comedy star Georges Guetary interested in here.

Of course the plot is just an excuse to sing and dance to the music of George Gershwin. An American in Paris happens to be the first film I ever saw as an in flight movie on the first airplane trip I ever took. I still remember flying back from Phoenix Arizona to Kennedy Airport seeing Gene Kelly doing I've Got Rhythm. My favorite number in the film however is Tra-La-La which Kelly sings and dances all over the apartment with Oscar Levant playing the piano. At one point Kelly dances on top of the baby grand piano.

In a book about Arthur Freed, I read a quote where he said in the American in Paris ballet sequence was to be done with the background of the French impressionists which he felt the public would take to rather than a realistic setting on the streets or back lot. So it happened that way. Kelly had done lengthy ballet sequences in Words and Music, The Pirate, and On the Town. But this one topped them all. Still does in my opinion and that includes some of Gene Kelly's later films.

In a surprise upset at the Oscars, An American In Paris was chosen best picture for 1951, beating out the heavily favored A Streetcar Named Desire. I guess fantasy trumped realism that year. Big budgets also have an upper hand in these things as well.

Still An American in Paris is one of the best movie musicals ever done and since the studios no longer have all that creative talent under one roof, something less likely to be repeated.
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10/10
A display of breathtaking colors dizzyingly romantic...
Nazi_Fighter_David11 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Vincente Minnelli directed some of the most celebrated entertainments in cinema history... He was among the first Hollywood directors to show that a profound love of color, motion and music might produce intelligent entertainment...

'American in Paris' is the story of an ex-GI who remains in France after the war to study and paint... He falls in love with a charming gamine Lise Bourvier... Their romantic love affair sparkles as brightly as the City of Lights itself... The whole movie brings a touch of French elegance where technique, artistic style and music all come together in perfect synchronism...

The first musical sequence introduces the exciting personality of Leslie Caron in her screen debut... She is like a diamond, a touch of class... George Guetary describes his fiancée ambiguous grace in a montage of different dance styles, sweet and shy, vivacious and modern, graceful and awesome... The number leads to an unpretentious bistro, where Kelly and his very good friends in Paris share a gentle parody of Viennese waltzes... Later Kelly celebrates a popular tap dancing with a crowd of enthusiastic children singing with him 'I Got Rhythm,' and at the massive jazz nightclub Kelly spots the girl of his dreams... He is instantly hit by her sparkling sapphire blue eyes, and only one clear thing is in his mind, to pull Lize onto the dance floor and sing to her: "It's very clear, Our love is here to stay."

To the joyful 'Tra-La-La,' Kelly provides humor, wit and talent all around Oscar Levant's room ,and even on the top of his brown piano...

When he meets his pretty Cinderella along the Seine river, Kelly is swept away by his happy meeting with Caron... He expresses all his emotions with 'Our Love Is Here to Stay.' The piece had a definite nighttime feel as the two lovers were bathed in soft, blue smoky light... They start an enchanting dance-duet juxtaposing differing elements... Caron dances with her head on his shoulder, then tries to run away in a fluid way... They move backward, away from each other, then pause to rush toward each other, for a little kiss, and a warm hug...

The film's weakest numbers were those that bear little relation to the story... In one, Georges Guetary performs an entertaining stage show with showgirls in giant ornaments floating down to the stage... In another, Oscar Levant imagines himself conducting a concert, and playing not only a piano recital, but the other instruments as well... He even applauds to himself as members of the audience...

The extravagant climactic super ballet of the film is quite an adventure, a breakthrough in taste, direction and design... It is a blaze of love, fury and vividness... It is Kelly's major fantasy of his lost love and of his feeling about Paris as viewed through the huge backdrops of some of France's most Impressionist painters...

The number starts at the Beaux Arts Ball after Kelly finds himself separated from Lise, and begins a sketch with a black crayon... It gathers the important parts of the film's story through a constantly changing locations, all in the style of the painters who have influenced Jerry... The tour, richly attractive and superbly atmospheric, includes the Place De la Concorde Fountain, the Madeleine flower market, the Place De l'Opéra, to his Rendez-Vous at Montmartre, with the cancan dancers in a representation of Lautrec's Moulin Rouge...

Kelly seems to defy the boundaries of his physical self... Caron seems to dominate her space and sweeps you away to another time and place...

Nina Foch appeared very attractive and elegant in her one-shouldered white gown... In one of the film's most famous lines, Kelly asks her: 'That's quite a dress you almost have on. What holds it up?" Nina, cleverly replies, "modesty!"

'An American in Paris' garnered six Oscars, including an honorary award to Gene Kelly... The film gave us a wealth of memories to take home...
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9/10
A trailblazing musical
23skidoo-427 October 2002
An American in Paris was, in many ways, the ultimate mixture of art and Hollywood musical. Made at the height of MGM's powers as a musical powerhouse, the film features memorable music from the Gershwins, who rightly have been called the 20th Century's equivalent of Beethoven and Mozart.

