Tuesday, December 1, 2015

“An American In Paris” a Movie That Will Make You Wish You Were There

This film can be the MGM tag for its 1950 musicals. It is the Maximum in elegance, one of its Greatest films and the Most celebrated of the company’s musicals. “An American In Paris” is loaded with talent from Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron providing the on-screen singing-dancing to music by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother Ira. And yes, Ira stuck with the production to make sure they got it right. The dance numbers were choreographed by Gene Kelly that ended with a ballet number. The film is an “integrated musical”, that is, the music and dance form part of the plot. The film was rewarded with eight Oscar Nominations winning six of them. “An American In Paris” will be Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on December 10th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

“An American In Paris” was only the third musical to win best movie Academy Award. It was inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin. Besides Gene and Lesilie, the cast included Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, and Nina Foch.  An American in Paris is a 1951 American musical with songs that will stick with you long after the movie is over.  Songs such as… "I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise", "'S Wonderful", and "Our Love is Here to Stay" should be seen on the big screen to get the maximum impact. And the ballet climax of the film was one of it kind for that era costing $500,000 to make, which by-the-way was a lot of money for one song and dance number back then.  The expensive ballet number ending the music is the way most musical romances should end…maybe. Come and see it and you will find out:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_American_in_Paris_(film)

Gene Kelly wanted this film to be made in Paris, but then sounder financial minds prevailed and it was made in Hollywood on very expensive and large movie sets.  Maybe it might have been less expensive to do the film in Paris after all.

Born Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (1912-1996), he was such an influence in the movie industry that he is credited with making the ballet form commercially acceptable in film. His often fast paced and energetic style of dance has often been imitated but never duplicated. He will always be known as the handsome and likable characters he most often portrayed in his films.  Born in Pittsburgh, he developed his family’s dance studio and then tried to get into the theater business in New York with little success. He had to go back to Pittsburgh and found a job as a choreographer. He was a natural at teaching as well as dancing. Gene’s movie career speaks for itself and time has proven his talents.

Here is a quote that sums up Gene Kelly by Johnny Green, head of MGM music at one time: "Gene is easygoing as long as you know exactly what you are doing when you're working with him. He's a hard taskmaster and he loves hard work…. He isn't cruel but he is tough, and if Gene believed in something he didn't care who he was talking to, whether it was Louis B. Mayer or the gatekeeper. He wasn't awed by anybody, and he had a good record of getting what he wanted”

The recipient of a 1952  Academy Honorary Award in for his career achievements, he also received a lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors in 1982 and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute. He is 15th on the American Film Institute Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood cinema list.

The co-star of this movie is Leslie Caron and would not have even been in this film except for the fact that the planned star, Cyd Charisse, discovered that she was pregnant during pre-production and was replaced by Leslie.

Born Claire Margaret Caron (1931) she appeared in 45 films between 1951 and 2003. She was “discovered” by Gene while he was on vacation and she was in a ballet. Gene wanted a French actress for his co-star and Leslie got the part. She was so malnourished during WWII that she could not handle the pace of a movie production and could only work every other day. Her autobiography, "Thank Heaven", was published in 2010 in the UK and US, and in 2011 in a French version. She is one of the few dancers or actresses who have danced with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Rudolf Nureyev. In her autobiography, “Thank Heaven”, she states that she became an American citizen—evidently based on her mother having been born in the United States. She received two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. In 2006, her performance in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit won her an Emmy for guest actress in a drama series. References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Caron  and   http://www.classicmoviehub.com/facts-and-trivia/film/an-american-in-paris-1951/

Hollywood film producer Arthur Freed originally just wanted to buy just the rights to the George Gershwin number "American in Paris," but Ira Gershwin (George’s brother) required the conditions be that the Gershwin song would only be sold if it was in a musical and that musical would only use other Gershwin works.

The American George Gershwin (1898 – 1937) is known for both his classical and popular works. He often worked in collaboration with his brother Ira. Although “An American In Paris” is a well known work, his opera, “Porgy and Bess”, is the “jewel” of his work and is commonly recognized as the most important American opera of the 20th century. He worked with Broadway productions before moving to Hollywood to work with film productions. “An American in Paris” was started while he was in Paris studying under a famous composer, Nadia Boulanger, but was shelved for a time when he returned to Broadway where he wrote “Porgy and Bess.” He then returned to “An American in Paris” to finish it.  Turns out that “Porgy and Bess” was a commercial failure and “An American In Paris” was the huge success. The overall commercial success of this prolific composer is hard to measure because so many of his compositions were adapted for films and television use, so many became jazz standards that were recorded in variations, and so very many singers and musicians used his works extensively.  References https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gershwin and http://www.classicmoviehub.com/facts-and-trivia/film/an-american-in-paris-1951/

So here is a film that will make you smile and leave you with a good feeling about Paris, love, dancing and music in general. It shows the extreme talents of Gene Kelly who even directed the sequence around the song “Embraceable You”. You get to hear some of the Gershwin brothers best work.  It shows a very talented 19 year old Leslie Caron making her film debut. And the “star” of it all is Paris in the optimistic pre-war days. What great reasons to come out and see a good movie on the “Big Screen ” of the Edge Center in Bigfork.

                                                      Photo credit John Alton

You can see this movie free of charge and some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday December 10th  at 6:30PM. It will be worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment