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Gigi

Gigi(1958)

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teaser Gigi (1958)

SYNOPSIS

Based on French author Colette's beloved 1945 novella of the same name, Gigi is the musical story of a young girl in turn-of-the-century Paris (Leslie Caron) who is being trained by her grandmother (Hermione Gingold) and great aunt (Isabel Jeans) for a life as a courtesan. The awkward but vivacious Gigi soon captures the interest of dashing but easily bored bon vivant Gaston (Louis Jourdan) who wants her to become his mistress. As Gigi blossoms into a swan, she must decide if she will accept Gaston's offer or follow her heart and hold out for a more permanent commitment.

Director: Vincente Minnelli
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner
Based on the 1945 French novella Gigi by Colette
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Production Design: Cecil Beaton
Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Music Composer: Frederick Loewe, Andr Previn
Costume Designer: Cecil Beaton
Cast: Leslie Caron (Gigi), Maurice Chevalier (Honor Lachailles), Louis Jourdan (Gaston), Hermione Gingold (Madame Alvarez), Eva Gabor (Liane), Jacques Bergerac (Sandomir), Isabel Jeans (Aunt Alicia), John Abbott (Manuel), Edwin Jerome (Charles, the Butler), Lydia Stevens (Simone), Maurice Marsac (Prince Berensky), Monique Van Vooren (Show Girl), Dorothy Neumann (Designer), Maruja Ploss (Mannequin), Marilyn Sims (Redhead), Richard Bean (Harlequin), Pat Sheehan (Blonde).

C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. Descriptive Video Service.

Why GIGI is Essential

Gigi was responsible for revitalizing the movie career of Maurice Chevalier. Chevalier had worked in show business all his life and had become a movie star in Hollywood musicals during the 1930s. Following World War II, however, his film career declined. The huge success of Gigi, right on the tails of his previous hit film Love in the Afternoon (1957), re-established Chevalier as a beloved international star more popular than ever at the age of 70. Chevalier was given an honorary Academy Award "for his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century."

Gigi was made during the declining years of the studio system era. For MGM, whose name was always synonymous with the biggest and the best of Hollywood musicals, Gigi was its last hurrah as the studio system broke down while trying to adapt to the changing tastes of a new modern generation.

Gigi was also considered to be the crowning jewel of the Freed Unit, which was the legendary collaborative team at MGM headed by producer Arthur Freed, They were responsible for dozens of hit films during the studio's heyday, many of them in collaboration with Gigi director Vincente Minnelli.

Shot mostly on location in Paris, Gigi uniquely captures the spirit and beauty of the City of Light during the turn of the century. Director Vincente Minnelli shot many scenes at authentic French locales such as Maxim's, the Bois du Boulogne, and the Palais des Glaces and used the work of several French artists as inspiration for the visual look of the film. As a result, Paris itself becomes a rich character within itself in Gigi.

A tremendous box office success that was loved by both critics and moviegoers alike, Gigi was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture and won all of them. This victory set an Academy Award record at the time, beating previous films that had won 8 Academy Awards including Gone With the Wind (1939), From Here to Eternity (1953), and On the Waterfront (1954).

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Gigi (1958)

The Gigi story was made into a French film in 1949 with actress Daniele Delorme in the title role.

In 1951 writer Anita Loos adapted Colette's Gigi into a play, which was a hit on Broadway. Colette hand-picked a young unknown actress named Audrey Hepburn to play the title role, and the play made Hepburn a star.

In 1973 Gigi was turned into a stage musical with Karin Wolfe, Agnes Moorehead and Alfred Drake. The show was a disappointment, however, and ran for only 103 performances.

The soundtrack to Gigi was a big hit and remained one of the bestselling albums of the year.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Gigi (1958)

Gigi opened in May of 1958 and was an instant smash. The soundtrack album quickly topped the charts and remained there for over a year. Reviews were rapturous, many of them singling out Vincente Minnelli's meticulous direction and Maurice Chevalier's charming performance. There was an outpouring of love for Chevalier from audiences, whose work received renewed critical interest. Chevalier, who once thought he would retire following Gigi, found himself more in demand than ever. He spent the next several years touring and performing his one-man show to adoring audiences. His songs from Gigi were always among his most popular numbers.

According to the book Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, when Maurice Chevalier was presented with his honorary Academy Award in 1959 (the year in which Gigi swept all nine of its categories), the stage was filled with young actresses costumed in Cecil Beaton-designed turn-of-the-century gowns while the music to "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" played. Laurence Olivier stepped out and said, "Among this bevy, you'll notice a Parisian landmark, but, unlike the Eiffel Tower, he belongs to the world." Rosalind Russell then presented Chevalier with his Oscar and Chevalier said, "Can I kiss you, Auntie Mame?"

