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An American in Paris by Vincente Minnelli

An American in Paris by Vincente Minnelli

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An American in Paris is not the best of Vincente Minnelli’s musicals  (The Band Wagon and The Pirate are better) but it is by far his best-known film. And one of the most famous in the history of cinema. This popularity with audiences has never waned since its triumphant release in 1951. It is difficult to resist the gleaming Technicolor, George Gershwin’s songs and the idealised depiction of Bohemian life in Paris. It was in Paris that Gene Kelly, the star of the film, discovered Leslie Caron, a dancer who had joined Roland Petit’s company the Ballets des Champs-Elysées when she was sixteen. Thus began the young French woman’s Hollywood career, a highly promising beginning. She worked with Minnelli twice more, on Mademoiselle (a segment of the film The Story of Three Loves) and on Gigi (which won the Oscar for Best Film in 1958).

Vincente Minnelli was born on February 28, 1903, in Chicago, to a family of showmen. He made his stage début when he was three and a half, and developed a passion for literature, painting and drawing at a very young age. He first worked as a window dresser for a major department store, then as a theatrical costume designer. His ambition took him to New York where he became artistic director at Radio City Music Hall, then a stage director. Dubbed « the Prince of Music Hall », Minnelli was then drawn to the siren call of Hollywood. After a false start in 1936, it was meeting producer Arthur Freed 1940 that kick-started his productive beginnings in the dream factory. Freed, the man who had revolutionised the musical, offered Minnelli a contract at MGM. His first feature was Cabin in the Sky (1943), and it was a hit. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) inaugurated a long string of masterpieces.

Olivier Père
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