Saturday Night Cinema: Gigi


I began running ‘Saturday Night Cinema” feature since 2007 and I have searched for an embeddable version online of tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema classic but alas, it eluded- until now, that is. Gigi one of The master of the American musical,Vincent Minnelli’s Gigi is tour de force and love letter to Colette’s Paris. It’s simply gorgeous. With so many outstanding performances in the film, it is to Maurice Chevalier’s great credit that he is able to steal the show.

‘Gigi’ an enchanting musical: 1958 review

The New York Daily News

The magical partnership of Alan Jay Lerner, author and lyricist, and music man Frederick Loewe, has brought delight to the screen, as it has to the stage. Loewe’s and Lerner’s work on MGM’s Metrocolor, Cinemascope production of “Gigi,” possesses the same charm, cleverness, wit and melody that made “My Fair Lady” one of the fairest musical comedies of all time.

Just as Lerner adapted George Bernard Shaw’s play, “Pygmalion,” to the Broadway stage and wrote the lyrics for Loewe’s melodic score, so did he turn Colette’s famous story of a girl who was raised to be courtesan, into a witty, amusing, sophisticated scenario for the screen. Lerner’s lyrics and Loewe’s tunes are beautifully blended into an enchanting musical film production.

Given Loewe and Lerner, Vincente Minnelli, as director, costume and production designs by Cecil Beaton, Metro has an unbeatable combination for a musical film. Also given Maurice Chevalier, Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Hermione Gingold, Eva Gabor, Isabel Jeans, Jacques Bergerac and John Abbott to represent the Colette characters, and they’ve got top-drawer entertainment.

The film has only one drawback and that is the frank and shocking talk in one scene between the adolescent girl and her prospective lover who is a man of the world. It is strictly Colette, but it limits the film’s appeal, making it an entertainment for a special, worldly-wise type of audience and not for people of all conditions and ages.

Authur Freed produced the picture for Metro and he and the executives of the New York office made a wise choice in presenting it like a stage show. “Gigi” had a gala opening night at the Royale Theatre and it will be shown nightly, including Sundays, with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

New York Daily News published this on May 16, 1958.

New York Daily News published this on May 16, 1958.

(New York Daily News )

With so many outstanding performances in the film, it is to Maurice Chevalier’s great credit that he is able to steal the show. For steal it he does, right from under the cute and adorable nose of Leslie Caron, playing the Parisian schoolgirl, who turns into a lovely woman overnight. She is clever, amusing and has the sort of gamin appeal that helped to make “Lilli” an enchanting film.

Jourdan plays the bored playboy with a fine sense of comedy and he delivers the Loewe-Lerner songs in the same narrative style that Rex Harrison originated in “My Fair Lady.” He sings “It’s a Bore,” and the soliloquies “Gigi,” and “She’s Not Thinking of Me.” Caron does “The Parisians,” “The Night They Invented Champagne,” the hit song of the film, and the lovely melody, “Say a Prayer For Me.”

Chevalier puts over “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” delightfully and does a duet with Hermione called “I Remember Well,” and brings down the house with “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.”

The photography is superb, with many scenes taking on a three-dimension appearance. The direction is excellent and Freed is to be congratulated on the production as a whole, as the story is presented in an original and enticing manner.

Most of the outdoor scenes were photographed on location in Paris and the famous Maxim’s is used as background for several amusing sequences. “Gigi” was made into a French film, with Danielle Delorme, some years ago, and was later adapted to the stage in English as a starring vehicle for Audrey Hepburn.

Mr. Beaton’s designs are terrific—a splurge of elegance and whim, offering fin-desiècle Paris in an endless parade of plushy places and costumes. And within this fine frame of swanky settings, Vincente Minnelli has marshaled a cast to give a set of performances that, for quality and harmony, are superb.Leslie Caron, the little lady who helped to make “Lili” a memorable film, gets something of the same sort of magic of youthful rapture as the heroine in this.

Louis Jourdan is suave as the hero who holds out against her blossoming charms, and Maurice Chevalier is wonderfully easy as a mellowing boulevardier.As the grandmother and great-aunt, Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans give elaborately humorous exhibitions of the airs and attitudes of ancient dames; Eva Gabor is posh as a passing mistress and John Abbott is droll as a valet.Of Mr. Loewe’s musical numbers, “Gigi” is probably the best, though M. Chevalier makes something quite beguiling of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” He also inbues with cheerful poignance “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore,” and he and Miss Gingold sing a duet of wit and wisdom to “I Remember It Well.” You will also find reminiscent the vastly colorful “Waltz at Maxim’s.”Perhaps Messrs. Lerner, Loewe and Beaton have stolen “Gigi” from themselves, but they have no reason to regret or disguise it. They’ve left their “Lady” fingerprints for all to see.

The Cast
GIGI, screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner; based on the novel by Colette; songs with lyrics by Mr. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe; directed by Vincente Minnelli; produced by Arthur Freed; presented by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Royale Theatre (Forty-fifth Street, West of Broadway). Running time: 116 minutes.

Gigi . . . . . Leslie Caron
Honore Lachaille . . . . . Maurice Chevalier
Gaston Lachaille . . . . . Louis Jourdan
Mme. Alvarez . . . . . Hermione Gingold
Liane D’Exelmans . . . . . Eva Gabor
Sandomir . . . . . Jacques Bergerac
Aunt Alicia . . . . . Isabel Jeans
Manuel . . . . . John Abbott

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