Actress Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) and Gary Cooper presented Vincente Minnelli with his Academy Award for Best Director. Minnelli said that it was "just about the proudest moment of my life" when he accepted.

Actress Ingrid Bergman presented the Best Picture Oscar® for Gigi.

It was Maurice Chevalier that inspired Lerner and Loewe to write the song "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" for Gigi following a meeting they had with him in Paris.

Gigi was based on a 1945 novella of the same name by French author Colette. She published the story at 70 years old without considering it terribly significant. It turned out to be the most beloved work of her career.

Gigi, the original novella, had been adapted as a play for the Broadway stage in 1951 by writer Anita Loos. It starred a then unknown actress named Audrey Hepburn in the title role. It was the role that launched her career.

Director Vincente Minnelli titled his 1974 autobiography I Remember It Well after one of the songs written for Gigi

Actress Leslie Caron titled her 2009 autobiography Thank Heaven after the song "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from Gigi.

Actress Ina Claire was originally offered the role of Aunt Alicia. However, Claire declined to come out of retirement.

Gigi author Colette died in 1954 and did not live to see the great success of the musical film version of her work. Vincente Minnelli and Alan Jay Lerner made a point to spend time with Colette's husband and daughter, according to Minnelli's autobiography, to "absorb some of Colette's spirit through the people closest to her." As a result, they all became friends.

Director Vincente Minnelli lost 35 pounds during the filming of Gigi.

Director Vincente Minnelli's second marriage to wife Georgette ended during the filming of Gigi.

When Gigi swept all nine of its nominated categories at the Academy Awards it set an all-time record for the Academy at the time, surpassing even Gone With the Wind (1939).

Gigi lyricist and screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner originally wanted actor Dirk Bogarde to play the role of Gaston. Bogarde was interested but could not get released from a previous contractual obligation.

Leslie Caron's singing voice in Gigi was dubbed by Betty Wand.

The cat that Leslie Caron sings to in the number "Say a Prayer For Me Tonight" had to be heavily sedated in order for it to be still during the scene.

The soundtrack album to Gigi can be seen on the cover of the Pink Floyd album Ummagumma.

by Andrea Passafiume

Memorable Quotes from GIGI

"Bad table manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more households than infidelity." Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans)

"Do you make love all the time, Gaston?"
"Certainly not! The only people who make love all the time are liars."
--Gigi (Leslie Caron) / Gaston (Louis Jourdan)

"Love, my dear Gigi, is a thing of beauty like a work of art, and like a work of art it is created by artists. The greater the artist the greater the art." Aunt Alicia

"How was Monte Carlo?"
"It was a bore!"
"One has to be as rich as you are, Gaston, to be bored at Monte Carlo."
Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold) / Gaston

"Marriage is not forbidden to us, but instead of getting married at once, it sometimes happens we get married at last." Aunt Alicia

"I'll tell you about that blue villa, Mamita. I was so much in love with you, I wanted to marry you. Yes, it's true. I was beginning to think of marriage. Imagine, marriage--me! Oh, no! I was really desperate! I had to do something. And what I did was the soprano!"

"Thank you, Honor. That was the most charming and endearing excuse for infidelity I've ever heard."

Honor Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) / Madame Alvarez

"Madame, will you do me the honor, the favor...give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me... Gigi's hand in marriage?" Gaston to Madame Alvarez

"I have to tell you... your parents bore me to death."
"Me too."
"But I've known them longer, so they've been boring me longer."
-Honor / Gaston

"I've been weighing the idea of going to the country for a while."
"You mean, leave Paris?"
"Yes. Why not?"
"Why not? That's the one thing you mustn't do. Do you want people to think you're despondent? Disturbed? If you leave, they will, you know. No, no. That would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. No, no, no. For the next few weeks, you should be out every night. Maxim's, Moulin Rouge, Pre Catalan."
"The Pre Catalan is closed."
"Open it! You must be carefree. Devil-may-care. A different girl every night. Keep them guessing who's next. Play the game. Be gay, extravagant, outrageous!"
--Gaston / Honor

"You told Grandmamma that you wanted to take care of me."
"To take care of you beautifully."
"Beautifully. That is, if I like it. They've pounded into my head I'm backward for my age... but I know what all this means. To 'take care of me beautifully' means I shall go away with you... and that I shall sleep in your bed."
--Gigi / Gaston

"Without knowledge of jewelry, my dear Gigi, a woman is lost."--Aunt Alicia

"I would rather be miserable with you than without you." Gigi (to Gaston)

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teaser Gigi (1958)

Gigi began as a novella written by French author Colette in 1945. She published the charming story of a young girl being trained in the art of becoming a courtesan in turn-of-the-century Paris very late in her career - she was 70 years old at the time. Colette herself considered the work only a trifle, but readers found it enchanting. It became her most famous and beloved work and gave Colette, as Vincente Minnelli said in his 1974 autobiography I Remember It Well, "a final blaze of fame, as well as her greatest fortune."

