Tag Archives: movie reviews

26. From Here to Eternity (1953)

Director: Fred Zinnemann


Alex – 8.3   Elliot – 8.6  IMDB 7.7    Rotten Tomatoes 8.2

Alex’s Commentary:

It has been a number of years since I had last viewed From Here to Eternity, and my perspective and perceptions obviously have changed over time. This 1953 film, set in the days leading up to December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor, follows military men’s lives and loves. The story has numerous plot lines and develops many strong character studies. I will make a general comment regarding all of the characters in the movie as to not repeat myself as I discuss each one – it is apparent that every character has so much more behind their stories then can be fully explained in a 118-minute film. fhte5-061915The James Jones novel was in excess of 700 pages and screenwriter, Daniel Taradash, had to decide both the key elements of the story line and character background necessary to provide a cohesive narrative. As Taradash won an Oscar for Best Screenwriting, the Academy certainly felt he succeeded. I would be remiss not to mention Fred Zinnemann, the Best Director winner, who engages the viewer throughout the film. Coupled with Oscar wins for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Music, the resulting product is an atmospheric, enthralling film.

The primary storyline involves Robert E. Lee Prewitt “Pru” (played by Best Actor nominee Montgomery Clift), a soldier who transfers to a new unit because his previous unit displaced him as lead company bugler with a player he felt was inferior but had connections. montgomery clift & burt lancaster - from here to eternity 1953This stubborn streak continues as Pru refuses to join his new company’s boxing team which leads to a series of cruel menial assignments from guard duty, to digging unnecessary holes, to scrubbing floors, to running laps and mountain trails. He never breaks because of his love of military service which he believes is his life’s work. Montgomery Cliff plays Prewitt convincingly, but I was left wondering what made Prewitt act the way he did. Uneducated orphan, maybe?

Prewitt’s love interest is Lorene (Best Supporting Actress winner Donna Reed), a woman he meets at a “club” for military men. This is clearly not the Donna I remember as a kid watching The Donna Reed Show.

Probably the most iconic scene which the film is known for is the steamy love scene on the beach with Burt Lancaster (Sgt. Milton Warden) and Deborah Kerr (Karen Holmes); both nominated for Best Actor and Actress. I never was able to fully discern what motivated Sgt. Warden and why he declined to take the officer’s exam that may have permitted him a vehicle to marry Mrs. Holmes, the unhappily married wife of Warden’s commanding officer, Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober). FromHereToEternityI would have to imagine that From Here to Eternity was considered somewhat shocking in the puritanical 1950’s. Themes involving adultery, consorting with prostitutes (not explicitly stated), pre-marital sex, public drunkenness, and abuse of power by a military officer are not the fare typically seen of films of this era.

Of course, the other storyline revolves around Angelo Maggio (Best Supporting Actor winner Frank Sinatra) and stockade Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson (Ernest Borgnine). This was an early role for Borgnine who plays a sadistic stockade commander whose personal vendetta against Maggio climaxes when Maggio is sentenced to the stockade – classic man’s inhumanity against man. We will see Borgnine in an entirely different role two films from now in Marty. This is also not the character I remember as a kid watching McHale’s Navy. The role of Maggio was a pivotal role for Sinatra who was previously was known primarily as a singer. Personally, the Maggio character didn’t resonate with me.  fromheretoeternity_fatsojudson_FC_470x264_040420170528 I usually do not enjoy watching characters whose primary role is to portray a drunk. Having recently watched 1946 Best Picture winner The Lost Weekend, I felt Ray Milland was a much more believable alcoholic.

In the 1947 Best Picture winner The Best Years of Our Lives, we saw the difficulties of veterans returning home after their wartime service. In From Here to Eternity, we see some of the trials and tribulations these soldiers faced during their service that manifested themselves upon their return home. If you have not seen this film, it is not one to be missed.

