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Saturday Night Cinema: An American in Paris

 Inspired by the late George Gershwin’s impressionistic musical suite of the same name, the picture is one of the finest musicals Hollywood has ever produced.

Technicolorful result is smart, dazzling, genuinely gay and romantic, and as hard to resist as its George Gershwin score. 

Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema is inspired by Bastille Day in France, the site of the monstrous jihad attack one year ago. Considering the horror of daily life in France — doctors routinely beaten, sex attacks, vicious antisemitism, and on and on….this is a France that is no more: An American in Paris, directed by American genius Vincent Minnelli, who loved Paris. Minelli received an Oscar nomination as Best Director for An American in Paris (1951) and later won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi (1958). He was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, Commandeur of the Legion of Honor, only weeks before his death in 1986.

Directed by Minnelli, starring the brilliant Gene Kelly, with music composed America’s greatest composer, George Gershwin.

This one is not online for free. It’s $2.99. Watch it – it is a France that is no more.


An American in Paris is a 1951 American musical film inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition An American in Paris by George Gershwin. Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, and Nina Foch, the film is set in Paris, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script by Alan Jay Lerner. The music is by George Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother Ira, with additional music by Saul Chaplin, the music director.

The story of the film is interspersed with dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin’s music. Songs and music include “I Got Rhythm”, “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise”, “ ’S Wonderful”, and “Love is Here to Stay”. The climax of the film is “The American in Paris” ballet, a 17-minute dance featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The ballet alone cost almost half a million dollars.

TIME Magazine: An American In Paris (MGM) is a grand show—a brilliant combination of Hollywood’s opulence and technical wizardry with the kind of taste and creativeness that most high-budgeted musicals notoriously lack. The Technicolorful result is smart, dazzling, genuinely gay and romantic, and as hard to resist as its George Gershwin score. 

NY Times review:

An American in Paris,’ Arrival of Music Hall, Has Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in Leads

Published: October 5, 1951

Count a bewitching French lassie by the name of Leslie Caron and a whoop-de-do ballet number one of the finest ever put upon the screen, as the most commendable enchantments of the big, lavish musical film that Metro obligingly delivered to the Music Hall yesterday. “An American in Paris,” which is the title of the picture, likewise the ballet, is spangled with pleasant little patches of amusement and George Gershwin tunes. It also is blessed with Gene Kelly, dancing and singing his way through a minor romantic complication in the usual gaudy Hollywood gay Paree. But it is the wondrously youthful Miss Caron and that grandly pictorial ballet that place the marks of distinction upon this lush Technicolored escapade.

Alongside this crisp and elfin youngster who plays the Parisian girl with whom the ebullient American of Mr. Kelly falls in love, the other extravagant characters of the romance seem standard and stale, and even the story seems wrinkled in the light of her freshness and charm. Mr. Kelly may skip about gaily, casting the favor of his smiles and the boon of the author’s witticisms upon the whole of the Paris populace. Nina Foch may cut a svelte figure as a lady who wants to buy his love by buying his straight art-student paintings. And Oscar Levant may mutter wryly as a pal. But the picture takes on its glow of magic when Miss Caron is on the screen. When she isn’t, it bumps along slowly as a patched-up, conventional musical show.

Why this should be is fairly obvious. Miss Caron is not a beauteous thing, in the sense of classic features, but she has a sweet face and a most delightful smile. Furthermore, she has winsomeness, expression and youthful dignity—and she can dance like a gossamer wood-sprite on the edge of a petal at dawn.

When she and Mr. Kelly first meet in a Paris cafe, the previous routine of “bon jours” and “voilas” and “mais ouis” is forgotten. Candor and charm invade the picture under Vincente Minnelli’s helpful wand. And when they dance on a quai along the river, in hush of a Paris night, to “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” the romance opens and unrepressed magic evolves. Then, in the final, bursting ballet, which is done to a brilliant score of Gershwin music orchestrated with his “American in Paris” suite, the little dancer and Mr. Kelly achieve a genuine emotional splurge. It is Mr. Kelly’s ballet, but Miss Caron delivers the warmth and glow.

And a ballet it is, beyond question—a truly cinematic ballet—with dancers describing vivid patterns against changing colors, designs, costumes and scenes. The whole story of a poignant romance within a fanciful panorama of Paree is conceived and performed with taste and talent. It is the uncontested high point of the film.

Beside it such musical conniptions as Mr. Kelly and Mr. Levant giving out with “Tra-La-La,” or Mr. Kelly doing a dance to “I Got Rhythm” with a bunch of kids, or Mr. Levant performing all the key jobs in a large symphonic rendition of Concerto in F are purely coincidental. And Georges Guetary’s careful oozing of Gallic charm in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” and “‘S Wonderful” could well be done without. As a matter of fact, some of these numbers leave the uncomfortable impression that they were contrived just to fill out empty spaces in Alan Jay Lerner’s glib but very thin script.

However, all things are forgiven when Miss Caron is on the screen. When she is on with Mr. Kelly and they are dancing, it is superb.