A French film version of Gigi was made in 1949, and in 1951 writer Anita Loos adapted the story into a hit Broadway play starring a then unknown actress named Audrey Hepburn in the title role.

Director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed had always wanted to do a project with the Gigi material, although actress Leslie Caron believes it was she who first suggested the idea to Freed. Caron, who was already an established star at the time, was in the midst of making the 1953 film Lili when Freed approached her. According to her 2009 memoir Thank Heaven, Freed came to the set of Lili one day and asked her if she had any ideas for projects that she might like to do for MGM. Caron had always loved Colette's Gigi and suggested that she would be perfect to star in a movie version of it. According to her, Freed thought for a moment and then said, "I'll get back to you on that." Five years would pass before she heard anything further about it.

Minnelli and Freed had enjoyed a long and successful creative collaboration. Together they were responsible for some of MGM's most memorable musicals including Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), An American in Paris (1951), and The Band Wagon (1953). In 1958 musicals, which had once been the crowning glory of MGM, were on the decline along with the studio system. The popularity of traditional standards and show tunes had dwindled with the introduction of rock and roll music during the 1950s. However, Minnelli and Freed believed that Gigi was the perfect material for a musical and should be made on a grand scale.

The duo approached their friend, writer and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, about working on a musical version of Gigi. Lerner and his creative partner, composer Frederick "Fritz" Loewe, were just finishing their new stage show My Fair Lady, which would soon make them the toast of Broadway. "I've always loved working with Alan," said Vincente Minnelli in his 1974 autobiography. "He has a marvelous quality of adapting and synthesizing other people's work to another medium, while maintaining the spirit of the original." Lerner shared the same admiration for Minnelli. "...each frame of his films is a work of art..." said Lerner in his 1978 memoir The Street Where I Live. "Vincente has a thorough knowledge of music, lyrics, comedy, and drama and there is no one who can photograph a musical number with as much skill and imagination." The two had previously collaborated on the MGM musicals An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

Lerner was enthusiastic about writing the screenplay for Gigi and contributing lyrics for the songs. He immediately asked Loewe if he would be interested in writing the music and working together again on this new project. Unfortunately, Loewe turned Lerner down flat at first. He was dedicated to working in the theater exclusively now, he said, and he didn't want to work on any movies.

Though Lerner was disappointed, he agreed to work on Gigi without Loewe. "I agreed on two conditions:," said Lerner, "the first was that if I created a part that warranted it, every effort would be made to get Maurice Chevalier; and the second, that Cecil Beaton would be asked to design the sets and costumes. Arthur [Freed] agreed."

There were a couple of reasons that Lerner felt so strongly about using beloved French actor Maurice Chevalier, who had been a big star in early musicals of the 1930s such as Love Me Tonight (1932) and The Merry Widow (1934). "I felt that a musical personality, such as Chevalier," said Lerner, "was essential to the film: there had to be someone whose singing would be expected. The other characters could sing, but they were not singing roles." The other reason was more personal to Lerner. "[Chevalier] had been an idol of mine ever since every little breeze started whispering Louise," he said, referencing one of Chevalier's most famous songs.

Lerner went to work on the Gigi screenplay, collaborating with Vincente Minnelli to create a first-rate version of the story. Lerner noticed that in Colette's novella there was an occasional mention of a peripheral character - Gaston's uncle, Honor Lachailles. He felt that this part, if fleshed out, could be perfect for Maurice Chevalier.

In addition, Vincente Minnelli also made sure that the part of Gigi's mother was all but cut out of the story. It was a part he had found "tiresome" in the Broadway play version. "We didn't include her as an actual character for two reasons:," said Minnelli, "Her off-stage presence could be used for comic effect. Since she had forfeited the upbringing of Gigi to Madame Alvarez, her mother, bringing her into the film in any concrete way could detract from the main story line. The loving relationship between the old woman and the young girl could be more clearly developed." In the end, the role of Gigi's mother was changed to being only an off-screen voice.

As preparations for Gigi began, Lerner still had not found a composer with whom to collaborate for the songs. He decided to try one more time to convince Frederick Loewe to do it. "I told him the least he could do was read the bloody script," said Lerner, "and he admitted that sounded reasonable. To add a little seasoning, I said I felt it was essential that the score be written in Paris. It would not only be fun...but unquestionably it was bound to help the atmosphere of the score to write it in the country in which the story takes place. Fritz took the script home with him and bright and early the next morning he telephoned to say he loved it and wanted to do it." Everyone was thrilled that Gigi would now be another potentially brilliant Lerner and Loewe partnership.

