HGA

Gigi (1958)


Gigi
Louis Jordan and Leslie Caron


'Gigi' is a spectacular musical comedy film made in 1958, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Lesley Caron, Louis Jourdain, Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold. The screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner was adapted from the 1951 stage play by Anita Loos, which itself was adapted from the original novella 'Gigi', published in 1944, by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. The movie production was by MGM's Arthur Freed unit and it features songs by Lerner and Loewe with arrangements by André Previn.

The film was a major success both critically and commercially and won all of its nine Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. This was an Oscar record which lasted for only one year until 'Ben Hur' broke it with eleven Oscars. The day after the Oscar ceremony the MGM switchboard operators were instructed to answer calls "M Gigi M" as a tribute to the movie's success. In 1991 the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Plot

The story takes place in Paris in the early 1900's and centres on Gigi, played by Lesley Caron, a beautiful and high-spirited young girl who is being educated by her courtesan grandmother, and great-aunt, played by Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans to prepare her for the life of a courtesan, or high class prostitute, to cater for the wealthy gentlemen of the city.

She meets Gaston, played by Louis Jordan, a rich young playboy, whose roué grandfather, Honoré, played by Maurice Chevalier, is an ex boyfriend of her aunt. Gaston is becoming increasingly bored with his hedonistic lifestyle, including his relationship with his courtesan, Liane, played by Eva Gabor. When he falls in love with Gigi he realises eventually that she must not live the shallow life of a courtesan. Love finally has its way and the pair marry. A victory for idealism over realism.

Main Cast

Leslie Caron ... Gilberte "Gigi"
Louis Jourdan ... Gaston Lachaille
Maurice Chevalier ... Honoré Lachaille
Hermione Gingold ... Madame Alvarez
Isabel Jeans ... Aunt Alicia
Eva Gabor ... Liane d'Exelmans
Jacques Bergerac ... Sandomir
John Abbott ... Manuel
The focus of the story is the love which develops between Leslie Caron as Gigi and Louis Jourdan as Gaston Lachaille.

Leslie Caron, born in 1931 in France, handles this role very well indeed, transforming before our eyes from gauche adolescent to sensual goddess. She trained as a classical ballerina and was discovered by Gene Kelly whilst dancing as a soloist for the Ballet des Champs-Elysées. She began her movie career in 1951 in ''An American in Paris'' and has appeared in 45 movies since then, receiving two nominations for the Best Actress Academy Award. She has also had a formidably successful career on the stage. Although she was no slouch at singing, her singing voice was dubbed by Betty Wand.

Louis Jourdan was born in Marseilles in 1921 and began his film career in 1939. He came to the fore in 1947 in ''The Paradine Case'' and subsequently became a well known actor in many Hollywood films, usually typecast as the French lover.

Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) was born in Paris and had a long and successful show business career. He plays the perfect comic pivotal role as the aged roué Honoré Lachaille, Gaston's grandfather, and two of his songs stay long in the memory, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I Remember It Well".

Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) A British movie and stage actress who provides great support and comic interludes as Gigi's grandmother, and who shares one of the film's great musical moments in a duet with Maurice Chevalier, "I Remember It Well".

In supporting roles Isabel Jeans gives a brilliantly bitchy performance as Aunt Alicia, and Eva Gabor portrays well Gaston's sophisticated but treacherous lover.

Credits

Director ... Vincente Minnelli
Producer ... Arthur Freed
Screenplay ... Alan Jay Lerner
Music ... Fredrick Loewe
Cinematography ... Joseph Ruttenberg
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... May 15, 1958
Running time ... 115 minutes

Academy Awards

Nine Wins:
Best Picture ... Arthur Freed
Best Director ... Vincente Minnelli
Best Adapted Screenplay ... Alan Jay Lerner
Best Art Direction ... E. Preston Ames, F. Keogh Gleason, Henry Grace, and William A. Horning
Best Cinematography ... Joseph Ruttenberg
Best Costume Design ... Cecil Beaton
Best Film Editing ... Adrienne Fazan
Best Original Score ... André Previn
Best Original Song ... "Gigi" by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

No Unsuccessful Nominations:

Summary

For modern audiences it seems strange to see an elderly man eyeing young girls playing in a park and singing Thank Heaven for Little Girls. It is also dubious to watch a movie which celebrates the art of prostitution, as 'Gigi' appears to. All we can say is that the movie is of its time and attitudes were different back in 1958.

We can also state unequivocally that 'Gigi' is magnificent musical entertainment. Vincente Minnelli directs with an impeccable touch and brings all the elements together, the décor, the 'fin de siècle' atmosphere, the cinematography, the sumptuous Cecil Beaton costumes, the color and the screenplay. Above all, the music lifts the movie into greatness. The wonderful, lyrical melodies and the brilliant words of Lerner and Lowe. A magnificent achievement.