“Back home everyone said I didn’t have any talent. They might be saying the same thing over here but it sounds better in French.”
What is it that makes musicals so beloved? For a period, they had pretty much died out but they seem to have made a return to the forefront of everyone’s mind in cinema –- as well as on TV through the “hit” show Glee. I personally am a massive fan of musicals. They are whimsical while at the very same time being highly emotional and fun.
If you ask any fan of musicals, there are three names that will be mentioned as some of the best: Barbara Streisand, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Everyone, whether they are a fan of classic cinema or not, knows the name Gene Kelly for good reasons. He has dazzled us with tapping feet for years and in 1951 he starred in one of the most successful film to date with An American In Paris.
When Jerry Mulligan (Kelly), a struggling artist from New Jersey living in Paris, meets Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) he believes he is on the fast track to becoming a great artist. At the same time however he also meets Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), a young French girl with whom he falls deeply in love. However, there is something wrong with the whole arrangement of his life as it seems that both Lise and Jerry have parts of their lives that they can’t share while at the same time realizing the deep feelings they have for each other. So Jerry tries to toe around his sponsor and love while making sure that business and pleasure do not mix.
The film’s plot stands only second hand to the comedic timing and general musical and dancing talents of the one and only Gene Kelly. He is able to take a scene that would be unforgettable with almost any comedy actor and make it even more special through the addition of his feet.
I have, in the past, been very critical of dance heavy musicals. I get musicals. I get the song, I even understand a little well done choreography, but when they decide to stop the singing and dance for me at times I just don’t feel like I have to capacity to understand exactly what they wish to convey. There are a few dance films where I understood what was going on in the dance sequences, one being The Red Shoes and An American in Paris is the other.
When we finally reach the final twenty minute, or however long, sequence where Kelly and Caron are going through numerous different kinds of dances, it’s just mesmerizing. What was once obtuse to the layman is just magical and that’s what makes An American in Paris a timeless classic.