An American in Paris

AFI Rank: #68
Year Released: 1951
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Actors: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, Nina Foch

It's probably fair to say that the reason this movie won its awards, and ended up on the AFI top 100, is because of Gene Kelly and his dancing. The storyline has probably been covered thousands of times already in movies, novels, and songs. Boy 1 is in love with Girl 1. Unfortunately Boy 1 is somehow entangled with another girl, and Girl 1 is somehow entangled with another boy. Will they both get free of these other entanglements and end up with each other?

The movie is set in Paris, a fantastically gorgeous city, but unfortunately the entire movie is filmed in a Hollywood studio. So especially with Paris being a "main character", talked about for its beauty and history throughout the film, it isn't even there. This is somewhere that the movie could have shown, to bring Paris's beauty to all film audiences. Part of why I adore watching Much Ado about Nothing, for example, is the gorgeous Italian landscapes. So it's a great shame they didn't film on location.

The dancing is, of course, spectacular. There's an incredibly long ending sequence which is simply the two lovers dancing, dancing, and dancing. If you're a dance fan, that scene alone makes this movie a must-have. There are of course numerous other dance sequences too.

Your enjoyment of the dance sequences can hopefully carry you through some of the iffyness of the plot. Yes, I realize this was 1951 - but women in 1951 were not doormats. They were strong, resourceful women who had to get through World War II and all its deprivations and challenges. They were tough and worthy of respect. But what do we have here.

First, the heroine. She's 19 and treated like an object. Gene spots her in a bar and grabs her and hauls her onto the dance floor even though she actively doesn't want to go. He doesn't care at all what she wants. And he knows nothing about her, just that she has a nice body. She makes it abundantly clear she doesn't want him to have her phone number but he manages to get it anyway. He calls her at WORK and she tells him to get lost. So he shows up at her job!! I would be calling the police about this stalker. It's not like they had a fun conversation about a mutual interest and he got to know her, to realize she was perfect for him. This was all solely because of her body.

Next, the "other woman", played by Nina Foch. Nina was 27 at the time, while Gene was 39. But they called this relationship a "May-December" relationship as if **NINA** was too old for him!! Oh, right, heaven forbid that a 39 year old man settle for an ancient woman of 27 when he could have a 19 year old girl instead. Nina is a wealthy woman, and there are continual snide comments made throughout the movie that she is "unwomanly" for having the money. Gene is teased about having to change his maiden name. She makes a comment, when he's taking her out for the evening, that she feels more like a woman because he is the one taking her out. What??

So these are our two females in the movie. A young girl who is "stuck" marrying her mentor becauuse he took care of her, i.e. a daddy figure. And an older woman who is "too old" and also completely undesirable because she has money. And they never talk to each other. Their only role is to talk to the men around them.

So, for me, I'd rather watch Singing in the Rain or West Side Story, or maybe create a spliced DVD that has the dance numbers together without the storyline in between.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100