Elliot’s Commentary:

Our 1953 Best Picture takes viewers back to WWII-era using the incredible source material of the 1951 Novel, From Here to Eternity by James Jones.  While I had not seen this particular film before, I have read the brilliant novel and was eager to see how our director, Fred Zinnemann, would interpret the material. It is not a simple feat to condense 861 pages of brilliant writing into a cohesive and comprehensive 118 minutes, however the screenwriter who adapted the novel, Daniel Taradash, did a great job given the constraints of the time period in which the film was made.   There_eternity_trumpethe novel is much more debaucherous in its depiction of prostitution, however this film was made during the heyday of the Motion Picture Production Code and thus these activities are largely downplayed or only mentioned through vague allusion.   Besides from Here to Eternity, James Jones also wrote another novel that received the silver-screen treatment, The Thin Red Line.  Terrence Malik’s 1998 film of the same name was also a terrific depiction of the brutal reality of WWII.  Both novels and films are semi-autobiographical in nature and draw from Jones’ experience serving in the war.   

It’s hard to imagine that the vapid spectacle of The Greatest Show on Earth could be considered in the same ballpark of this film.  From Here To Eternity excels in many regards, but to see Montgomery Clift in his prime, truly is a treat for all cinephiles.  This film marked the last film that Montgomery Clift would act in before his car accident while filming Raintree County.  From Here To Eternity 4There could not have been a better actor chosen to bring the stubbornness and moxy of Robert E. Lee Pruitt (Pru) to the big screen.   While an actor’s off-screen personality and mystique do not always impact their performance, the notoriously private and secluded life of Montgomery Clift fits in perfectly with Pru’s audacity and commitment to his personal morality code.   Clift is often lumped into the same category as Marlon Brando and James Dean who all embodied the Hollywood outsider persona, while revolutionizing the industry with raw talent.   

Additionally, there can not be enough said about the surprisingly endearing performance of Frank Sinatra as Angelo Maggio.  While today, “The Chairman of the Board” Frank Sinatra, is a household name, 1953 marked a period of decline for the swooner.   With his records not selling and his inability to fill concert halls anymore, it looked like Frank’s star was fading fast. He wasn’t the first choice for this role and there are rumors that Sinatra’s mob connections helped him get a part in this film.  The famous scene from The Godfather where the movie producer wakes to find his prized horse’s head in his bed is said to be inspired by some of the dealings that led to Frank being cast in this film. 004_020468.tifRegardless of the rumors, Frank’s performance was enough to put him back on the map. His comedic timing and brash persona are incredibly captivating, and he rightfully earned the best supporting actor Oscar that he was awarded for the role.  His character’s chutzpah in the face of adversity showed off the actor’s incredible range from light-hearted to emotional heart-breaking scenes. Without providing too much of a spoiler for this 50 year-old classic, Maggio’s final scene in the film is one of the most memorable scenes that we have viewed in our journey through film history.

The actor who is the glue that holds the entire film together is Burt Lancaster. Lancaster’s performance as the steady and intrepid Sgt. Milton Warden provides a terrific juxtaposition against the brash Maggio and the stubborn Pru.  While Pru is receiving the “treatment” for not joining the squad boxing team, the Sergeant provides a bit of compassion and perspective that helps Pru temporarily through some of the company in-fighting.  from-here-to-eternityWhile the Sergeant does not always take the moral high road, especially in light of his affair with the Captain’s wife, Donna, he still remains a symbol of goodness in the corrupt bureaucratic company. Their scene with the Sergeant and Donna on the beach together is one of the more enduring images from the film and encapsulates the ability of the film to cover all ends of the emotional spectrum.  

There are moments in the film where both Pru and Maggio’s treatment is kafkaesque as their superiors use the system to bully the two soldiers into compliance.  The moment in time displayed in the film is clouded with the ominous presence of historical dramatic irony. As we glimpse this version of life at the Hawaiian army base in the closing months of 1941, the stakes for the characters seem so high in the moment but ultimately do not matter given the scale of history’s tide.  S-1243_From_Here_To_Eternity_021_1f264562-e442-4c96-80f2-947c697950fcWhile the film is ultimately a character study with limited discussion of the global conflict of WWII, as the characters’ individual stories begin to resolve themselves, they are faced with “a day that will live in infamy” as FDR described it. The attack on Pearl Harbor makes the stakes of participation in a boxing tournament seem so insignificant, but that is the stark contrast we are faced with. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.  Besides the stellar production-value and terrific performances from our leads, the plot of this film drives an interesting, rarely-seen depiction of military life that is worth seeking out.  The film contains romantic, dramatic, comedic, and action-packed elements that provide something for every film-enthusiast.