Gene Kelly was also at the height of his powers in this film, though it could be rightly argued that this movie was just the warm-up for his best work in Singin' in the Rain (1952). The two films are actually closely linked. Aside from the Arthur Freed connection, the Broadway Melody segment in "Rain" owes its existence to the incredible American in Paris Ballet sequence in this film. This might well have been the only time a dance number is specially mentioned in the opening credits of the film. And it deserved to be, as it showcases Gene Kelly's skills as a dancer and choreographer to their utmost degree.

The film's cast is uniformly excellent. Leslie Caron, incredibly making her film debut, shows a maturity that makes you think she'd been making films for years. Her introductory dance sequence, and later her work on the Ballet, provides some surprisingly sexy moments rivalled in MGM Musicals only by Cyd Charisse's work in Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon. Oscar Levant is hilarious as Kelly's stoic pal, who gets two of the film's best moments: during the end party sequence (which I will not give away for anyone who hasn't seen the film), and one of the film's most memorable musical numbers which couples his incredible piano skills with state-of-the-art (for the time) special effects.

Less memorable are Georges Guetary as Kelly's romantic rival, though he does get a few musical highlights, and Nina Foch as Leslie Caron's romantic rival. The May-December relationship between Kelly's character and Nina's reminded me of the same "kept man" relationship seen between George Peppard and Patricia Neal in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

There are a few elements of the film that made it less satisfying for me than Singin' in the Rain. The Ballet, though lavish and well-produced, doesn't really fit with the rest of the movie. Without giving away the plot, the Ballet just happens, with no real rhyme or reason. And unlike the Broadway Melody sequence, it really doesn't have anything to do with the plot -- and in the best musicals, the songs always have some sort of raison d'etre.

Making matters worse is the ending of the film which happens immediately after the Ballet. Although the ending shouldn't be a surprise (this IS an MGM musical, after all), I was hoping for a bit more ... movie after the Ballet ended. It's as if director Vincente Minnelli felt that he couldn't follow the Ballet with anything else. The film literally left me in the lurch.

That negative aside, An American in Paris rightly ranks alongside the best of Hollywood's musicals. It doesn't quite reach the heights of Singin' in the Rain, but it comes close and it remains a testament to Gene Kelly's skills as one of the greatest dancers of all time.
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6/10
A great film that's not aging well
info-1238827 May 2009
Don't get me wrong: the musical numbers are still top rate. Watching Kelly dance anything from the tap on the sidewalks to the full blown ballet at the end is still very much a marvel to behold. But the story? Ehhhh... not so much.

Granted, plots in MGM musicals are pretty thin affairs anyway, little more than slight variations on their Broadway cousins (who, at the time, weren't anywhere near Shakespeare themselves!): stock formulae that involved a boy and a girl and a happy ending. But in American IN Paris, we're to somehow believe that Gene and Leslie are a perfect couple from their very first glance, even though it means trampling all over the feelings of the two people genuinely in love with these two (and Lord only knows why). Poor Nina Foch gets the worst of it: her storyline doesn't even get a proper resolution... and I'm not quite sure I hold to the idea that she wanted to make Kelly a "kept man": instead, she comes across as a woman who falls in love way too easily and has the cash on hand to help her man of the moment realize his own dream with little thought of her own. Certainly she gets twisted in all directions from the moment Kelly, spurned by Caron, shows up at her apartment, seemingly ready to accept her a "real woman"... only to discover that she's just a rebound relationship -- and we all know how well those work out, right? Meanwhile, the guy who's kept Caron's body and soul together comes across as the kind of nice guy that would do *anything* to keep his wife happy... even if it means giving her up for some schmuck he (and she!) barely knows. Again, we're looking at someone with a fierce sense of devotion and the means to create a perfect world for his intended... only to find out that she never really loved him like she said she did. I have little doubt that when his act finally *did* tour the States, it was a huge disaster, because it's difficult to sing something about a stairway to Paradise through a layer of bitter cynicism.

It's interesting that we have these parallel relationships, both set up along the same dynamics of one person totally in love and happy to lay out anything his/her partner wants, no matter the cost -- and that in both cases, the wealthy one, despite the integrity of his/her feelings, get dumped for a somewhat duplicious, deceitful little affair. Maybe, in some alternate MGM universe, these two unfortunate people found each other and got their own happy ending. I sure hope so.
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10/10
Response to comments
funkyfry3 March 2005
I felt it necessary to respond to the comments posted on the front page of this film's page because some of it was slightly misinformative.

Originally I posted quotes from the original poster, but I wasn't sure if it was proper given that this is the "comments" index and not a message board (though we used to use 'em that way back before IMDb added the film message boards) so I will edit this to make it unnecessary.

Well, first of all you may not be aware of this, but Gene Kelly first became famous for playing "Pal Joey" on Broadway in the original production. When Vincente Minnelli decided to make a Gershwin "panorama" film, he wanted Kelly's character to be more sophisticated than the "goody two shoes" roles he had been playing in most his films (with the exception of "For Me and My Gal"). Alan Jay Lerner was instructed to construct a new story set in Paris based on the story of "Pal Joey". This gave Kelly a chance to play his famous role from Broadway even though Warners had outbid MGM for the rights to "Pal Joey." In my opinion, the WB film "Pal Joey" is a wreck, though Sinatra was suitable for the role, but other problems sunk the film (script changes and poor direction. ===================================================

You complain that Kelly's pictures are not well done, even citing your art education to prove the point. But you miss the fact that Kelly's bad art was clearly designed to be bad, and it is necessary for the story/characters. The pictures are so bad, the audience knows that Kelly isn't ready for an exhibition. Even he knows it, though Milo has sort of sugared him up to the point where he almost believes her. But it's important that the audience not be sitting there saying "but, he's a great artist, if he only had the chance!". You want the audience to be fully aware of his deficiencies.

