Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#1,128. Gigi (1958)

Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

Starring: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan

Tag line: "The First Lerner-Loewe Musical Since 'My Fair Lady'"

Trivia: While shooting, the cast had to mouth the songs because the production was moving so swiftly that the score hadn't yet been recorded

Director Vincente Minnelli dabbled in a number of genres throughout his career, including comedy (Father of the Bride, Father's Little Dividend), drama (The Bad and the Beautiful, Some Came Running), and even the occasional biopic (Lust for Life). Yet it was in musicals that he truly shined, thanks to films like Meet Me In St. Louis, An American in Paris, and The Band Wagon

And, of course, 1958’s Gigi, the movie that netted Minnelli his first, and only, Academy Award.

Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a pretty Parisian girl being raised by her grandmother, Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold), and great Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) to be a rich man’s courtesan. But all Gigi wants is to accompany family friend Gaston (Louis Jourdan), himself a wealthy playboy, on his vacation to the seaside town of Trouville. 

After losing to Gigi in a game of chance, Gaston agrees to take the precocious young woman, as well as Madame Alvarez, along on his trip. Once there, Gaston spends quite a bit of time with Gigi. When they return to Paris, he realizes the girl he always looked upon as a "little sister" has become a beautiful woman. In fact, he might even be in love with her!

Along with its colorful sets and stylish period costumes, Gigi boasts a handful of excellent musical numbers. My favorite is "The Night They Invented Champagne", where Gigi, overjoyed that Gaston has agreed to take her to Trouville, jubilantly extolls the virtues of living the good life. Aside from this enchanting tune, the movie features two memorable songs performed by Maurice Chevalier, who plays Honoré Lachaille, Gaston’s uncle and a former lover of Madame Alvarez’s. The romantic "I Remember It Well", during which Honoré and Madame Alvarez recall (with some confusion) the details of their relationship, is wonderful, but it’s Chevalier’s rendition of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" that truly stands out (it would become his trademark song).

By the mid to late ‘60s, musicals had run their course with American audiences, and big-budget productions like Hello, Dolly and Paint Your Wagon proved to be box-office disasters. Gigi is a reminder of a time when the Hollywood musical was king, directed by a man as familiar with the genre as anyone. Wildly entertaining, Gigi is an absolute delight.


Unknown said...

Haven't seen this in years! Thanks for reminding me how fabulous it is - will have to watch it again soon!

Unknown said...

Haven't seen this in years! Thanks for reminding me how fabulous it is - will have to watch it again soon!

kiyotei said...

This movie's soundtrack album is on the Cover Art for Pink Floyd's - Ummagumma album!