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25. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille


Alex – 6.5   Elliot – 6.3   IMDB 6.7    Rotten Tomatoes 5.3

Alex’s Commentary

The Greatest Show on Earth won the 1952 Academy Award for Best Picture and  Cecil B. DeMille won for Best Director. Given the number of excellent films being produced by Hollywood in the 1950s, I found it unusual that this film would be considered the best picture. greatest3The movie felt more like a documentary of circus life than the engaging drama which it tried to be. The color cinematography and costuming were well done but the cast of established actors could not salvage the weak storyline.

Charlton Heston plays Brad Braden, the circus manager, as an unconvincing and unrelatable character. Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde are trapeze artists attempting to upstage each other for the center ring. Again, the characters did not seem believable and the development of their character was lacking. Another character lacking development was ‘Buttons” A. Clown, which wasted the talents of James Stewart. Buttons was apparently a former physician who somehow killed his wife (I assume for benevolent reasons) and then joins the circus to escape from the police. There are a few other weak subplots that are not worth describing.

So how did this film win the best picture? I have two theories. First, DeMille was presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1953 Academy Awards and perhaps the Academy thought in addition to this award, Best Picture and Best Director awards would make his evening complete. 25887598905_a67d4bd7f9_bMy second theory is that a very strong group of competing films split the voting enabling a lesser film to emerge victorious. This list of films includes four motion pictures that are considered classics and I believe are far superior to The Greatest Show on Earth. They include Moulin Rouge and  The Quiet Man (the great John Ford film with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara). Even more memorable are Singin’ in the Rain and one of my personal favorite films, High Noon starring  Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

If you are interested in the circus life of the 1950’s perhaps you would enjoy this film; however, with a running time of what seems like a very long 2 ½ hours, I’d suggest watching one of the other four films mentioned above instead.

Elliot’s Commentary:

The name of our film’s director was burned into the annals of Hollywood history with Billy Wilder’s 1950 masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard as the main character, Norma Desmond, delivers the closing line, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”.  With a 40+ year career as a director spanning from his first silent film in 1914 and culminating with two Charlton Heston-led technicolor spectacles (The Greatest Show on Earth and The Ten Commandments), it’s no wonder that the name Cecil B. DeMille is one of the most revered from the Golden Age of Hollywood history.    While the grandeur of Cecil B. DeMille is not necessarily in line with my preferred aesthetics, the impressive scale and visionary nature of his filmmaking had the power to bring to life the biblical and whimsical to entertain the masses.  It’s no wonder that the Golden Globes (The second best award show 😉 ) named their lifetime achievement award after our film’s director with the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award.  MV5BODY4NDBmODctNjlmYy00M2U3LTkyYTYtZmZiMGQxMzFkZWI4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI0MTk0OTQ@._V1_Similar to the lifetime achievement award, it is possible that the Academy Awarded Cecil B. DeMille his first and only best picture win for our current picture as recognition for his storied career and contributions to film as a whole. Although I do prefer the Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly film, High Noon from our nominee pool to this feature, DeMille’s ability to bring the spectacle of the circus to the silver screen is certainly a sight to behold.   .