Then you complain that he sabotages his interest in the show; again you are not understanding the structure of the story. He refuses because he doesn't want to feel like a gigolo, and because he knows he's not really ready for the exhibition. His enthusiasm for the exhibition is certainly not as great as "Joey's" enthusiasm to "start a nightclub". But it serves the same function in the plot. Remember, it's essential in "Pal Joey" (the play) that Joey gives up his nightclub after he realizes that he doesn't deserve it. Same with the art show. If Kelly's paintings were actually good, it would undermine this whole point. ===================================================

Then you complain that Caron and Kelly have no "chemistry". I guess it's in the eye of the beholder. I agree, the chemistry between them is not as strong as it should be, but for me it was fine. Compare it to even worse "forced" romances like the one between Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in "The Pride and the Passion". ====================================================

When you say that the big dance finale has nothing to do with anything else in this film, it just shows that you haven't dug beneath the surface of the film into its symbolism. Many elements in the dance sequence relate to the story and characters, and through the dance the plot is resolved through images and symbolism. It's about finding love, enjoying love, then losing love (he looks around and his love is gone). The movements of the symphony are constructed so that part of each dance scene mirrors a separate phase of Parisian Art and also a separate phase of their relationships. If you didn't' see that, it's not the movie's fault. It's certainly not a "load of crap". ==================================================
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8/10
He's got rhythm...
gaityr17 March 2002
Okay, so the plot is on shaky ground. Yeah, all right, so there are some randomly inserted song and/or dance sequences (for example: Adam's concert and Henri's stage act). And Leslie Caron can't really, um, you know... act.

But somehow, 'An American In Paris' manages to come through it all as a polished, first-rate musical--largely on the basis of Gene Kelly's incredible dancing talent and choreography, and the truckloads of charm he seems to be importing into each scene with Caron. (He needs to, because she seems to have a... problem with emoting.)

The most accomplished and technically awe-inspiring number in this musical is obviously the 16-minute ballet towards the end of the film. It's stunningly filmed, and Kelly and Caron dance beautifully. But my favourite number would have to be Kelly's character singing 'I Got Rhythm' with a bunch of French school-children, then breaking into an array of American dances. It just goes to prove how you don't need special effects when you've got some real *talent*.

Not on the 'classics' level with 'Singin' In The Rain', but pretty high up there nonetheless. Worth the watch!
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10/10
The perfect musical.
Tony-2485 July 1999
I saw "An American in Paris" on its first release when I was still at school and fell in love with it straightaway. I went back to see it again the next day and have lost count of the number of times I have seen it since, both in the cinema and on TV. It makes fantastic use of some of the best music and songs by the greatest popular composer of the twentieth century (George Gershwin) and features the greatest male (Gene Kelly) and female (Leslie Caron) dancers in Hollywood history. The supporting cast of Oscar Levant (as quirky as ever), Georges Guetary (why didn't he make more movies ?) and Nina Foch (brilliant in an unsympathetic role) are at the top of their form. The closing ballet, superbly choreographed to the title music, makes excellent use of the sights and sounds of Paris and of the images of impressionist and post-impressionist artists. All the Gershwin songs are beautifully staged, but the most memorable are "It's Very Clear" (Caron and Kelly on the banks of the Seine) and "I Got Rhythm" (the kids of Paris joining Gene Kelly in "Une Chanson Americaine"). If you love Paris, see this movie. If you've never been to Paris in your life, see it. But see it !
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10/10
The best of the best!
rejoefrankel16 February 2000
Timeless musical gem, with Gene Kelly in top form, stylish direction by Vincente Minnelli, and wonderful musical numbers. It is great entertainment from start to finish, one of those films that people watch with a smile and say "they don't make 'em like they used to!" But they never did quite make them like this. The climactic 25 minute musical sequence without any dialogue is among the most beautiful in film history. Movie magic, clearly derived from the heart and soul of everyone involved. A must see!
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3/10
A Cardboard Paris in Hollywood
Filmophile23 January 2012
Take an accomplished director, one of the world's most famous dancers, a dreamily romantic setting and music from none other than George Gershwin and what do you have? In the case of An American in Paris, you have a film which, for me, falls flat on its face.

The winning combination of talent and reputation thrilled the critics, back in 1951 and the film was showered with awards including six Oscars. But, looked at coldly and in retrospect, it's difficult to understand why . Right from the opening scene, when Gene Kelly – who is supposed to be starving in a Paris garret – wakes up looking prosperous, over-confident and heavily made-up, you can already hear the turkey feathers starting to rustle.

