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USA 1958
Directed by
Vincente Minnelli
116 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


Lerner and Loewe’s follow-up to their Broadway triumph, 'My Fair Lady', was a musical adaptation of a 1948 film by Jacqueline Audry (there was also a 1951 Broadway play by Anita Loos which starred Audrey Hepburn that was apparently bypassed) which was in turn based on a short novel by French author Colette.

Leslie Caron plays Gigi, raised by her grandmother Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) and great-aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) in Paris at the turn-of-the-century to be the paid companion of bored Parisian wealthy playboy businessman, Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdain), whose uncle is Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier), a friend of Madame Alvarez, who was once his mistress.

The film won nine Oscars, including Best Picture, but is far from memorable as either a musical or drama and from today’s perspective, is hopelessly locked into cosy 1950s American values (for some this will be also be the source of its charm). Lerner’s clever lyrics and Loewe’s refined music is there, although only a couple of the songs stay with one, notably Maurice Chevalier’s classic version of “Thank Heavens For Little Girls” and his “I Remember It Well” duet with Hermione Gingold but the whole affair is so soufflé light yet so self-consciously pleased with itself as to be a turn-off.  Sanitized by the need to comply with the Hays Code, the fact that Gigi is being groomed to be a sex-worker is barely discernible beneath the bantering bonhomie and Cecil Beaton's typically gorgeous production designs, costumes and sets

The film was shot largely in Paris, adding on the one hand to its stylishness, but also to its budget which went $500,000 over, considerable money in its day. Back home, previews were disturbingly negative and 25% of the film was re-shot with new dialogue and songs with the film going on to be a world-wide hit, ironically, everywhere but in France.




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