While Charlton Heston does shine in this film, eschewing his brand of masculinity that reminds me of a somewhat gruffer Humphrey Bogart in Gone With the Wind, he lacks the likability that we have seen in other leading men in Best Picture Winners.   This rough around the edges character, Brad Braden (Charlton Heston), with “sawdust in his veins” is a much more complex character than a surface viewing would initially lead you to believe.  His tough exterior doesn’t break often, although there are moments when his humanity and compassion do peak through. greatest-show-on-earth10-827x1030The foil to Heston’s character is Holly (Betty Hutton), a “flyer” whose abilities on the trapeze and bars have catapulted her to center ring.   As she enters the film, she is established as Charlton Heston’s love interest although that storyline is not fully developed.   Betty Hutton is a passable actress and her performance in this film lands very hollow based on her over-acting. Her love triangle with Brad and The Great Sebastian (Cornell Wilde) provides some intrigue, although like the rest of the plot of the film, it ultimately is underdeveloped.   The saving grace to the film is Jimmy Stewart, whose character Buttons is a likable clown with a dark past.   It’s hard for me to think of a role in which James Stewart diminishes the overall quality of a film.  In this particular instance, his natural acting ability shines a light on the deficiencies of his fellow cast.  Even though James performs in clown makeup throughout the entire production, he is still able to bring his humble, everyman charm to the role.   It’s not often the case that one would consider a Best Picture winner as a minor role, but for the incomparable Mr. Stewart this performance is and should be forgotten when considering his body of work.   003a1ec7_mediumHe only had so much to work with given how cheesy the script and storyline were. Also appearing in minor roles were Dorothy Lamour as Phyllis and Gloria Grahame as Angel.

The characters that really steal the show however are not our leading characters, but rather the actual circus folk depicted in this film.  The film splices plot between elaborate circus scenes that play almost like a documentary of a spectacular performance of the actual Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus troops.  This is a fascinating new territory for film as the footage not only serves as a dramatic ensemble character study, but also as a commercial for the circus.  Through using real acts currently performing during the 1951 circus season, it provides real incentives for fans of the film to go out and view their favorite performers in real life.  Personally, I loved seeing the spectacle of dogs riding horses. Additionally, there is a great cameo from Bing Crosby and Bob Hope that adds additional intrigue.  25792668261_e1a100a090_bThe film also provides behind-the-scenes coverage of moments that the average circus-goer would never get to see such as the circus train, the rigging and set-up of the iconic circus tent, and the practice routines for the various acts as they prepare for the night’s performance.  Even moments where Charlton Heston is going through a line-up of elephants and prescribing remedies for elephant-illness such as gin and ginger, are intriguing glimpses of a different world not often glimpsed by the public. As I watched some of the more harrowing trapeze stunts, I found myself on the edge of my seat hoping that we wouldn’t see an accident.  When it comes to world building Cecil B. Demille excels at bringing the grandeur of the circus to life, and depicting the magical place of wonderment and danger that delights adults and children alike.

The film has certainly dated itself with certain special effects including an epic train crash clearly filmed with models. According to IMDB, this film was “the first movie that Steven Spielberg ever saw. His father took him to the theater, promising him a trip to the circus. He was six years old at the time. In Spielberg’s 2005 movie War of the Worlds a brief clip of the train crash scene is seen when one of the characters is channel-surfing.” Besides the low-grade special effects there are a few instances show2of blackface and jokes at the expense of the obese and dwarves that are not endearing in a modern context.   While I don’t have moral qualms with the concept of the circus in general, there have always been questions about the treatment of animals in the production of these spectacles. Even the the 2017 Hugh Jackman feature, The Greatest Showman, loosely based on the life of PT Barnum, incurred the ire of PETA due to Barnum’s abysmal track record of animal abuse.     

Overall, I think this film was a step in the wrong direction from some of our other recent films.   While some of the films we’ve viewed in our journey haven’t aged well or are a little melodramatic, this film borders on the edge of bad.   The acting, special effects, script, and plot just couldn’t be redeemed by the wonderful circus footage. The film was also 2.5 hours long, which is quite a lot of viewing time that the film does not justify based on its content/plot.  Webphoto 2002Not all of the best picture winners deserve to be remembered in perpetuity, and this film in particular is deserving of its place near the bottom of all best picture winners. Due to the time period, this film was produced during the heyday of the Hollywood Blacklist and McCarthyism and thus we are left with the result of what happens when Hollywood plays it safe.   This commercial for the circus was successful in making me want to see a Cirque du Soleil show in the near future, but not much else. See it if you want to laugh at some bad acting, or if you really like dated portrayals of trapeze acts.


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24. An American in Paris (1951)

Director: Vincente Minnelli


Alex – 7.2   Elliot – 7.5  IMDB 7.2    Rotten Tomatoes 8.0

Alex’s Commentary:

An American in Paris is a musical that shares similar features with many musicals. Often, plot takes a back seat in a film or stage production as it is merely a device to present music and dance. The plot of American in Paris, shows a struggling American artist (Gene Kelly)  falling in love with a woman (Leslie Caron) who was to be married to another man (Georges Guétary).  This premise is ultimately weak. Not that I don’t believe in love at first sight, but it would seem as though artist Jerry Mulligan proposes to Lise Bouvier after knowing her for less than a week or two. sd american in parisAN_AMERICAN_IN_PARIS-0There are also unanswered questions such as what happened to the heiress/art patron, Milo Roberts (played by Nina Foch), after Jerry leaves her at the big soiree to run off with Lise.  Additionally, the film doesn’t show the conversation that occurred in the cab ride between Lise and Henri Baurel to make them return to the party with Henri’s apparent blessing. Of course, with a running time of close to two hours, I didn’t really care that much!  Our previous three Best Picture musicals, The Broadway Melody, The Great Ziegfeld, and Going My Way, had much better stories (or at least the last two). It should be noted that Alan Jay Lerner did win an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, so some people must not share my feelings regarding the shortcomings of the story.

With that being said, please don’t be mistake my critiques for a dissuasion for viewing this film. If you are a fan of elaborate production dance numbers, this movie offers a dance extravaganza that I would suspect had not previously been seen on film. I love tap dance numbers and An American in Paris showcases Pittsburgher Gene Kelly at his finest. The movie’s backdrop, Paris just after WWII, is beautiful and interesting particularly as portrayed through an American 1950’s perspective. cinema-hollywoodien-sexpose-lhotel-ville-pari-L-ZMsZoSThe film was produced in MGM Technicolor which director Vincente Minnelli uses to its fullest with lush Paris street scenes, sidewalk cafes, and a climatic epic colorful dream sequence dance number. This particular dance number, that feels like it could be fifteen minutes or longer in length, combines tap numbers with ballet, modern dance and traditional Broadway show mega-ensemble vignettes.  This film also won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Set Decoration – Color, Best Costume Design and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. I agree that all of these awards are well deserved.

Most of the songs were written by George and Ira Gershwin in the 1920s and 1930s. It wasn’t clear to me why these songs were chosen for the film as I do not believe they have anything to do with Paris of the late 1940’s. In fact, “‘S Wonderful, S’ Marvelous” first appeared in the 1927 Broadway musical Funny Face. The songs are immediately recognizable, which may have contributed to the film’s success.

French born Leslie Caron makes her film debut in An American in Paris. Probably better known for her future roles in Lili (1953) and Gigi (1958), I did not realize she was such accomplished dancer an-american-in-paris-leslie-caron-1951_a-G-9920143-8363144and obviously classically trained. She was also unbelievably flexible!! I would be remiss not to mention Oscar Levant as an unemployed piano player/composer. Another fellow Pittsburgher, he has some incredible piano numbers and some memorable one-liners. Oscar was a good friend of George Gershwin and after Gershwin’s death, Levant was considered the preeminent interpreter of Gershwin’s works.

The movie has a line which I found very funny. When Jerry Mulligan is visiting Milo Roberts in her apartment, she appears in a cocktail dress with an exposed shoulder. Jerry asked Milo, “What’s keeping that dress up?” and she replies, “My modesty.” Love that line!

Although the movie does drag at times and feels overly long, I would still recommend it for any viewer who enjoys musicals and Gershwin songs.

