An American in Paris

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A classic 1951 musical romantic comedy starring Gene Kelly just one year before he went on to perform in Singin' in the Rain, and directed by the legendary Vincente Minelle. Taking place in a (very idealized) post-World War II Paris, An American In Paris tells the tale of an expatriate named Jerry Mulligan (Kelly), as he attempts to scrape a living as an artist in the Left Bank. While doing so, he falls in love with Lise, but she loves his friend, Henri, one of the most successful musicians in Paris.

The plot is nothing to write home about, since it's mostly a pretext to hang George Gershwin's music on. Luckily, the film is buoyed by an excellent cast and capable director. One quirk of the movie is its lack of Parisian locations, opting instead for hyper-stylized, colorful scenery that evokes Impressionist paintings. It is best remembered for its climax: a 16-minute, psychedelic ballet inside the main protagonist's psyche.

Tropes used in An American in Paris include:
  • Award Bait Song
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Adam is allergic to work and subsists himself entirely on scholarships, making him (by his own admission) "the world's oldest child prodigy". Nevertheless, a peek into his dream world betrays his concert hall ambitions.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Adam Cook.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Jerry.
  • Double Take: Jerry's reaction to seeing Winston Churchill painting alone by the river. The "British Bulldog" was an amateur painter in real life.
  • Dream Ballet: Henri's glowing description of his girlfriend, Lise, plays out in a series of ballet routines. Each time Adam asks what she's like, Henri comes up with a comically-different answer.
    • There is another, more famous one towards the end of the movie. Jerry has seemingly just lost Lise to his friend, Henri, his best friend, and the two are flying off to America to get married. The camera cuts to reveal two pieces of paper, containing a sketch of the Arc de Triomphe, which land side-by-side, almost as if it was never ripped in half. Then, it dissolves to a really trippy sequence where Jerry is transported into a strange realm that resembles a series of famous French paintings.[1]
  • Dream Sequence: There is one scene where George Levant's character, Adam, is just sitting in his apartment, all by himself, staring off into space. Then, unexpectedly, the scene then cuts to him performing in a grand concert hall. Both the band AND the audience is composed entirely of himself.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Jerry and Lise lament their thwarted love to each other, unaware that a stony-faced Henri is listening in.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: In the final dream sequence, Jerry keeps running after Lise, but she always slips away from him. At one point, she turns into flowers whilst wrapped in his arms.
  • Flower Motifs: In this case, a rose.
  • Gay Paree
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Inverted with Henri, who can't tolerate jazz and prefers the old-school, sentimental stuff.
  • Hollywood Old: The role of Henri was originally offered to Maurice Chevalier, who turned it down (Chevalier had once been jilted by a younger girlfriend and the story hit too close to home). Instead, the role went to Georges Guétary, who was actually younger than Gene Kelly at the time. They greyed up the actor's hair so it wouldn't be as obvious.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Milo Roberts, the American heiress who expressed interest in Jerry's paintings. Jerry, convinced that Milo wanted nothing more than a gigolo, wants none of it, but Milo convinces him to let her be his patron. She ends up falling hard for Jerry, but her feelings aren't reciprocated.
  • Hypocritical Humor: During Adam's voice-over, he mentions having to support himself (le gasp!) for a brief stretch, but stopped because "I was beginning to like it, and I didn't want to become a slave to the habit." (he says with a cigarette dangling from his mouth).
  • Idle Rich: Milo
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Subverted. While serving drinks at a party, Adam engages Milo in conversation and makes a backhanded remark about Jerry's "sponsor". Unamused, Milo reveals her identity, to which Adam retorts, "I know who you are."
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The last scene of the movie, Henri realizes that Lise truly loves Jerry and gallantly steps aside so Lise and Jerry can be together.
  • Love Triangle
  • May-December Romance: Both Jerry and Henri are vying for the affections of Lise, who is 19.
  • Me's a Crowd: Adam's fantasy sequence. It starts off with Adam, alone in his apartment, staring at the ceiling. Then the scene dissolves into a rather bizarre moment where Adam is on a dark stage, all by himself, performing what we believe to be his own music. Then the camera pulls back to reveal the other members of the band-all Adam, performing each individual instrument in perfect harmony. Then the conductor, flawlessly driving the band's actions, is yet another Adam. All the Adams continue to play, reaching a crescendo and thusly concluding the piece to thunderous applause. The scene gets weirder as it reveals that all the audience members, every single one of them, are Adam. It promptly fades to black, without incident, and gets back to the plot as though nothing has happened. Here it is.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Adam's vain attempts to halt Jerry and Henri's intersecting chat about Lise. "Did I ever tell you about the time I gave a command performance for Hitler?"
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Adam is a deadpan version of this trope, which makes it funnier.
  • Portal Picture: Jerry is seemingly drawn into a black & white sketch for the final dance number.
  • Pretty in Mink: Milo, with a fur muff, a white mink cape, and a wrap of black and white fox.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: The A Simple Girl [dead link] scene, where Henri is describing what Lise is like to Adam, falls on the Completely Solid Fourth Wall area. No acknowledgment of the audience, but every time Henri changes his mind about Lise, everything, from the music, to the environment, to even Lise's costume and the way she dances in order to reflect his viewpoint. This Is Reality is definitely in full effect.
  • Spit Take: Adam when he learns the name of Jerry's crush. When Henri and Jerry start swapping love tales of the same girl, Adam really starts to hit the sauce.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jerry, arguably. He even shows up at Lise's place of work, despite her repeatedly telling him to buzz off. On the opposite end, we have Milo, who is trying her damnedest to make Jerry love her.
  • Starving Artist: Jerry.
  • Title Drop: "This is Paris. And I'm an American who lives here."
  • What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The Technicolor ballet explosion at the very end.
  • Wife Husbandry: Henri knew Lise as a child, and served as her guardian after her parents were killed in World War II.
  1. As interpreted by Dr. Seuss.