The story falters and bumbles its way through yawning intervals which separate the big numbers and the characters become less convincing with every scene. Leslie Caron, when she finally turns up, looks terrified and toothy and though she dances superbly, seems too timid to bring magic to any of her scenes. She and Kelly dance pretty well together, technically, but without the slightest sense of partnership. Watching them, I got the impression that each would rather have been somewhere else.

The music, despite such great numbers, seems to have been shoe-horned into the narrative and often, doesn't fit. The scene where Gershwin's rattlingly wonderful Concerto in F is performed, for instance, has nothing to do with anything else in the film. It does, however, provide moments of sweet relief from the limping story and embarrassingly stilted scenes.

It's hard to believe that Oklahoma was released only four years later, in 1955 and yet, seems to belong to a different era. Oklahoma succeeds in every respect where An American in Paris fails. The acting is convincing, the story works well, the casting is faultless, the choreography - apart from the disappointing dream sequence - is sublime. But above all, the characters in Oklahoma perform with zest and sparkle in overdrive. That makes the film overflow with a sense of freshness, excitement and overflowing 'joy de vivre'. What a difference!
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1/10
My nomination for most miscast actor in AAIP goes to...
brazcar22 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
(various spoilers follow)

Gene Kelly. Not Georges Guetary, who is sometimes criticized for being too young and un-French. Not Leslie Caron, who is sometimes criticized for her very green performance. Not even Oscar Levant, who more often than not annoys the dickens out of me.

No, it would definitely be Gene Kelly. There's something about his screen persona that's too ambitious and focused for him to be convincing as a penniless artist in Paris, content to put off facing the critics indefinitely, frolicking with little kids and old ladies and painting in the streets. That's what made him so effective in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and other movies where he played ambitious, focused characters. Jerry Mulligan is in some ways a cousin to Tommy Albright in BRIGADOON, another Lerner story with Kelly miscast as an American at loose ends who falls in love with a picturesque European place and an innocent female who embodies its virtues.

Except that Jerry isn't as likeable as even poor dazed Tommy. That's another galling thing about this film. Jerry is sometimes a cad to Milo, and even worse to Lise. When he first sees the latter at a club, he pulls a dirty trick to get her to dance with him. When she sits down again he pulls an even dirtier trick to get her phone number. When he calls her the next day she hangs up on him, which he takes as a cue to drop in at her workplace. And throughout all this it's obvious she wants NOTHING to do with him. When she starts laughing at his jokes in the perfume shop, it's about as believable as Milo's interest in his paintings. Sure he's good-looking and playful, but why should that sway her when she's got Henri, who seems like a gentleman to boot?

Admittedly it comes off so distasteful partly because of the actress. If a role like Lise was played by, say, Judy Garland, she would shower Jerry with indignant insults and glares. If she was played by Cyd Charisse, one would admire his guts. But when she's played by first-timer Leslie Caron she looks and acts like a shy, vulnerable teenager, and as a result Jerry just seems like a creep. And why DID they choose these other actors (though personally I'd rather they'd solved things by changing the lead) when the whole story hinges on the romance of these two young poor sweethearts disentangling themselves from their loveless commitments to older rich people? Not only is Gene Kelly a few years above Guetary and Foch, he's old enough to be Caron's father.

In short I think it all would have been improved by casting some young comedic-relief type dancer as Jerry, the kind that usually turned up in musical supporting roles...e.g. Ray MacDonald in GOOD NEWS or Bobby Van in SMALL TOWN GIRL. Maybe not them necessarily but someone LIKE them. Someone who could have chased Lise and made it seem harmlessly playful; someone who would have appeared genuinely happy living in that Chaplinesque hole-in-the-wall; someone whose humor and naivete would have contrasted better with Oscar Levant's sarcastic grumpiness. It probably also would have made the ballet seem less ponderous. And it might have provided a voice that could sing Gershwin better.

All this may give the impression that I don't like Gene Kelly. I do like him. He was terrific in most of his films, just not this one (well, and a few others). I don't despise AAIP itself, either; it has good points, like the art direction. And Leslie Caron, who despite her inexperience is rather charming, and really does look like she just stepped out of a painting. Georges Guetary does a fine job and his "Stairway to Paradise" is my favorite number in the movie. Nina Foch is beautiful and touching and should have ended up with SOMEBODY. But not Jerry Mulligan. I wouldn't wish that on her.
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7/10
Pure, lovely entertainment
jdoan-414 January 2006
I enjoyed this film. It was lighthearted, delightful, and very colorful. You can see that MGM was showing off Technicolor. There are hardly any colors that do not appear in this film. Every scene is packed full. The choreography was great. Gene Kelly is a wonder. He is so talented. The dance numbers in this film are all perfectly executed, and perfectly designed. He understands that the dances can tell the story as much as anything else. The last section of the film, the grand dance sequence, is very impressive. What makes this film very special is Gershwin's music. Few American composers have had a better gift for melody. I very much enjoy Gershwin's music. It is enchanting. Ira Gershwin is definitely one of the greatest lyric writers. He is so witty and charming. This was a highly entertaining film.
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6/10
"That's quite a dress you almost have on."
ackstasis22 February 2008
There's no other way to say it: I am disappointed. After absolutely falling in love with 'Singin' in the Rain (1952)' – a film that singlehandedly ignited my newfound passion for musicals – I, perhaps unreasonably, expected to enjoy Vincente Minnelli's 'An American in Paris (1951)' just as much. Gene Kelly? Music by George Gershwin? Winner of six Oscars, including Best Picture? A clear home-run… or so I'd thought. For almost two hours I waited patiently for the film to hit its stride, but the moment never came, and I finished the film completely unsatisfied, feeling as though somehow it was my fault rather than the picture's. That there's merit in many of the film's musical numbers is undeniable, but, for some reason, all the pieces never quite came together for me, and the love story at the film's centre struck me as being rather generic and uninspired. Gene Kelly, of course, brings an incredible energy to his role as always, and his character exhibits a likable arrogance that gives way to unabashed exuberance once the music starts playing.

