An American in Paris
A GI (Gene Kelly) stays in Paris after the war to become an artist and has to choose between the patronage of a rich American woman (Nina Foch) and a French gamine (Leslie Caron) engaged to an older man. The plot is mostly an excuse for director Vincente Minnelli to pool his own extraordinary talent with those of choreographer-dancer-actor Kelly and the artists behind the screenplay, art direction, cinematography, and score, creating a rapturous musical not quite like anything else in cinema. The final section of the film comprises a 17-minute dance sequence that took a month to film and is breathtaking. Songs include "'S Wonderful," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay."
Vincente Minnelli's 1958 adaptation of Colette's story about a girl (Leslie Caron) groomed as a courtesan--but desired as a wife by a Parisian playboy (Louis Jordan)--won a lot of Oscars®, but it also has the unusual distinction of being an MGM musical shot on location in the City of Lights. What a musical it is (by Lerner and Loewe): Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold crooning "Ah, Yes, I Remember It Well," plus the songs "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," "Gigi," "I'm a Bore," and "She's Not Thinking of Me." Director Minnelli makes a sumptuous, dreamy, almost laid-back affair of it all, and the indispensable cast is forever etched into memory. Hollywood's long-running infatuation with Continental grace and manners, the memory of a much earlier time imported to American movies through such immigrant directors as Ernst Lubitsch, may have finally come to a gentle end with this film.
My Fair Lady
Hollywood's legendary "woman's director," George Cukor, transformed Audrey Hepburn into street-urchin-turned-proper-lady Eliza Doolittle in this film version of the Lerner and Loewe musical. Based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady stars Rex Harrison as linguist Henry Higgins (Harrison also played the role, opposite Julie Andrews, on stage), who draws Eliza into a social experiment that works almost too well. The letterbox edition of this film on video certainly pays tribute to the pageantry of Cukor's set, but it also underscores a certain visual stiffness that can slow viewer enthusiasm just a tad. But it's really star wattage that keeps this film exciting, that and such great songs as "On the Street Where You Live" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." Actor Jeremy Brett, who gained a huge following later in life portraying Sherlock Holmes, is quite electric as Eliza's determined suitor. --Tom Keogh