A couple of previous viewings had me thinking that An American in Paris had not held up well. Then I caught it yesterday and it had regained all its magic for me.
Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is an ex-GI who is starting out as a painter in Paris. He’s still having a problem selling his work even on the sidewalk. In his building lives Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) a struggling composer and concert pianist. Adam has written some songs for his friend Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary), a famous music hall composter. Henri reveals early on that he has fallen in love with his ward Lise (Leslie Caron).
Milo Roberts, an American sophisticate, stops by to admire Jerry’s paintings and soon starts admiring Jerry himself. She promises to promote him and get him an exhibition but it is clear she expects more from him that gratitude. But this is not to be. Jerry falls more or less in love at first sight with Lise when he sees her dining with friends at a restaurant.
Soon Jerry and Lise are arranging rendevous. But when Henri asks Lise to marry him her gratitude for his help during the war threatens to override her love for Jerry.
This viewing moved the film back from “flawed” to the practically perfect category. I will admit that the concluding ballet kind of stops the film it its tracks, but it is so splendid in conception and execution that I cut it a lot of slack. It’s enough for me just to soak in the beautiful colors, Paris, and the glorious George Gershwin score. Kelly does some pretty fantastic dancing as well.
An American in Paris won Oscars in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Writing, Story and Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. It was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Editing.