On the stage at the Music Hall, in the “Autumn Album” revue, are Tony Starman, Dick Stewart, Les Diagoras, Olga Suarez, the Glee Club, Corps de Ballet and Rockettes.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, screen play and story by Alan Jay Lorner; directed by Vincente Minnelli; produced by Arthur Freed for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Radio City Music Hall.
Jerry Mulligan . . . . . Gene Kelly
Lise Bourvier . . . . . Leslie Caron
Adam Cook . . . . . Oscar Levant
Henri Baurel . . . . . Georges Guetary
Milo Roberts . . . . . Nina Foch
Georges Mattieu . . . . . Bugene Borden
Mathilde Mattieu . . . . . Martha Bamattre
Old Woman Dancer . . . . . Mary Young

Academy Awards


Academy Award for Best Picture: Arthur Freed, producer
Academy Award for Best Art – Set Decoration, Color: E. Preston Ames, Cedric Gibbons, F. Keogh Gleason, and Edwin B. Willis
Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color: John Alton and Alfred Gilks
Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Color: Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff
Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture: Saul Chaplin and Johnny Green
Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner


Academy Award for Best Director: Vincente Minnelli
Academy Award for Best Film Editing: Adrienne Fazan

Golden Globes


Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy


Golden Globe Award for Best Director – Motion Picture: Vincente Minnelli
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: Gene Kelly


Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award that year for “his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” It was his only Oscar.

The film was entered into the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.

In 1993, An American in Paris was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

American Film Institute recognition

1998: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies – #68
2002: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions – #39
2004: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs – #32
“I Got Rhythm”
2006: AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals – #9

AFI also honored star Kelly as #15 of the top 25 American male screen legends.

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  • Fred

    Excellent choice, Ms. Geller.

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  • Trump can’t ban islam

    oudated movies, have no meaning for our time. a new era has arrived to the world, an islamic era. every corner of the world is being flooded with muslims and islam. islam will be part of westerners’ daily life. It’s necessary movies which reflects the new reality. It could be “a jihadi in paris”, “gone with sharia”, “guess who is coming to ramadam?”, “saturday stabbing fever” …etc

    • Mahou Shoujo

      You are a more ignorant than normal muslim. Have you no knowledge of the qur’an? Pictures are forbidden.
      According to Quran and Sunnah
      Bismillah ahRahman nirRaheem (In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful)
      The Noble Qur’an – Al-A’raf 7:148
      And the people of Moses made in his absence, out of their ornaments, the image of a calf (for worship). It had a sound (as if it was mooing). Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor guide them to the way? They took it for worship and they were Zalimun (wrong-doers).
      The Noble Qur’an – Al-Anbiyâ 21:51-54
      51. And indeed We bestowed aforetime on Ibrâhim (Abraham) his (portion of) guidance, and We were Well-Acquainted with him (as to his Belief in the Oneness of Allâh, etc.).
      52. When he said to his father and his people: “What are these images, to which you are devoted?”
      53. They said:”We found our fathers worshipping them.”
      54. He said: “Indeed you and your fathers have been in manifest error.”
      Hadith – Bukhari 3:428, Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan
      While I was with Ibn ‘Abbas a man came and said, “O father of ‘Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures.” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “I will tell you only what I heard from Allah’s Apostle . I heard him saying, ‘Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.’ ” Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn ‘Abbas said to him, “What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects.”
      Hadith -Bukhari 4:47, Narrated ‘Aisha
      I stuffed for the Prophet a pillow decorated with pictures (of animals) which looked like a Namruqa (i.e. a small cushion). He came and stood among the people with excitement apparent on his face. I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is wrong?” He said, “What is this pillow?” I said, “I have prepared this pillow for you, so that you may recline on it.” He said, “Don’t you know that angels do not enter a house wherein there are pictures; and whoever makes a picture will be punished on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked to give life to (what he has created)?”

      • Laird MacTavish

        A fine explanation of islamic picto-phobia. .. “whoever makes a picture…”!! how infantile muhammed must have been. I can’t draw so no one else is allowed to either…Allah said not to!

        • Mahou Shoujo

          When islam is examined, it is essentially liberal democrat. What islam wants, everyone must pay for, what islam does not want, no one can have.

          • Steve

            The muslamists are also orthodox fundamentalist fanatics and so it seems that is what the liberal democrats have become too – a cult of progressive fanatics that includes every bizarre group in existence subjugated into the death spiral of the big brother government god that promises but never delivers.

        • Steve

          They do the same thing on their coins a bunch of lines and propaganda-

    • Laird MacTavish

      You have commited humour! A sin against dour allah( pleased may his mighty scrotal ridge be). Islam is no laughing matter, laughing is frivolous and does not serve to glorify allah (tongue his botty) anything which does not serve to glorify allah (diddle his tiddler with a precious feather) is haram and a waste.
      O, muslim! Put your talent as a punster to better use in future!
      Gone with Sharia! Indeed!
      I had sharia once, I was hardly off the toilet! Dire-sharia!

      • Fred


        I love it!


        Permission to use that term on future posts?

    • IzlamIsTyranny

      This is dripping sarcasm.

    • RetiredNavyphotog

      Mohamad is a pedophile.

  • Mahou Shoujo

    That is all that is left… memories…

    • KitteeK

      Life was never perfect, but so much nicer back then….

      • Mahou Shoujo

        True, there are inequalities and a few things that were not fair, but with bit of give and take, it all worked out, despite differences, people could function as a society. Today, too many cults, religious, political, to start with, each in violent conflict with the other.

    • Even though I’m a millennial, I still miss the old days very much. :(

      • Mahou Shoujo

        They had much more to offer than the insipid whitewash of progressive multiculturalism’s facade today.

  • AlgorithmicAnalyst

    Lucky I saw Paris in the good old days. It was my favorite city back then.

  • Steve
    • Bronish

      Ohhhhhh myyyyyyy!! Why, thank you Steve!!! As a dancer, altho not even close to these guys, I’m much worse, ha, I can truly appreciate the smooth, amazing moves! Thank you! That was a real treat!

      • Steve

        Those guys were phenomenal in their day.

  • Patriotliz

    Two songs come to mind when I lament the Islamization of France and Western Europe:

  • Ron Cole

    The Hollywood Stars of that era were mostly American patriots and gave their all to our Warriors.
    Today we can count on one hand the Patriots in what is now Horryweird.

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