Elliot’s Commentary:

With An American in Paris, we take our journey back to the land of the musical.   Previously, we have viewed three other musicals: The Broadway Melody, The Great Ziegfeld, and Going My Way.  These films all have their own unique traits, but none of them had the cohesion and vision that An American in Paris showed.  Additionally, while I do enjoy the grandeur of a Ziegfeld or Busby Berekely production, I appreciate Vincente Minnelli’s direction to establish the setting of this picture in a different environment and provide viewers with a more modern approach to the musical.   sd american in parisAN_AMERICAN_IN_PARIS-6Minnelli is a legend in the movie musical community, and his work on film classics like Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)  and the soon to be reviewed 1958 Best Picture, Gigi, have cemented his place in film history.  His meticulously planned out scenes reflect his past working in the theater as a set designer and costume artist during the great depression.  While his direction and work have made quite an impression on the film community, his personal life also intersected with some of the most dynamic stars in Hollywood History.  Minelli’s first marriage to an actress he met on the set of Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland, resulted in the birth of his oldest daughter, legend in her own right, Liza Minnelli.  While Judy Garland was snubbed twice from her two Oscar nominations, she received an Academy Juvenile Award for her performance in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.  Judy and Vincente’s daughter, Liza Minelli, followed her parents into the movie musical genre and received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Cabaret in 1972.  However, unlike Vincente, neither Judy nor Liza ever appeared in a film that garnered the award for Best Picture.

While Vincente was a true auteur in his own right, his stylistic choices are a bit over the top by today’s standards.   The mesmerizing use of technicolor in the costumes and scenes presented in vivid light are so bright, many scenes take on a dreamlike quality.   This is the second film to win best picture that was presented in its entirety in technicolor, the first being Gone With The Wind.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s only a limited number of films were produced using the technicolor technique due to the cost of the production.  3strip_camera_prismWithout getting too scientific, the Digital Intermediate Guide describes the technicolor technique as “Two strips of 35 mm black and white film negative, one sensitive to blue light and the other to red light, ran together through an aperture behind a magenta filter, which allowed blue and red light to pass through. A third film strip of black and white film negative ran through a separate aperture, behind a green filter.” This expensive process made production houses prioritize the use of Technicolor for large, big budget productions that would bolster their ROI’s through the use of this technique. Due to the box office success of movie musicals, these larger productions were often prioritized for the use of Technicolor.  84ce8d447d7c950cc78adac8ff6347fbVincente Minnelli’s success with Meet Me in St. Louis helped him secure the authorization for the use of Technicolor for the production of An American in Paris.  Additionally, based on Minnelli’s stylistic choices, the film would not have been as visually spectacular if the technique was not utilized.

While Minnelli’s spectacular mise-en-scene solidified the visuals in the film, the success of An American in Paris was also driven by the 1928 George Gershwin piece of the same name.  Gershwin died 1937, 14 years before the success of An American in Paris, however his achievements in orchestral composition are some of the most influential in the 20th century.  Between An American in Paris (1928), Rhapsody in Blue (1924), and Porgy and Bess (1935), Gershwin made a remarkable imprint on the musical landscape of America.  If not for his tragic death in 1938, who knows how many other timeless classics would be included in this brief summary of his talents?  Before reviewing the film, I listened to the entirety of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris” to provide context for my watching experience.  As the score shifts between each musical stanza, 850 1there is a clear narrative structure in the composition that is exciting and interesting even to my untrained ear. George was not the only Gershwin who lent his with musical talents to Hollywood for this film, George’s brother, Ira, wrote the lyrics for all of the songs included in An American in Paris.  He also collaborated with his brother to create the lyrics for the opera, Porgy and Bess.  Together, the Gershwin brothers produced the perfect musical score to provide the backdrop for Minnelli’s Hollywood production.

An American in Paris stars Gene Kelly with a performance that helped solidify his place in film history.    Gene Kelly was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh (Where my father and I received our graduate education).   While An American in Paris enlists the help of Kelly as a triple threat (Dancing, Singing, and Acting), his GeneKellyPlaqueAtPitt_cropreal talent shines through his dancing ability.   Kelly not only danced in An American in Paris, but as was the case in all his movie musicals, he choreographed all his dance numbers and assisted on many of the other numbers throughout the film.  Gene Kelly was also fluent in French and his linguistic skills are reflected throughout the film.

