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An American in Paris (film)

An American in Paris
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Produced by Arthur Freed
Written by Alan Jay Lerner
Starring Gene Kelly
Leslie Caron
Oscar Levant
Georges Guétary
Nina Foch
Music by George Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
Saul Chaplin
Cinematography Alfred Gilks
John Alton
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • November 11, 1951 (1951-11-11)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,724,000[1]
Box office $6,981,000[1]

An American in Paris is a 1951 American musical film inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin. Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary, and Nina Foch, the film is set in Paris, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script by Alan Jay Lerner. The music is by George Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother Ira, with additional music by Saul Chaplin, the music director.

The story of the film is interspersed with dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin's music. Songs and music include "I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise", " 'S Wonderful", and "Our Love is Here to Stay". The climax of the film is "The American in Paris" ballet, a 16-minute dance featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin's An American in Paris. The ballet alone cost more than $500,000.[citation needed]


American World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is now an exuberant expatriate in Paris trying to make a reputation as a painter. His friend and neighbor, Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), is a struggling concert pianist who is a longtime associate of a French singer, Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary). At the ground-floor bar, Henri tells Adam about his cultured girlfriend. Jerry joins them later, before going out to sell his art.

A lonely society woman and heiress, Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), finds Jerry displaying his art on the street and takes an interest in him and his art. She brings him to her apartment to pay for his works, and invites him to a dinner party she is throwing later that night. After singing with French children on the way home, Jerry shows up to Milo's apartment. He quickly finds out that the "party" is actually a one-on-one date, and tells Milo he has no interest in being a paid escort. When he attempts to leave after giving her money back, she insists that she is only interested in his art.

They go to a crowded bar, and she offers to sponsor an art show for Jerry as a friendly gesture. Some of Milo's friends arrive, and while sitting with them, he sees Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), a French girl seated at the next table. Jerry ignores Milo and her acquaintances, and instead pretends to know Lise already and dances with her. She is standoffish and gives Jerry a wrong phone number, but she is innocently corrected by someone at her table. Heading home, Milo tells Jerry he was very rude cavorting with a girl he does not know while in her presence, but he gets out of the car and bids her farewell.

The next day, Jerry calls Lise at her work, but she tells him to never call her again. Jerry and Milo meet at a cafe, and she informs him that a collector is interested in his paintings and she arranged a showing later that day. Before going to the showing, he goes to the parfumerie where Lise works and she consents to dinner with him. She does not want to be seen eating with him in public, but they share a romantic song and dance on the banks of the Seine River in the shadows on Notre Dame.

Later, Adam humorously daydreams that he is performing Gershwin's Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra for a gala audience in a concert hall. As the scene progresses, Adam is also revealed to be the conductor, other members of the orchestra, and even an enthusiastic audience member applauding himself at the end.

Milo gets Jerry an art studio and tells him she has planned an exhibition of his work in three months. He initially refuses the studio because he does not have the money for it, but eventually accepts it under the condition that he pay Milo back when his art proceeds allow him. Roughly a month later and after much courting, Lise abruptly runs off when she and Jerry arrive by taxi at his apartment. When Jerry complains to Adam, he is shocked to realize that both Henri and Jerry are involved with the same woman. Henri and Jerry discuss the woman they each love, unaware she is the same woman.

That night, Jerry and Lise reunite in the same place under the Notre Dame. She informs him that she is marrying Henri the next day and going to America. Lise feels a sense of duty to Henri, to whom she feels indebted for keeping her safe during World War II. She and Jerry proclaim their love for each other. Feeling slighted, Jerry invites Milo to the art students' masked ball and kisses her. At the raucous party, with everyone in black-and-white costumes, Milo learns from Adam that Jerry is not interested in her, and Henri overhears Jerry and Lise saying goodbye to each other. When Henri and Lise drive away, Jerry daydreams about being with Lise all over Paris to the tune of the George Gershwin composition An American in Paris. His reverie is broken by a car horn, the sound of Henri bringing Lise back to him. They embrace as the Gershwin composition (and the film) ends.


Hayden Rorke, best known for playing Dr. Bellows on the TV series I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70), has a small part as a friend of Milo. Noel Neill, later to portray Lois Lane on the TV series The Adventures of Superman, has a small role as an American art student who tries to criticize Jerry's paintings. Jazz musician Benny Carter plays the leader of a jazz ensemble performing in the club where Milo first takes Jerry. Madge Blake, best known for playing Bruce Wayne's aunt Harriet Cooper on the TV series Batman (1966-1968), has a small part as a customer in the perfume shop in which Lise works. Judy Landon, better known for her appearance in Kelly's next musical Singin' in the Rain (and as the wife of Brian Keith), appears as a dancer in the Stairway to Paradise sequence.

