An American in Paris: Hers & His Perspectives
For the first installment in our 2023 Classic Couple Movie Challenge, we offer our take on An American in Paris (1951).
An American in Paris is a movie musical I enjoy for the performances, not for the acting. The film serves as a vehicle to showcase the artistry of its stellar cast. Concert pianist Oscar Levant is given a segment to demonstrate his skill as a virtuoso player and conductor. The solo performance of French cabaret singer Georges Guétary striding up a stairway singing George Gershwin’s Stairway to Paradise is stunning. Ballet dancer Leslie Caron makes her debut in the film performing several mesmerizing solo dance sequences. And then there is Gene Kelly at the height of his dance career in numbers featuring his enormous skill in tap, ballet and jazz dance. These individual performances are spectacular. And nothing on film is better than the final 17-minute dialogue-free dance sequence featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin’s An American in Paris. That segment demands watching over and over again.
The storyline of An American in Paris seems inconsequential. And the acting, while sufficient from these great performers, is not particularly notable. My take is that it’s worth the watch again and again as a classic movie for the performances of the fine artists featured. The film itself serves to me as a piece of art.
I love this film and the performances in it. My sticking point is the 19-year age difference between Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron as they play the romantic leads in the film. While Caron’s innocence as Lise is appealing, there is something cringe-worthy about Kelly’s pursuit of her as the artist Jerry in the movie. Her other love interest in the film, Henri played by Georges Guétary, is equally too great at 17 years difference. Lise is something of a possession for the two men who seem to capitalize on her innocence as one aims to keep her and one aims to win her.
These vast age differences were standard in Old Hollywood films, and the film is not necessarily diluted by it. However, it’s the one aspect of An American in Paris that trips my inappropriate meter as a man.