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An American in Paris"An American in Paris" on DVD

Oscar-winning Classic looks Great

MGM's 1951 classic is a great vehicle for Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron - and the music of George and Ira Gershwin. As a DVD, it has times (most of the time, in fact) when it looks positively glorious and other times (admittedly much fewer, fortunately) when it's more than a tad washed out.

Since most of the MGM discs we've seen have excellent quality control, this may be due to the age and condition of the source material - and anyway, it isn't nearly enough to spoil one's enjoyment of this six Oscar-winning treat. And on the whole, this fullscreen (it was made before widescreen movies were introduced) Technicolor feature is a great DVD.

Gene Kelly is Jerry Mulligan, aspiring painter whose career gets an unexpected boost when he's taken under the wing of an "art patron" played by Nina Foch. A love triangle is formed when Kelly becomes smitten by the lovely Lise (Leslie Caron, in her film debut), who's engaged to a famous French singing star - who's also a close friend of Kelly's close friend (played by the multi-talented Oscar Levant).

The musical numbers are great, especially Levant's "one-person" symphony fantasy and the stunningly filmed and choreographed An American in Paris ballet. The latter sequence, a lush and innovative production number choreographed (as was everything else in the movie) by Kelly, is worth the price of admission.

The storyline (written by Alan Jay Lerner, of "My Fair Lady" fame) is okay, though it appears to be strung together as an excuse for singing and dancing - and that's okay in this instance. Strangely enough, one of the movie's Academy Awards was for writing, so maybe it was a slow year for screenplays...

Audio quality is as one might expect from a 1951 movie, and (next to the plot) is probably the film's weakest part. That's unfortunate in a musical, but what can you do? The sound is in Dolby Digital mono but, unfortunately, your AC-3 decoder will only direct the audio to the front left and right channels; some AC-3 mono films send the audio to the front center speaker, which places the sound at the screen (where it should be). That would have been better, but it's a pretty minor criticism.

There aren't a lot of extras with "An American in Paris," but what you get is very good. Specifically, the liner notes come in the form of an eight page booklet that details the genesis of the film. It's a very interesting read - and the last page includes a listing of the disc's chapters. On the disc, you get chapter access, the theatrical trailer, and the usual language selections.

If you're a fan of American movie musicals at their best, this is one movie you won't want to miss!

An American in Paris, from MGM Home Video
114 minutes, fullscreen, Dolby Digital mono
starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch
Written by Alan Jay Lerner, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Produced by Arthur Freed
Directed by Vincente Minelli


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Updated May 13, 2006