Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

GIGI (1958) * * *

Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) is bored with women and only enjoys the company of Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and her grand-daughter Gilberte or "Gigi" (Leslie Caron), who is being groomed to become a courtesan. Gaston falls in love with Gigi and receives advice from his uncle Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier), who pursues women without emotional attachment or any intentions of marriage. He says, "In Paris, those who will not marry are usually men, and those who do not marry are usually women." At first Gaston thinks of Gigi as a potential mistress, but eventually they marry.

Gigi: "Four yards of material in the skirt. Well, don't I look great ladyish?"
Gaston: "You look like an organ-grinder's monkey!"
Gigi: "An organ-grinder's monkey?"
Gaston: "What happened to your little Scotch dress? And that ridiculous collar!" Gigi: "And what's wrong with that collar?"
Gaston: "It makes you look like a giraffe with a goiter."
Gigi: "Gaston, I've never heard it said you had any taste in clothes."

GIGI is based on Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette's famous 1945 novella, and takes place in Paris, circa 1900. The movie is a sumptuous extravaganza, exquisitely filmed, with a perfect cast who give excellent performances. It has delightful sets and costumes and was one of the first MGM musicals to be filmed on location (in Paris) and is considered to be the last great MGM musical.

Alicia: "Did you work hard in school today? What did you study?"
Gigi: "History. Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo."
Alicia: "How depressing. What else?"
Gigi: "English."
Alicia: "English? I suppose we must. They refuse to learn French."

The cast also includes: Eva Gabor (Liane d'Exelmans), Jacques Bergerac (Sandomir), Isabel Jeans (Aunt Alicia), John Abbott (Manuel), Maurice Marsac (Prince Berensky), Jean Ozenne (Monsieur Lachaille), Lydia Stevens (Simone), Edwin Jerome (Charles), Roger Saget (Pierre), and many others. Frederick Loewe wrote the music. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the screenplay and Vincente Minnelli directed.

The Lerner and Loewe songs are: "Thank Heaven for Little Girls", "It's a Bore", "The Parisians", "Gossip", "Waltz at Maxim's (She Is Not Thinking of Me)", "The Night They Invented Champagne", "I Remember It Well", "Gaston's Soliloquy", "Gigi", "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore", and "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight". Lesle Caron's singing is dubbed in by Betty Wand, although "The Night They Invented Champagne" and "The Way You Look Tonight" are available on CD with Caron's singing.

This classic film is one of the best Hollywood musicals, a timeless cultural treasure, charming, memorable, with bright costumes and great atmosphere. But it's a little over-long, talky, with a simple thin plot and there is no dancing or big production numbers. It's unfair to judge a past era with our standards, however raising a little girl to be a courtesan is now politically incorrect. "Paedophilia" and "child abuse" come to mind.

GIGI was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and won all 9: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Music (score), Best Music (song), Best Writing, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. Maurice Chevalier won a special Oscar.

GIGI (1948), the original version of Colette's story is not a musical, but an amusing comedy of manners. Gigi/Gilberte (Danielle Delorme) is a young girl raised by her aunt and grandmother to be a demimondaine in Paris. When she marries handsome and rich playboy Gaston Lachaille (Frank Villard), she reforms him. The movie is overlong with good local colour, and a very good performance by Delorme. Marcel Landowski wrote the music and Jacqueline Audry directed.

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