In the meantime, casting began for Gigi. Alan Lerner was thrilled when Maurice Chevalier agreed to play Gaston's rakish uncle Honor. While he and Loewe were working on the score in Paris, they were able to spend some time with Chevalier who was performing his one man show at a nearby club. They found Chevalier to be extremely amiable and eager to work. Once Lerner and Loewe visited Chevalier at his house in order to play him some of the songs they had written for Gigi, including Chevalier's opening number "Thank Heaven For Little Girls." According to Lerner, "He listened politely, thanked us, and took the music and departed. Fritz and I had no idea if he liked them or not. The next morning he called and asked if he could come and see us again at three o'clock. I said to Fritz, 'Oh, Christ! What's wrong?' As the clock struck three, in he came. 'I love the songs so much,' he said, 'that I worked on them all night.'"

Chevalier even provided inspiration to Lerner and Loewe as they worked on the songs for Gigi. "It was to Alan Lerner that I told my philosophy of love, how in these later years I had abandoned any tempestuous romantic involvement," said Chevalier in his 1960 memoir With Love, "how I was not any more the man to play that game, and how I had no deep regrets about it." Lerner then asked Chevalier if he was actually glad that it was all behind him. He replied, "You're never glad of it, but you can be satisfied if you have had that side of living in a beautiful way." The poignant exchange triggered Lerner and Loewe to write "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," one of Chevalier's loveliest numbers in the film.

Chevalier, who was coming up on 70 years of age at the time, had no way of knowing how much Gigi would change his life so late in his illustrious career. In fact, he told Newsweek magazine before Gigi came out that he was even thinking of retiring. "I am sixty-nine. As soon as I finish [Gigi], I will prepare a one-man show, a farewell tour," he said. "When it's over, that will be the end of my long career as a live entertainer." Little did he know that the success of Gigi would keep him in great demand for many years to come.

For the title role of Gigi, producer Arthur Freed was eager for Lerner and Loewe to find out if Audrey Hepburn was interested. Hepburn, who had been hand-picked by Colette herself to portray Gigi on the stage, was staying in London when Lerner and Loewe visited her. Hepburn, according to Lerner, was gracious, but did not want to play Gigi again. According to Leslie Caron in her autobiography, however, it was Hepburn who approached MGM about playing Gigi only to be told that the film was being written especially for Caron.

When Hepburn said no, Arthur Freed then asked the pair to meet with Leslie Caron who was also in London at the time. Lerner described it as "a rather tense meeting," but Caron was interested. She was French and had already played Gigi in a London stage production, so she felt that the part would come naturally to her. Everyone agreed. Minnelli, who had introduced Caron to audiences by directing her in her first film An American in Paris (1951), looked forward to working with her again.

Alan Lerner knew that it would be something of a challenge to cast the role of Gaston, Gigi's dashing suitor. "The role of Gaston was not a simple one," he said. "It takes considerable style and skill to play a bored man and not be boring." Lerner had always thought that actor Dirk Bogarde would be perfect for it. Bogarde was interested, but was unable to get out of a previous contractual obligation. "Everyone was deeply disappointed," said Lerner, "but no one as much as I. Only I, who knew him well and knew his voice, had been sitting at the typewriter seeing him and hearing him every time I wrote a speech for Gaston."

It was Freed who suggested using French actor Louis Jourdan. Lerner knew that Jourdan looked the part, but was worried about whether or not he could sing. Lerner and Loewe met with Jourdan in Paris to find out. "To our delighted surprise," said Lerner, "he was not only extremely musical, but had a most charming voice." The only thing that concerned them was that playing a bored bon vivant was tricky. Jourdan, they noted, was very serious by nature, and they wanted to make sure that Gaston's boredom was played with a twinkle in his eye. "Finally I decided to play safe," said Lerner. "I rewrote the boredom and made Gaston constantly angry that he was bored. To drive the point home, Fritz and I wrote a brisk, buoyant duet for him and Chevalier called 'It's a Bore.'"

To play Gigi's grandmother, Madame Alvarez, Minnelli and Freed chose British actress Hermione Gingold. Gigi was her first American film. "To cast an actress as hopelessly British as Hermione Gingold for the part of the French grandmother was, I suppose, not to the liking of the purists," said Minnelli. "But she offered so many other treasures to us - she was warm as well as funny - that we took the liberty. I've never regretted it."

The most difficult role to cast in all of Gigi was that of Aunt Alicia. "We went through hell finding a romantic creature for the part of [Aunt] Alicia," recalled Minnelli. "She'd been the greatest courtesan of them all, and the actress we chose would have to suggest the eminence she'd been through her present mellowing appearance." The part was originally offered to veteran actress Ina Claire, but she had already retired from the silver screen and declined to participate. It was production and costume designer Cecil Beaton who recommended they use English actress Isabel Jeans, who turned out to be a perfect choice.

Together Lerner and Loewe created a wonderful, fresh new score for Gigi which delighted Minnelli and Freed. "Alan and Fritz would call Arthur and me from New York to perform each song as it was completed," said Minnelli. "We were totally charmed, and eager to start planning the ways in which their songs would be mounted." Minnelli wanted a more natural, less choreographed style to the musical numbers of Gigi. Because of this creative choice, he wouldn't be able to fully utilize Leslie Caron's trained dancing skills, but he felt it was important that the numbers seem organic and spontaneous to keep with the breezy spirit of the story.

One problem that Minnelli and Freed anticipated on Gigi was with the Production Code office, which felt that the subject matter of courtesans was potentially too risqu at the time. "The story's attitude was French, and of the period," said Minnelli. "Men of the time were expected to keep mistresses, and to show them off at Maxim's. Courtesans were the movie stars of the day, their every dido elaborately splashed in the pages of mass publications as they might be in fan magazines today." The Production Code Administration (PCA) specifically objected to the part of the script in which Gaston tells Gigi that if she is "nice" to him he will be "nice" to her. Gigi responds, "To be nice to you means that I should have to sleep in your bed. Then when you get tired of me I would have to go to some other gentleman's bed." The PCA insisted that these lines be removed. Minnelli pleaded with them to let him keep the lines in. For the time being, to Minnelli's immense relief, the PCA agreed to wait and see how the scene was shot before making a final decision.

One thing that Vincente Minnelli and Frederick Loewe were adamant about was that Gigi would have to be filmed on location in Paris. It was a very French story, and Paris itself was as much a character as Gigi or Gaston, and they wanted to be certain that the film captured the spirit of the city authentically. Instead of the usual sites of Paris such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, Minnelli wanted Gigi to show the green natural beauty of Paris - the parks, trees, and gardens.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Gigi (1958)

n the summer of 1957 the cast and crew gathered in Paris to begin principal photography on Gigi. The launch party was held at one of Paris' most famous restaurants, Maxim's, where Minnelli would later shoot some of the film's most memorable scenes.

Gigi began shooting on location in Paris during the late summer of 1957. It was important to both Vincente Minnelli and production designer Cecil Beaton that the film capture the spirit of Paris and be faithful to the turn-of-the-century period in which the story was set. Minnelli intended to shoot certain scenes in some of Paris' most famous locations including the Palais de Glace, Maxim's, and the Bois de Boulogne.

As he often did with his films, Minnelli looked toward the art world for inspiration on how each scene should look. He found inspiration in the work of French caricaturist Sem whose sketches had been admired by Colette herself when she was writing the original characters in Gigi. For the opening sequence in the Bois du Boulogne he looked to the work of artist Constantin Guys. Boudin's work served as the inspiration for the beach sequences in Gigi. In addition, Minnelli also threw in some Art Nouveau to represent the character of Honor Lachailles. "Our reasoning for using the influence in the settings," said Minnelli in his 1974 autobiography I Remember It Well, "was to show how avant garde Chevalier's character would be, using the brand-new style in his bachelor digs."

While most of the Gigi shoot went smoothly, there were a few difficulties, beginning with the trouble associated with shooting on location. "The hazards of weather, traffic, sound pollution, and television antennas, added to the difficulty of obtaining police permits, were nearly insurmountable," remembered Leslie Caron in her 2009 memoir Thank Heaven. "...the scenes in the Bois de Boulogne were hellishly difficult to film; there was so much traffic - carriages, promenading crowds, everything coming and going in complex motion. We had to repeat the shots many, many times."

Caron described filming inside Maxim's as a "nightmare." Minnelli was given only a few days to get the important shots he needed inside Paris' most famous restaurant. It was a beautiful but tight space, and it had the added challenge of its signature mirrors along the walls, which could easily reflect the cameras and lights if the crew wasn't careful. "From the sidewalk entrance to the dining area, the space was crowded like an anthill," said Leslie Caron, "full of technicians trying to set up the lamps, the black flags, the cables and sound equipment-a constant flow of ladies in evening dresses with hats bigger than the waiters' trays, makeup artists wiping the sweat off the gentlemen's brows, the blaring playback music drowning all else, adding to the confusion."

Another unexpected problem emerged while shooting a particular scene in Gigi involving actor Jacques Bergerac. His character, who is having an affair with Gaston's paramour Liane (Eva Gabor), is supposed to be an expert ice skating instructor. There was a very important scene between Bergerac and Gabor that was scheduled to be filmed at the Palais de Glace at 9:00 A.M. one morning. Cameras were all set to roll when a significant detail was revealed: Bergerac couldn't skate. "...the cameras never turned. No filming began," said Alan Jay Lerner in his 1978 autobiography The Street Where I Live. "Unfortunately, no one had asked Jacques Bergerac if he knew how to skate. Because no one had asked him if he could, Jacques never asked if he had to. If they had or he had, they would have discovered that the closest Bergerac had ever been to ice was opening the Frigidaire." To deal with this unexpected twist, the crew quickly came up with a device for Bergerac to wear while he was on ice skates that would prevent him from falling. The device meant that Bergerac could only be shot from the waist up. While the original scene ultimately had to be cut way down due to these limitations, Minnelli was finally able to get what he needed on camera.

