“An American in Paris”

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Vicki Hughes Film-140 Essay #2 At What Price Love? Of all human emotions, love is the most revered, but also the most costly. In real life, love often comes with a “price tag” attached; impediments which can include guilt and greed. How do we negotiate the perilous pursuit of love? What guidance does Hollywood provide? An “American in Paris” in spite of being a premier musical of its day, mixed love with the baser element of human endeavor but came out with a 1950’s happy ending. Some critics have said that “An American in Paris” was produced to showcase George Gershwin’s 1928 symphony of the same name. Others complained the film was a weak shrine to Gene Kelly’s ego. Still others dismissed it as little more than fluff with Director Vincente Minnelli sparing no available film technology for this early 50’s musical using elaborate artistic sets, split screens and process shots. However, while all of these complaints may have some merit a more compelling theme of this film is the dark side of its principal character. Opportunistic Jerry Mulligan is an American expatriate painter residing in the starving artist’s colony in Paris. “Discovered” by wealthy heiress Milo Roberts, portrayed by throaty Nina Foch, Jerry, not too reluctantly, allows her to become his “patron” or as some might say, a “wannabe sugar-mama”. While Jerry is pretending not to know Milo’s true intentions he discovers and begins to romance the fragile, waif-like Lise Bouvier, Caron’s character. Unbeknownst to Jerry, Lise has already “promised herself” to one of Jerry’ pals, Henri Baurel portrayed by Georges Guetary. As Jerry’s irrepressible advances begin to succeed, Lise begins her own game of deception. Eventually we learn that Henri and Jerry know each other, but are not aware of their mutual affection for Lise. The happy-go-lucky Kelly character charmingly pursues Caron with good old fashioned gentlemanly exuberance that would make Andy Hardy proud.

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