As is unfortunately the case in many musicals, the filmmakers seem to have dedicated all their efforts towards the extravagant musical sequences and forgotten that there is ultimately a story to be told. The romance between Jerry Mulligan and Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) is one that we've seen many times before, and its mundaneness is amplified by the fact that nineteen-year-old Lise is neither as beautiful nor as charming as the film's characters appear to find her {though, in Caron's defence, this was the French actress' debut performance, and she may be acting in a language with which she was uncomfortable}. The awkward three-way relationship between Jerry, Lise and the charming Frenchman Hank Baurel (Georges Guétary) could easily have been played for enormous laughs, but the opportunity is abandoned after just two brief chuckles {with Oscar Levant, the passive onlooker, clumsily spluttering drink all over his shirt}. Such contempt is apparently shown for the story that entire subplots are shamelessly disregarded at the film's end – does Jerry achieve success with his exhibition? Does Adam Cook ever achieve his dream of performing at a concert?

This brings us to the musical numbers, which are thankfully the film's saving grace. Though none of the sequences begin to approach the timelessness of "Singin' in the Rain," "Make 'Em Laugh" or "Good Morning," they are obviously well-written and performed with bravura by the film's stars. My favourite number was probably Kelly's catchy rendition of "Got Rhythm" with the French street kids, which had a good beat and was fun to sing. This film's most ambitious sequence is undoubtedly a wordless, seventeen-minute ballet set to Gershwin's "An American in Paris." Costing a staggering $500,000, the extended dance number is audacious, elaborate and extravagant, effectively earning my admiration despite my inclination towards singing over dance {I typically prefer being able to sing along when I'm watching musicals, which is impossible when they are performing a ballet}. Displaying Technicolor in all its flamboyant brilliance, it's no surprise that the film won Oscars for its cinematography, set decoration and costume design. Had it possessed a decent story, 'An American in Paris' might have been a terrific musical, but, as it stands, I'll continue to regard it as a disappointment.
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Irritating story somewhat relieved by fine dance numbers
Robert28 December 2002
OK, there is no doubt that Gene Kelly can dance, and he can even sing and act passably well. But never have I seen him play a less appealing character than in "An American in Paris". It's one thing to be a lovable rogue, so long as you retain a basic humanity and don't go out of your way to insult the viewer's decency. In some ways "An American in Paris" is Kelly's "Pal Joey", except Frank Sinatra managed to carry off that film by dint of his acting skills.

Part of the plot revolves around his being a painter whose "talent" has been discovered by wealthy patroness Milo (the lovely Nina Foch in an unsympathetic role). Unfortunately for the credibility of the plot, Kelly's paintings are are "motel art" at its worst. (For anyone who questions my credibility: I'm a professional artist and am quite familiar with "the School of the City of Paris" style his paintings ape) And what does Kelly--who supposedly wants to have a solo show "more than anything on earth"--do when it is dropped into his lap by Milo? He promptly does everything to sabotage her interest.

Kelly's interest in Leslie Caron couldn't be more superficial and unbelievable. Despite what others have written here, the scene with Kelly and Caron on the banks of the Seine ("Our Love is Here to Stay") is like the rest of their relationship: stiff, perfunctory and unconvincing.

The story bogs down considerably half-way through, and finally, any semblance of plot or character development is thrown out the window. It's as if director Minelli said "hey, we've got a bunch of great Gershwin Brothers music. Let's stage a big dance finale that is set in Old Paris but has nothing to do with anything else in this film and leaves every story element unresolved". Then, for no reason at all, we'll resolve the plot". What a load of crap.

There is plenty that is visually and audibly appealing in "An American in Paris". The sets and costuming are good, the music is, with few exceptions, excellent. Oscar Levant gives a great supporting performance. But if you want to see Gene Kelly at his best, I recommend watching "Invitation to the Dance" instead, where his considerable dancing skills and charm are unhindered by the very things that cause "An American in Paris" to fail.
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4/10
If you call a film a classic long enough, it just might become one in spite of itself
Steve Pulaski1 December 2015
An American in Paris seems to be the film that many people have billed a classic so prolifically and impulsively that the brand stuck with very little questioning. A fairly obvious Best Picture win in 1951 coupled with suave, acclaimed leading man Gene Kelly in the starring role of a musical and you have a film that was bound to be a feast for your eyes that you could enjoy with your ears, as well. This is a film so rooted in predictable Hollywood musical fare of the time that if you stare into the decorated setpieces and Kelly's meaningful smile you almost, almost forget how forgettable this film really is.