Relationships among cast members during the making of Gigi were positive and professional, though some people found that Maurice Chevalier could be somber and demanding at times while Leslie Caron found Chevalier to be aloof. "His attitude seemed to be, 'You know me on the screen, but you don't really know me at all,'" said Caron according to the 1993 biography The Good Frenchman: The True Story of the Life and Times of Maurice Chevalier. One crew member added, "He was grumpy. He made his demands - whether for a chair in the shade, a sandwich, or a glass of water - imperiously. He never acknowledged the existence of the crew."

Still, others on the set found Chevalier to be a charming man who was conscientious, worked hard and took his role very seriously. "Maurice was the infinite professional: always punctual, always courteous, always frank, always encouraging, always working header than everyone else," said Alan Lerner.

Leslie Caron enjoyed working with co-star Louis Jourdan, though he could sometimes be a challenge. "Louis Jourdan, one of the handsomest men in Hollywood, was not comfortable with his image, yet his wit and self-deprecating humor were rare and unique...," said Caron in her autobiography. "He tended to express his angst with constant negative comments about Minnelli's staging, but instead of having it out with Vincente, he poured his grudges out on me. I was quite exhausted to hear, every time the camera stopped, his litany of grievances."

Caron found her female co-stars more enjoyable to work with. "Hermione Gingold was nothing like her stern character in the film," she said. "Irreverent, naughty, and fun, she had a great appetite for life, like a cat lapping up a bowl of milk." Caron also loved Isabel Jeans, who played her Aunt Alicia in the film. "Isabel Jeans was sweet and very disciplined," she said. "She never undid her corset at lunchtime like we all did, and she kept the straight back of a real pro from morning to night."

The lines in the script that had so worried the Production Code office (The Gigi-Gaston exchange about the obvious expectations of a courtesan's sponsor) were finally shot. The PCA had agreed to wait and see how the scene played before making a final decision about whether or not the lines would have to be removed from the film. Luckily, there was no problem. "Leslie Caron spoke the line so innocently," said Vincente Minnelli, "that the code administrator's office withdrew its objections."

Filming wrapped on Gigi in October of 1957. As it went into post-production, Vincente Minnelli realized what a toll making Gigi had taken on him. "Gigi...so involved me that when it was over I discovered I'd lost thirty-five pounds during the filming," he said. Sadly, the production of Gigi had also seen the end of his marriage to second wife Georgette. As Leslie Caron discovered, Minnelli was a man completely dedicated to his work. "Vincente Minnelli was a driven man," she said. "In a trance for the duration of the film, he heard and saw nothing around him."

While Leslie Caron had already pre-recorded her Gigi songs using her own voice, it soon became apparent during post-production that it was not going to be good enough. Her singing would have to be dubbed. As Alan Lerner recounted in his autobiography, "Leslie is not only a superb dancer but a fine actress, and so it is not a criticism of her talent to say that her singing voice is not up to scratch, or if you will, too much up to scratch. To put it bluntly, it was not a pretty noise. Unfortunately she did not hear it that way. In the land of the stars, the gift for auditory illusion is not uncommon...There was no question she had to be dubbed...Arthur [Freed] was in complete agreement but like so many executives he was incapable of telling one of his stars something he or she did not wish to hear."

The unfortunate job of telling Caron that she was being dubbed finally fell to music supervisor and conductor Andr Previn. When he finally told her, Caron was dumbfounded. "I was destroyed by this piece of news," she admitted in her autobiography. "It is true that I didn't have a trained voice, but my pitch was very true, and I had worked hard..." According to Alan Lerner, Caron was nonplussed. "She was furious and doubly so because she had not been forewarned," he said. In the end it was a singer named Betty Wand who dubbed Caron's voice in Gigi. According to Lerner, Caron made a point to be present at Wand's recording sessions. "She was there, she told Andr, to supervise the recording and to make certain that every line would be sung with her intention and her motivation," he said. Still, Caron was never pleased with Wand's interpretation. "To this day," she said, "the childish cuteness of Ms. Wand and her artificial French accent hurt my ears."

In January 1958 Gigi was finally ready and a sneak preview was held at a theater in Santa Barbara. Alan Lerner was disappointed with what he saw. "The picture was twenty minutes too long," he said, "the action was too slow, the music too creamy and ill-defined, and there must have been at least five minutes...of people walking up and down stairs. To Fritz and me it was a very far cry from all we had hoped for, far enough for us both to be desperate." While the feedback from the sneak preview audience was generally positive, Lerner and Loewe felt strongly that many improvements could be made with the film. They felt at the very least that some re-writing would be necessary and the "I Remember It Well" number would have to be completely re-done.

