Classic Movie Countdown: Best Picture #’s 30 and 29 — An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958)

30. An American in Paris (1951)

Other Nominated Films:
Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire

There are very few films that are as vibrant and lavish as An American in Paris. There are also very few (if any other) films that feature an uninterrupted 16-minute dance sequence. The dance sequence. a ballet set to Gershwin’s An American in Paris  is well choreographed (I would hope so since this sequence cost over $500,000), and I believe this is the primary reason that An American in Paris won the Best Picture Oscar. An American in Paris is an exciting, stand-up-and-move-your-feet type of film, but A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place in the Sun are the truly the more superior films. But let’s not focus on what probably should have happened, let’s focus on what did happened. While the plot of An American in Paris may not be the strongest, what keeps the film from failing is the immerse star power of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, the classic Gershwin songs, and the colorful direction of Vincente Minnelli. I will say that what truly kept me hooked was Leslie Caron. I’m unsure of what it is about her, but when she’s on screen, she demands your attention. When she wasn’t on screen however, it felt to me as if the movie was just slowly dragging. Although I will give credit to Gene Kelly for one of the most memorable dances of all time in I Got Rhythm. The man can really dance, and I have no problem admitting that I wish I could dance like that. An American in Paris would go on to win Academy Awards that year.

Nominated for 8 Oscars, Winner of 6
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color – Cedric Gibbons, E. Preston Ames, Edwin B. Willis, F. Keogh Gleason (WON)
Best Cinematography, Color – Alfred Gilks, John Alton (WON)
Best Costume Design, Color – Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, Irene Sharaff (WON)
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture – Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin (WON)
Best Picture – Arthur Freed (WON)
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Alan Jay Lerner (WON)
Best Director – Vincente Minnelli
Best Film Editing – Adrienne Fazan

Jerry Mulligan: She’s one of those third year girls who gripe my liver… You know, American college kids. They come over here to take their third year and lap up a little culture… They’re officious and dull. They’re always making profound observations they’ve overheard.

 29. Gigi (1958)

Other Nominated Films:
Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables

No, this was not intentional. I promise that I did not plan to discuss one Leslie Caron/Vincente Minnelli picture after another. It just happened to work out that way. And, once again, the star of the show is Caron, who, as the title character of Gigi, is so full of life and just truly stunning. I will say this though, Gigi is extremely similar to My Fair Lady (to clarify, I mean the play, which came out in 1956). It’s no coincidence either, as both Gigi and My Fair Lady are brought to life by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner. Gigi and My Fair Lady involve someone of extremely high class changing the ways of someone below them. Then there’s the sudden realization of love with a song to go along with it. The basic plot of Gigi is about a young girl who is being groomed as a courtesan, and her relationship with family friend Gaston (Louis Jourdan), which starts off as nothing but turns into a romance (as it should in a musical.) From start to finish, Gigi charms her way into your heart with her carefree lifestyle and her lack of grace and charm. Gigi would go on to win a record-breaking 9 Academy Awards (this only lasted a year, tune in February 10th to see why.) In tribute to Gigi‘s domination of the Oscars, the M-G-M switchboard actually answered calls the following day with “M-Gigi-M.” Although Arthur Freed would go on to produce several more films after Gigi, this is considered the last great M-G-M musical and the final great achievement of the Freed Unit.

Nominated and Winner of 9 Oscars
Best Art irection-Set Decoration, Black-and-White or Color – William A. Horning, E. Preston Ames, Genry Grace, F. Keogh Gleason
Best Cinematography, Color – Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White or Color – Cecil Beaton
Best Director – Vincente Minnelli
Best Film Editing – Adrienne Fazan
Best Music, Original Song – Frederick Loewe (music), Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) for the song “Gigi”
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture – André Previn
Best Picture – Arthur Freed
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – Alan Jay Lerner

Gigi: [to Gaston] I’d rather be miserable with you than miserable without you.

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