The story revolves around Kelly's Jerry Mulligan, a former Army serviceman from America now trying to make it as an artist in the dreamlike land of Paris, selling portraits on sidewalks and streetcorners. One of the first people to really pay attention to his works is Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), a woman who falls for him and his attitude almost immediately, so much so that she rents a studio for him to sell his artwork in a more professional manner. Jerry, however, becomes more infatuated with Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), a French woman he meets at a nightclub that he begins to actively pursue, despite her repeated attempts to make him go away (a standoffish personality, a fake phone number, etc). As Milo still tries to assist him, Jerry is hellbent on getting Lise to love him.

In addition to Jerry, we are introduced to two people in the beginning of the film in a manner that sort of overstates the importance of these characters. One is Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), a struggling concert pianist who often works alongside Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary), a French lounge-singer. These two men, despite being introduce din the opening minutes of the film with Jerry's long monologue about his love for Paris even though he is an American, don't hold much weight come the hour-mark of the film, when An American in Paris largely turns to embellishing the rather awkward relationship between Jerry and Lise.

Jerry and Lise's relationship is made awkward not only because of the fact that Lise really lacks personality outside of a pretty face and doesn't give us much of a reason to really concern ourselves with her presence, a feat that was so ubiquitous during this time in Hollywood that you almost can't critique it, but the annoying way Jerry becomes entranced with her off of what is ultimately just a vessel of beauty. An American in Paris really shows how far we, as a society, have become with how we approach women; what was once seen as an effort of true charm and persistency is now seen as offputting and creepy by the majority of women, despite whatever intention was assumed by the male. Jerry's intentions have far wandered past romantic and are entering in the aforementioned latter territory, though that doesn't seem to particularly concern him nor anyone else in the film.

Once more, it's almost meaningless to bring this up because so many films had the same kind of masculine attitude towards females (I just watched His Girl Friday and the same case can be made with that film). The real issue I take with An American in Paris, however, is the lack of substance in the film. This is a film with very flat, impossibly perky, and incredulous characters that act and operate like robots from the 1950's rather than actual people. Gene Kelly's Jerry character is about as monotone and uninteresting as you can get, in addition to being very square, and both Adam and Henri have a fraction of that personality and are largely defined by strange character tropes and mannerisms. Milo seems to be the only real character in the film, and even she is underwritten as soon as Lise comes in, almost mirroring how Jerry entirely loses interest and ditches her upon meeting Lise.

If that wasn't enough, An American in Paris has one of the biggest cinematic cop-outs I've yet to see. The final twenty minutes of an already lengthy and taxing one-hundred and thirteen minutes is a breathless interpretive dance number that just throws away any kind of conflict resolution and character development that was built up until this point. The film doesn't seem to have any interest in concluding its story with any kind of assured statement or seriousness, and instead goes full Broadway for a slight and outrageously expensive (well over $500,000 apparently) dance number that grows tiresome after a few minutes.

An American in Paris gets considerable points for costume and set design, as even a mediocre script can't eclipse the majestic look and feel Paris always seems to ooze. However, with everything this film had going for it, there's little evidence of anything in the way to make this admittedly safe and harmless musical anything other than standard fare that was fortunate enough to get praised a bit too much by far too many people.

Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Nina Foch, Oscar Levant, and Georges Guétary. Directed by: Vincente Minnelli.
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5/10
Not the sum of its parts
longrush4 March 2008
The color is great, although the sets are greatly romanticized. Paris isn't quite that neat and clean. Gene Kelly was a magnificent dancer and a fair singer. He makes dancing look so easy that I could do it--and I can't dance at all. Oscar Levant's dream scene at the piano is simply brilliant and offsets his poor acting. The Gershwin music is magnificent--what more can one say about it? Leslie Caron is--well, Leslie Caron. I was in love with her the first time I saw her in a movie, more than 50 years ago. Nina Foch is quite pretty, but she plays a role that we've seen too often.

There are many good things here, and yet somehow the very nice pieces never quite fit together. Perhaps the dumb love story is part of the difficulty. It's downright silly. Or perhaps it is the overdone artist's ball. Or perhaps it is the impossible ballet at the end with all those costume changes in mid-dance. All I know is that this remains in pieces and doesn't work for me as a whole.
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10/10
My favorite movie of all time
zach-271 September 1999
Released two years before I was born, this Oscar-winning movie has it all - lavish Technicolor sets and costumes, breathtaking cinematography, superb wall-to-wall Gershwin music, superior choreography, a lighter-than-air screenplay, and great performances by Kelly, Levant, Foch, Guetary, and Caron. Hollywood doesn't make 'em like this anymore. Definitely, this is my favorite movie of all time, a standard by which I judge all other films. ENJOY, ENJOY, ENJOY!
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2/10
Time has gone past this film.
tpietila2 August 2005
This is a film that belongs firmly to the 50's. Very surprising that American Film Institute has chosen this one for one for the best 100 American movies of all-time. I have seen practically all of the movies on that list, and this one is by far the most disappointing one of those. Musical numbers (and there many, many of them) are VERY overlong and boring, and have absolute no connection with the story. The end of the movie has horribly over-long ballet sequency, which naturally has no real relation to the story of the movie. It must be admitted, that it is very well made, the music is OK, and the dancing done with the highest professional standard - but there is no real reason why the sequence is included in the movie.

