81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Gigi

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments · 1958, Adaptation, Cinemascope (Wide Screen), Color, Composer: André Previn, Gigi, Leslie Caron, M-G-M Studios, Musical, Vincente Minnelli

Gigi Remember what I wrote about musicals?

Gigi is no exception.

I fear it.

Or is it loathe?

Makes no difference. I have no clue how this movie won nine (nine!) Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Vincente Minnelli, 1903-1986), Best Adapted Screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner, 1918-1986), Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Andre Previn, 1929- ), and even an Honorary Award (Maurice Chevalier, 1888-1972) – which brings the total to 10 (ten!) Academy Awards.

Ten!

This movie absolutely bores me to tears. The songs, contrary to what everyone in the behind-the-scenes featurette says, are not memorable. The acting is, by and large, atrocious, although Leslie Caron (1931- ) in the title role is adorable, just as she was in An American In Paris. Worst of all, much of the dialogue sounds dubbed and all of the singing is. It’s irritating to hear words just slightly out of sync with the actor’s lips. Or in a volume louder than they would be if they were recorded in the same setting where the actor stands.

It’s painful to watch this movie. It’s like watching My Fair Lady (another musical I thoroughly enjoy) without better songs, better actors, and a better script. Louis Jourdan (1919- ), as Gaston Lachaille, talk-sings like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. So does Maurice Chevalier. In fact, even Leslie Caron (who’s voice was dubbed by Betty Wand), talk-sings.

What the movie does have going for it is color. Lots of it. And Paris. Lots of that, too.

The Plot (from IMDB):

Weary of the conventions of Parisian society, a rich playboy and a youthful courtesan-in-training enjoy a platonic friendship, but it may not stay platonic for long. Gaston, the scion of a wealthy Parisian family finds emotional refuge from the superficial lifestyle of upper class Parisian 1900s society with the former mistress of his uncle and her outgoing, tomboy granddaughter, Gigi. When Gaston becomes aware that Gigi has matured into a woman, her grandmother and aunt, who have educated Gigi to be a wealthy man’s mistress, urge the pair to act out their roles but love adds a surprise twist to this delightful turn-of-the 20th century Cinderella story.

Gigi is the third Best Picture in a row to be in color, the third Best Picture in a row that’s an adaptation, and the third Best Picture in a row that’s in widescreen format.

(Pssst. For those keeping score, Gigi, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by French author Colette, 1873-1954, nudges the percentage to 71%, which means nearly 3/4 of the movies Hollywood chooses as Best Picture are based on a novel, short story, article, or play.)

According to the featurettes, this movie marked the end of the era of the big M-G-M musicals, and the beginning of the end of the career of the legendary Arthur Freed (1894–1973) whose “Freed Unit” was responsible for many of the greatest musicals of all time, Gigi notwithstanding. Doubt me? Take a look.

As soon as I discovered that Leslie Caron starred as Gigi I set aside my loathing of musicals and really, really (honestly!) tried to like it. I even watched it twice.

Repetition didn’t improve it any.

I liked the scene with Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) who sing the song “I Remember It Well.” And I supposed, all creepiness aside, Maurice Chevalier’s opening song “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” is passable.

But I’m afraid of Gigi. It scares me.

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