Gene Kelly# 17 Sep 2017 by Sean
Just saw American in Paris for the first time, at the Little Theatre cinema in Bath. I really enjoyed it, though not as much as Singin’ in the Rain (because Singin’ is one of the best moves EVARRR). I did have a thought in the middle of the Lautrec dance sequence though–every Gene Kelly movie seems to be built around one piece of more abstract, more beautiful choreography, and it’s almost like the movie was made just so he could film that dance.
In both American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, there are dance sequences that, though not out of place per se, stand out in style, tone, and honestly, inspiration, from the movie around them.
In American in Paris, it’s the Lautrec dance:
In Singin in the Rain, it’s the glorious pas de deux with Sid Sharisse (titled “Broadway Melody #2”):
(also, the Broadway Melody #1 sequence which sets up the ballet in #2).
Neither of them are out of place in their respective movies, but they are still markedly different. And it’s clear to me every time that I watch them, that while Kelly loves doing what he does for the rest of the movie, he is so much more invested in these break out moments.
So much so, that I wonder if he’s made the rest of the movie to justify committing these dances to film. They feel so much more personal–in Singin’, the young dancer in Broadway Melody #1 feels almost autobiographical, and its echo at the end of Melody #2 is lovely because you see the jaded Star remember why he came to Broadway.
In American, the Lautrec dance is such a gorgeous collaboration with a master in a different form–it’s the kind of thing an artist would want to do. And goddamn but Kelly is an artist.
Makes you wonder what Easter Parade might have had in it had Kelly been able to do it. Though you’ll never hear me complain about having more Fred Astaire in my life either.
Leave y’all with a gif, and “Make em Laugh”: