Gene Kelly: An American in Paris (1951)

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In 1952, An American in Paris won six Academy Awards. Watching the film in 2011 has allowed me to see what a masterpiece this movie really is. Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in her film debut, the film tells the story of a former G.I. who has settled in Paris to work as a painter. He finds himself in the company of a struggling musician whose friend is a famous singer. The central focus is on Jerry, played by Gene Kelly, who meets a young woman and falls in love. It’s a classic story of the Romeo and Juliet variety that focuses on her relationship with another man and Jerry’s commitment to a wealthy benefactor.

Watching this film is a wonderful experience. It’s got the feel of the great Hollywood studio classics with the colorful set designs and large-scale musical numbers. The music is no less wonderful than you would expect when you have Gene Kelly working with music written by Ira Gershwin. Gershwin wrote, “Our Love is Here to Stay,” which is featured in this film as well as countless others over the years. (Watch Forget Paris.) The set design is also impressive as the ballet sequences were filmed on sets designed to reflect some of the great painters like Van Gogh.

Without exception the acting of Gene Kelly is a pleasure to watch. In this era of filmmaking, stars were expected to sing, dance, and act. Kelly did them all at a high level and this film is no exception. Additionally, Kelly assisted in the direction of the movie due to the demands being placed on Vincente Minnelli through his personal life.

If any criticism could be leveled, it might be the lack of dialogue through a 17 minute dance sequence which ends the film. It slows the pace and may not work for people who don’t enjoy the art of dance and music.

This is a film that’s as enjoyable as Singing in the Rain yet it has it’s own unique charm. There is a great repeat value in this film with it’s dancing, singing, and charming love story. Like many of my favorite films An American in Paris is a movie that remains relevant more than 60 years from it’s release. The dancing, the music, and the story all come together with great success and leave us with an American film masterpiece.


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