The main character of the movie is extremely childlish and unlikeable and behaves in unpolite way. His mental age is about 14. If you want to see a good musical made on the "golden age" of musicals, go and see "Singing in the Rain".
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And, introducing ... Leslie Caron.
TxMike3 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Leslie Caron was only 19 when AN AMERICAN IN PARIS was filmed, this her film debut. She has all the innocence and charm one would expect of a 19-year-old French girl. Fortunately her mother was an American, so she grew up speaking good English, with a decidedly French accent and, as a trained ballerina, is a fine accompaniment to Gene Kelly's dancing. Some say her acting is amateurish but I disagree - it is perfect for the role of the sheltered girl she plays. It helps that I am a big fan of hers, and like any film she is in.

some SPOILERS, please read further at your own risk of disappointment.

The film starts with Kelly's character announcing that "I am an American, living in Paris ...", a budding painter who is broke, not many of his paintings sell, until an older woman becomes his patron, with romance as her real interest. But he is smitten with Caron's character, he pursues her, she apparently shares the affection, they meet often by the bridge at night, they get to know each other. But she was orphaned in the war, and a French entertainer helped raise her and, now that she is an adult plans to marry him. "I owe him everything, for what he has done for me after my parents died."

Near the end, at a party, she tells him she is to marry the next day, and travel to America with her new husband. But the French entertainer having a smoke by a column overhears the conversation, then we see them getting into a taxi and driving away.

For 16 minutes, while they are in the taxi, Kelly's character has a fantasy dream sequence, a series of big dance production numbers featuring kelly and Caron, plus dozens of other dancers. When he comes out of it, the taxi shows up, apparently her beau frees her to go with Kelly, and the film ends, both of them with big grins.

A really fun movie, a throwback to the musicals of the 1950s, the DVD has a very sharp video, but there are no extras except the theatrical trailer.
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4/10
Extremely dull.
Chuck-1498 September 1999
I don't know what the Oscar voters saw in this movie, but they must of seen some pretty hard stuff to see in it to be able to award it with the best picture Oscar. All I know is that fortunately there was Gene Kelly to play in it or this would have been twice as bad as I believe it is. First of all, I don't think Leslie Caron was really fit to play such a role. She isn't that talented, she isn't a great dancer and she's not good looking at all. It's a shame that one actor or actress may ruin a movie just like by playing in it because if Leslie Caron hadn't been in this, it might have made a terrific movie. The story was intelligent, the directing wasn't bad, and, as I said, Gene Kelly was pretty good. Now I'm not saying all this stuff about Leslie Caron just to criticize her, I'm just saying it because I think that's what the worse part of the movie is. She's probably a good actress but I can't tell because I haven't seen her in anything else but I think she was pretty bad in "An American in Paris". So if you want to see it, go ahead but I'm telling you, you're way better off watching "Singin' in the rain".
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5/10
More notes than music ruin "An American in Paris"
lauraeileen8948 December 2006
As a lifelong "Singin' in the Rain" fan, I was really quite disappointed by "An American in Paris" the first time I saw it. After seeing it a few more times, I certainly love the Gershwin score and the ballet at the end, but those are the main redeeming features. Aside from the fact that it's way too long (114 minutes), it has a cast of forgettable characters and a creaky plot that was sprouting white hair even by 1951's standards. It's hard to believe that this won the Best Picture Academy Award over "Streetcar Named Desire" and "The African Queen".

There isn't much to say about the plot: Struggling artist Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is sponsored by love and leave 'em Milo Roberts (Nina Foch). However, Jerry is in love with nubile young Parisian Lise (Leslie Caron), who's engaged to Jerry's friend Henri (Georges Guetary). Then there's cranky, aging "child prodigy" Adam (Oscar Levant), who acts as the story's…. actually, I don't know why he's there.

"An American in Paris" isn't terrible, per se, it's just that it plays the notes of a movie musical, but not the music. Even when you don't compare it to "Singin' in the Rain", it just feels like there's something lacking. It has plenty going for it and you desperately want to love it, but it just falls short. Plus, I really found Jerry insufferable. He's just an opportunistic lecher who takes advantage of Milo (who he obviously dislikes) and relentlessly chases the much younger Lise (who initially dislikes him). Kelly seemed to enjoy playing decidedly unpleasant characters, but here he seems to play him a bit too well. Nina Foch does her best with a thankless part. Reserved and coldly beautiful (how did Hitchcock miss this woman??), she does a good job playing the icy older woman (Kelly was older by nearly a decade, but suspend your disbelief).