The movie centers on the story of painter, Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly), and his friend concert pianist, Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) as they navigate post-war Paris.   The film does a good job navigating between scenes taking place on the streets and restaurants in Paris as well as larger sound stage productions.   med_1430775945_00060Kelly’s character, Jerry Mulligan, is a hero to many of the kid’s in his neighborhood in Paris, making friends by bribing them with bubble gum.  His first solo number in the movie, “I Got Rhythm” is one of the big hits of the film and my personal favorite.   His singing is sweet and effortless, but the tap number he breaks into halfway through the song is really what takes the viewers breath away.

French Singer Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary) and his girlfriend and Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) become interwoven in the plot as Adam Cook introduces Jerry to Henri at a coffee shop.  They have a great number where Henri describes his new girlfriend Lise to Adam.  Although Lise doesn’t appear in the scene in actuality, they show a cut-away with a very stylized monochromatic dance number in a variety of different scenes and different colors corresponding to the attributes being described.  Leslie Caron is an incredibly graceful dancer and the scene showcases her tremendous talents.  Jerry and Lise’s paths cross later in the picture without the context of Henri’s presence to distract, and there emerges a love-triangle between Lise, Henri, and Jerry.   While the love triangle is unfolding, there is a great interstitial number starring the pianist Adam Cook.   850 3Minnelli takes an interesting stylistic choice to show the actor playing Adam Cook, Oscar Levant, play every member of an entire symphony for a momentous instrumental number.   The visually stunning scene coupled with its bombastic score is one of the strongest moments of the film.

As with most typical comedies with love triangles, there is a certain dramatic irony conveyed in the film.   As the two men, Henri and Jerry give each other advice about how to handle relationship difficulties with the same woman.   The conflict is quickly deflated after Lise reveals to Jerry that she is engaged to be married to Henri.   This revelation forces Jerry into the arms of a wealthy benefactor who has been bankrolling his art career, Milo Roberts (Nina Foch).  While this distraction did not improve Jerry’s general disposition, the sadness and mania conveyed in a French-colored (Red, White, and Blue) Gene-Kelly-in-An-American-in-Paris-gene-kelly-Utrilloabstract set with an intentionally disorienting dance number, reemphasizes the strength of this film.   The sensational finale with an almost uninterrupted 17-minute dance number is incredible.  The set design takes us from painting to painting, with each successive scene taking the audience from loss, to hope, to happiness as the story is resolved abstractly in bright colorful mood-indicative lighting.   While we do have a joyful embrace as Jerry and Lise end up together, it almost seems superfluous after the phenomenal dance number that is one of the most spectacular that I have ever seen in film.

An American in Paris is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is stylistically distinct and significant with true flashes of brilliance through song and dance.   Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron are sensational in this picture and Minnelli is able to frame scenes in a visually-stunning fashion that creates a true delight for the senses.   The plot is a bit pedestrian and not terribly interesting or well-developed, but with many musicals that is an aspect that can be overlooked since ultimately, they are merely a vehicle by which to orient the musical numbers.   While there was only one true song that dazzled me lyrically (“I’ve Got Rhythm”), the musical score and dancing in this film were truly captivating and beautiful.  an-american-in-paris I can’t help but be charmed by watching Gene Kelly tap dance, and the closing number combining men tap-dancing with women led by Leslie Caron dancing on point is truly amazing.  It’s hard to compare the cerebral and psychological All About Eve which won last year, with this film which thrives on its visual stimulation.   Honestly, I would have preferred A Streetcar Named Desire as this year’s Oscar winner but that is not to say that this film was without merit.  In fact, the argument that An American in Paris did more for film makes sense due to the innovation in set-design, cinematography, choreography, and production that this film conveyed.   It has been my favorite of the four musicals that we have seen thus far, but in general I prefer the more lyrical Rodgers and Hammerstein style of musical.

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