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An American in Paris []



An American in Paris has long been one of my favorite films. Gene Kelly stars as Jerry, a charming if somewhat overly persistent American artist living in Paris. Oscar Levant plays another American, Jerry’s grouchy but endearing pianist friend Adam, and Georges Guetary plays the part of Henri, a French musical star who is friends with the two Americans. Adam and Jerry are perpetually broke, Jerry because he can’t sell his paintings and Adam because he hasn’t worked in years (he describes himself as the world’s oldest child prodigy). Many of the most charming scenes in the film take place in around the little cafe above which Adam and Jerry both live and which Henri frequently visits.

Early in the film Jerry meets the rich Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), whose professional interest in his work is a thin disguise for her hopes for romance. Jerry reluctantly accepts her patronage, but romantically he is more interested in Lise (Leslie Caron in her first film role), a young woman who, with time, becomes equally drawn to him but who is, though Jerry doesn’t know it, already engaged to Henri.

While the plot of the film is driven by these romances, the spirit of the film is driven by the music of George Gershwin. Gershwin’s music is used throughout the film: all of the songs are by George and Ira, the music for the sixteen minute ballet is an arrangement of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, and the remainder of the score draws heavily on these and other Gershwin compositions. We hear strains of Rhapsody in Blue and during a memorable dream sequence we are treated to a performance of the Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra in which Adam performs not just on the piano, but on all the other instruments as well.

—And, of course, the dancing. The dancing in this film is incredible. The performances, the choreography, the costumes—there is no aspect of these dances that fails to impress. Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron are a perfect match; it is hard to imagine any other two dancers pulling off the required athletic grace or the perfectly balanced blend of ballet and popular dance styles showcased so well in this film. From the good spirited cheer of I’ve Got Rhythm and By Strauss to the sarcastic mocking of This Time It’s Really Love, and the earnest romance Our Love Is Here to Stay, to the passionate and diverse American in Paris ballet, these are dances you will remember and want to see again.

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