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GIGI(director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: Alan Jay Lerner/from the short novel by Colette/from the play by Anita Loos; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Frederick Loewe; cast: Leslie Caron (Gigi), Maurice Chevalier (Honore Lachaille), Louis Jourdan (Gaston Lachaille), Hermione Gingold (Madame Alvarez), Eva Gabor (Liane d’Exalmans), Jacques Bergerac (Sandomir), Isabel Jeans (Aunt Alicia); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1958)
“How much one likes it, depends on how much French pastry one can eat during one sitting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Gallic lightweight musical Gigi won nine Oscars, including Best Picture. Why such a piece of fluff like this won, with hardly any memorable songs and a trite plot, is a mystery I never quite figured out. It’s based on a novella by the French novelist Colette, and is derived from the superior original French film made in 1949 and not the 1951 Broadway play that starred Audrey Hepburn (she turned down the film part). It features a vapid score from the My Fair Lady team of composers, with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The familiar sounding tunes makes it seem like they stole from their own past hit. It has such songs as “I Remember It Well,” “Thank Heaven For Little Girls,” “It’s a Bore,” “The Parisians,” “Gossip,” “She Is Not Thinking of Me,” “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “Gaston’s Soliloquy,” “Gigi,” “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” and “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight.”

Vincente Minnelli (“Cabin In The Sky”/”The Clock”/”Meet Me In St. Louis”) shot it on location in Paris (a good idea!), and keeps it looking like a French pastry. How much one likes it, depends on how much French pastry one can eat during one sitting. Wartime collaborator with the Nazis Maurice Chevalier makes his American comeback, as he’s forgiven for his past sins and plays with slickness an elderly bachelor playboy boulevardier dripping with charm and lascivious desires. For my money, Cecil Beaton’s outstanding production designs, costumes and scenery sets might be the picture’s best asset.

The teenaged carefree Gigi (Leslie Caron) is a tomboyish waif raised by her courtesan granny Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and aided by her Great-Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) in Paris, at the turn-of-the-century. The two elegant ladies of the night hope to raise Gigi as a high-class courtesan so she can become the paid companion of bored Parisian wealthy playboy businessman Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdain), whose uncle is Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier)–a friend of Madame Alvarez, who long ago was his mistress. Gaston falls for Gigi, but she opts for marriage and he thinks he truly loves her so buys into the marriage idea and drops dating the 30-year-old high society woman Liane d’Exalmans (Eva Gabor). This causes a problem for Mme Alvarez, who thinks marriage is too bourgeois a choice for her charge.

The film was a hit throughout the world, except in France. I think they sniffed out that this was a phony Gallic romp, a Hollywood film trying to be more French than a French film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”