Now, about Leslie Caron: she's received heaps of criticism for her extremely unsophisticated debut performance. I say give the poor girl a break. Only 19 when handpicked by Gene Kelly, Caron was a ballerina for a French company and not even interested in acting (she's said she only took the part to satisfy her mother). Also, the part of Lise is so insipid and underwritten, Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis couldn't make it more interesting, much less a young novice. She was a splendid dancer, and Lise's introduction scenes to the song "Embraceable You" are among the film's most charming sequences. Minnelli should have fired the make-up artist for shellacking Caron's lips with shiny red lipstick and accentuating her overbite. Caron did have lovely features such as her beautiful eyes and flawless complexion, but the make-up artist doesn't highlight them at all. Caron eventually blossomed into a fine actress in later years (check her out in "Lili", "Gigi" and "The L-Shaped Room" if you don't believe me).

The musical numbers really save the film from becoming too tepid. I don't care how you feel about the Jerry/Lise romance: "Love is Here to Stay" is still one of the most romantic scenes ever caught on film. And that ballet at the end!! Kelly at least deserved that special Oscar for conceiving and choreographing this epic number that pays tribute to French painters and it demonstrates how tirelessly creative Gene Kelly was.

For lovely musical numbers only, check out "An American in Paris". For the whole bag of tricks (songs, plots, great characters), "Singin' in the Rain" can't be beat.
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5/10
Leslie Caron?
Registered_User1 November 2003
Gene Kelly = legendary talent. But Leslie Caron? At times she manages to be sweet and endearing, and at most others all I want is to bean her in the head. Yes, she's a good dancer. And, yes, she's okay to look at, not gorgeous as Kelly's humdrum character seems to think, but acceptable. For some reason probably best left not understood, the makers of this film decided their audience would really benefit from a scene in which all Caron does is stare like a cow into the camera while she poses in a thousand positions somewhat reminiscent of the Kama Sutra. What's worse is I couldn't even like Gene Kelly in this film! I just found his character repetitive, uninteresting, crabby, and a little creepy, to be honest. (I mean, would you go through all that to date Leslie Caron?) Let's also not forget the out-of-work musician character who failed to be funny or entertaining on every level. Did that guy even have a point in the story other than to annoy?

An American In Paris might be worth checking out for two reasons: 1) Kelly's song and dance number with the little Parisian kids, and 2) the final flourishing dance sequence, which nicely encapsulates everything the movie had been trying to say up to that point but in less time. (The brass section is phenomenal.) I really wish I had more good to say but the film unfortunately falls flat in a lot of critical areas. It beats me how this won the Oscar for Best Picture (then again, a lot of sub par work has won Oscars). This is certainly a disappointment when compared to the awesome extravaganza of Singin' In the Rain.
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1/10
Maybe the worst Oscar winner in history.....
johnboy115 March 2005
When AFI released it's list of the Top 100 films of all time, I decided to check out the ones I'd missed, and of all 100 films listed (except the silent films, which I didn't bother with), this is THE turkey of them all. It was an ordeal just sitting through it, and here's why:

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron had no chemistry whatsoever...he was too old for the part, and she was very unattractive (though in later years she blossomed into a real looker, I admit).

Oscar Levant was as humorous as a graveyard, and served no purpose, at all.

This was obviously filmed on the back lot of the studios, and doesn't in any way resemble Paris.

All in all, it's much-a-do about nothing, and remains (to me) the most overrated film of all time.

Before avid fans start screaming that I must hate musicals, I don't. I loved Chicago, The Sound Of Music, South Pacific, and many others, but this one is not worth the time to endure sitting through it. I can't think of one good thing I gained from watching it
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10/10
A unique masterpiece
surfnrev20 June 2001
While the story is sweet, and the dancing and singing in the main part of the film are a joy, the uniqueness of the film (and what makes it a masterpiece) is the dream sequence. It features the combination of the highest form of truly American music (Gershwin), the engaging beauty of French impressionistic art, Kelly's enthralling choreography (including his rapturous "pas de deux d'amour", really a separate genre), with the most magnificent palette of color ever devised for the set. Matching the surging music and the visual explosion with those dances was a true work of a creative genius and a great artist.
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7/10
Too much singing, too much dancing--it's amazing this film took Oscar's top prize.
MartinHafer4 June 2006
Uggh! I really wasn't that impressed by this film, though I must admit that it is technically well made. It does get a 7 for very high production values, but as for entertainment values, it is rather poor. In fact, I consider this one of the most overrated films of the 50s. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, but the film is just boring at times with so much dancing and dancing and dancing. That's because unlike some musicals that have a reasonable number of songs along with a strong story and acting (such as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS), this movie is almost all singing and dancing. In fact, this film has about the longest song and dance number in history and if you aren't into this, the film will quickly bore you. Give me more story! As a result, with overblown production numbers and a weak story, this film is like a steady diet of meringue--it just doesn't satisfy in the long run.

To think...this is the film that beat out "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "A Place in the Sun" for Best Picture! And, to make matters worse, "The African Queen" and "Ace in the Hole" weren't even nominated in this category! Even more amazing to me is that "Ace in the Hole" lost for Best Writing, Screenplay to this film--even though "An American in Paris" had hardly any story to speak of and was mostly driven by dance and song.
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