Music and dance

  1. "Embraceable You" – Lise
  2. "Nice Work If You Can Get It" – Hank
  3. "By Strauss" – Jerry, Hank, Adam
  4. "I Got Rhythm" – Jerry
  5. "Tra-la-la (This Time It's Really Love)" – Jerry, Adam
  6. "Our Love Is Here to Stay" – Jerry, Lise
  7. "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" – Hank
  8. "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra" – Adam, The MGM Symphony Orchestra
  9. " 'S Wonderful" – Jerry, Hank
  10. "An American in Paris" Ballet – Jerry, Lise, Ensemble


The film was shot in Hollywood, so it features some quirks in the occasional French dialogue. Notably, near the beginning of the I Got Rhythm number, one of the French children says Jerry, parle anglais à nous, which sounds rather curious, containing mistakes both in direct object placement and in respectful address. In the French soundtrack, which switches to the original sound for the duration of the songs, the à nous is masked through a plop sound, to make the sentence more palatable.

Hollywood films set in France seldom used location shooting or native speakers. However, great care was sometimes put into reproducing Paris surroundings, as in An American in Paris or Irma La Douce. Many French Paris-set movies of this era avoided location work too, and sometimes the same art directors (Alexandre Trauner being the best known example) worked on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $3,750,000 in the US and Canada and $3,231,000 in other countries during its initial theatrical release. This resulted in the studio making a $1,346,000 profit.[1]

Awards and honors

Kelly and Caron dance

Academy Awards


Golden Globes



Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award that year for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." It was his only Oscar.

The film was entered into the 1952 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

In 1993, An American in Paris was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

American Film Institute recognition

AFI also honored star Kelly as #15 of the top 25 American male screen legends.

Digital restoration

In 2011, the film was digitally restored by Warner Bros. motion Picture imaging. Frame-by-frame digital restoration by Prasad Corporation removed dirt, tears, scratches and other defects.[citation needed] The film was restored its original look for its 60th-anniversary.[3][4]

Stage adaptations

A stage version of the musical was adapted by Ken Ludwig, and began previews at the Alley Theatre (Houston) on April 29, 2008, officially opening on May 18 and running through June 22. The production, directed by Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd with choreography by Randy Skinner, starred Harry Groener and Kerry O'Malley. The musical had many of the film's original songs, and also incorporated other Gershwin songs, such as "They All Laughed", "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off", and "Love Walked In".[5][6]

In 2014, a stage version opened in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet, with Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan and Leanne Cope as Lise Bouvier. The production, which ran from November to December, was directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, written by Craig Lucas and designed by Bob Crowley. The musical then transferred to Broadway, with previews at Palace Theatre beginning on March 13, 2015, before officially opening there on April 12.[7][8][9]

The Broadway production received twelve nominations for the 2015 Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Robert Fairchild), Outstanding Actress in a Musical (Leanne Cope), Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Max Von Essen), Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Book of a Musical (Craig Lucas), Outstanding Orchestrations (Christopher Austin), Outstanding Set Design (Bob Crowley), Outstanding Costume Design (Bob Crowley), Outstanding Projection Design (59 Productions), and Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical (Jon Weston).[10]

Musical numbers

Music and songs from the 2014 stage musical:


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ "An American in Paris". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Braxton, Greg (October 21, 2010). "Restored 'An American in Paris' to open TCM Classic Film Festival". LA Times. 
  4. ^ "An American in Paris re-released after digital restoration". BBC. 2 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Gershwins' An American in Paris Again Extends Houston Run". 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  6. ^ "The Gershwins' An American in Paris: 2007-2008 Season". Alley Theatre. Retrieved October 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "An American in Paris Will Open at Broadway's Palace in 2015", July 17, 2014
  8. ^ Beardsley, Eleanor (December 25, 2014). "The French Go Crazy For 'An American In Paris'". NPR. 
  9. ^ Mackrell, Judith (December 8, 2014). "Return to rive gauche: how Christopher Wheedlon adapted An American in Paris". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Drama Desk Nominations Announced; Hamilton Tops the List", April 23, 2015

External links