Lerner and Loewe approached producer Arthur Freed with their concerns and suggested what needed to be fixed. The changes, Freed told them, would cost $330,000. He wasn't optimistic that MGM would agree to pick up the bill.

Lerner and Loewe scheduled a meeting with MGM executive Benny Thau. When Thau said no, the pair offered to buy 10% ownership of Gigi for $300,000. MGM, who was not convinced that major changes were needed with the film, refused. Then, the pair took a drastic measure-they offered to buy the actual print of Gigi for $3 million. MGM didn't know it at the time, but the move was a bluff. "[Head of MGM Joe] Vogel, Thau and Arthur [Freed] turned to stone...," said Lerner. "Fritz and I did not have $3 million, did not know where we would get three million dollars, and if Joe Vogel agreed, had no idea what in God's name we were going to do."

After talking privately, the MGM executives returned to the room. "[Vogel] was deeply impressed by our sincerity and faith in the film," said Lerner. "He was also deeply impressed with the success of My Fair Lady. And if we both felt as strongly as we did, the studio had no alternative but to put up the necessary $300,000." The gamble had paid off.

According to Lerner, the changes made to Gigi included a new director, Charles Walters, re-shooting the "I Remember It Well" number with Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold. Walters had to be used since Vincente Minnelli was already busy with his next film, The Reluctant Debutante (1958). Two scenes in Gigi's house were re-written and re-shot, again by Walters, and the musical score was gone over with a fine-tooth comb. "Fritz went over all the orchestrations with Andr from the lion's roar at the very beginning to the final frame before 'The End'," said Lerner. "Andr was in total agreement with Fritz's concept of a small orchestra, and the entire film was re-orchestrated." They desperately wanted Gigi to be a success. "The picture was gone over inch by inch in the projection room and every unnecessary line or visual effect was deleted...For that kind of painstaking work I have never known anyone with better judgment or a more unerring eye than Arthur Freed. It was here that he was at his most creative and most positive."

After several weeks of making these changes, a new and improved Gigi was ready to be previewed again. This time, according to Lerner, audiences didn't just like the film, they embraced it and applauded at the end.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Gigi (1958)

Often called the last great movie musical, Gigi (1958), which won nine Oscars®, including Best Picture, was certainly the most unlikely. Based on a novella by the French novelist, Colette, it's the story of a young girl in Belle Epoque Paris who is raised and educated to go into the family business of being a courtesan. The film was also the last hurrah for the greatest creative team in the history of the movie musical: the Freed Unit at MGM.

Written in 1944, Colette's novel had been made into a French film in 1951, and into a Broadway play in 1953, starring Audrey Hepburn. Soon after, Producer Arthur Freed became interested in turning it into a musical, but he hesitated, fearing that the censors would never approve. It took several years to settle the problems with the censors, then Freed began assembling his team: Vincente Minnelli, director of some of Freed's most successful musicals (Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), An American in Paris, 1951); writer-lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and his composer partner, Frederick Loewe, who currently had the biggest hit on Broadway, My Fair Lady; music supervisor Andre Previn; and production and costume designer Cecil Beaton. It was as starry a group as the one in front of the camera.

Freed wanted Audrey Hepburn to repeat her stage success as Gigi, but she declined. Fortunately, Leslie Caron, who played the part in London, was available. Lerner had written the part of the world-weary Gaston with British actor Dirk Bogarde in mind, knowing that Bogarde had a fine singing voice. Bogarde was eager to do the film, but was unable to get free of his contract with British producer J. Arthur Rank. Louis Jourdan proved an inspired second choice. Lerner had long admired Maurice Chevalier, and it was Lerner's idea to build up the character of Gaston's uncle Honore (barely mentioned in the novel) and tailor it to Chevalier's talents. Chevalier's performance as the charming boulevardier was a career high note, and everyone expected him to be nominated for an Academy Award. When he wasn't, the Academy corrected the oversight by awarding him an honorary Oscar®.

Shot on location in Paris, Gigi was a worldwide hit....everywhere but in France. It was nominated for nine Oscars, and won all of them, a record at the time. It remains an elegant landmark of the Golden Age of the movie musical.

Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Vincente Minnelli, Charles Walters (uncredited)
Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner, Colette (novel), Anita Loos (play)
Production Design: Cecil Beaton
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Ray June (uncredited)
Costume Design: Cecil Beaton
Film Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Original Music: Frederick Loewe
Principal Cast: Leslie Caron (Gigi), Maurice Chevalier (Honore Lachaille), Louis Jourdan (Gaston Lachaille), Hermione Gingold (Madame Alvarez), Eva Gabor (Liane d'Exalmans), Jacques Bergerac (Sandomir), Isabel Jeans (Aunt Alicia).
C-116m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Margarita Landazuri

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teaser Gigi (1958)

AWARDS AND HONORS

Gigi was nominated for 9 Academy Awards and won all of them, setting a new Academy record at the time. It surpassed the record for 8 Academy Award wins previously shared by Gone With the Wind (1939), From Here to Eternity (1953) and On the Waterfront (1954). Gigi won for Best Picture, Best Director (Vincente Minnelli), Best Art Direction (William A. Horning, E. Preston Ames, Henry Grace, F. Keogh Gleason), Best Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg), Best Costume Design (Cecil Beaton), Best Editing (Adrienne Fazan), Best Original Song ("Gigi" by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe), Best Musical Score (Andr Previn) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner).

Maurice Chevalier was given an honorary Academy Award "for his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century."

Gigi received a BAFTA nomination for Best Film.

Vincente Minnelli won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Gigi.

Gigi was nominated for 6 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture Musical, Best Director (Vincente Minnelli), Best Supporting Actress (Hermione Gingold), Best Motion Picture Actor Comedy/Musical (Maurice Chevalier), Best Motion Picture Actor Comedy/Musical (Louis Jourdan), and Best Motion Picture Actress Comedy/Musical (Leslie Caron). It won for Best Motion Picture -- Musical, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress.

Alan Jay Lerner's screenplay for Gigi won the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Written American Musical.

In 2004 the American Film Institute ranked the song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" from Gigi number 56 on its list of the Greatest Movie Songs of All Time.

The soundtrack to Gigi won a Grammy Award for Best Soundtrack Album.

The American Film Institute ranked Gigi number 35 on its list of 100 Years...100 Passions, America's Greatest Love Stories.

In 1991 Gigi was added to the National Film Registry.

by Andrea Passafiume

THE CRITICS CORNER GIGI

"It has all the ingredients. It's a naughty but nice romp of the hyper-romantic naughty 90s of Paris-in-the-spring, in the Bois, in Maxim's, and in the boudoir. How can it miss?..Alan Jay Lerner's libretto is tailor-made for an inspired casting job for all principals, and Fritz Loewe's tunes (to Lerner's lyrics) already vie with and suggest their memorable My Fair Lady score...Gigi is 100% escapist fare and is a cinch for worldwide impact...Miss Caron is completely captivating and convincing in the title role...The performances are well nigh faultless. From Chevalier, as the sophisticated uncle, to John Abbott, his equally suave valet; from Miss Gingold's understanding role as Gigi's grandma to Isabel Jeans, the worldly aunt who would tutor Gigi in the ways of demi-mondaine love; from Jourdan's eligibility as the swain to Bergerac's causal courting of light ladies' loves; from Eva Gabor's concept...to Miss Caron's sincere performance - all are ideal choices for their roles."
Variety

"There won't be much point in anybody trying to produce a film of My Fair Lady for awhile, because Arthur Freed has virtually done it with Gigi...But don't think this point of resemblance is made in criticism of the film, for Gigi is a charming entertainment that can stand on its own two legs. It is not only a charming comprehension of the spicy confection of Colette, but it is also a lovely and lyrical enlargement upon that story's flavored mood and atmosphere. Mr. [Cecil] Beaton's designs are terrific-a splurge of elegance and whim, offering fin de sicle 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."
The New York Times

"Once a French movie, once a Broadway play, the spicy little tidbit is now a full-course feast for eyes and ears, an extravagant $3,000,000 cinemusical with four bright stars (Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Eva Gabor) a strong supporting cast, a topnotch director (Vincente Minnelli), words and music by My Fair Lady's Lerner and Loewe and some flooringly flamboyant sets and costumes by Cecil Beaton."
- Time Magazine

"It is the old master showman, Maurice Chevalier, who steals Gigi lock, stock and barrel! The Chevalier of the '30s in verve and inimitable way of singing a song, blended with the Chevalier of the '50s in the natural appearance and sly wit."
The Los Angeles Examiner

"Visually, Gigi is one of the most elegant and tasteful musicals that MGM has ever turned out. Nor does it lag too far behind musically...Maurice Chevalier carries the major vocal assignments with all the exuberance and charm at his command. And Hermione Gingold combines a vinegary poise with a sugary singing style. Her duet with Chevalier is one of the high points of a highly enjoyable show."
- Saturday Review

"Charming turn-of-the-century musical based on Colette's story of a French girl who's groomed to be a courtesan. Exquisitely filmed, perfectly cast, with memorable Lerner and Loewe score."
Leonard Maltin, Movie and Video Guide

"A plushy, cheerful, musical version of the Colette story...Vincente Minnelli directed, in a confident, confectionary style that carries all-or almost all-before it."
- Pauline Kael

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