That Girl From Paris
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That Girl from Paris (1936) is a lighthearted musical romp for Lily Pons (1898-1976), the famous, French-born coloratura soprano who starred in four movies during the 1930s and '40s. The others were I Dream Too Much (1935), Hitting a New High (1937) and Carnegie Hall (1947). Once considered RKO's answer to Columbia's Grace Moore, Pons never quite took off in films despite her magnificent voice. But she had an illustrious career at the Metropolitan Opera, where she appeared to acclaim in 280 performances during a 30-year period beginning in 1931.
In That Girl, Pons plays a Parisian opera star who leaves her fiance at the opera and stows away on an ocean liner in search of adventure and romance. She falls in love with the leader of a swing band (Gene Raymond) and eventually becomes his vocalist, though their path to love is complicated by the fact that he has a jealous girlfriend (25-year-old Lucille Ball, one year into her tenure as an RKO contract player).
A highlight of the film is "The Blue Danube," with Pons and the band accommodating each other's styles by switching back and forth from classical singing to jazz. Pons also performs "The Call to Arms," "Seal it With a Kiss" and, from The Barber of Seville, "Una voce poco fa." Jack Oakie sings several songs with the band, and Ball joins him to show off her dancing skills on "Moon Face" and "My Nephew from Nice."
Other film versions of the same story are Street Girl (1929) and Four Jacks and a Jill (1942).
That Girl from Paris brought an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording to RKO's John Aalberg (1897-1984), who enjoyed quite a history with the Oscars®. He was nominated in the same category for Hitting a New High, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Kitty Foyle (1940), Citizen Kane (1941), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Two Tickets to Broadway (1951) and Susan Slept Here (1954). Another nomination came for Best Sound Effects for Swiss Family Robinson (1940). In 1939, Aalberg won a Technical Achievement Award for "the application of compression to variable area recording in motion picture production." In 1980 he shared a Medal of Commendation with Charles G. Clarke and John G. Frayne "in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences." And in 1983 he won the Academy's Gordon E. Sawyer Award for "technological contributions to the motion picture industry."
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Leigh Jason
Screenplay: Joseph Fields, P.J. Wolfson, Dorothy Yost, Harold Kussell (uncredited), from story by Jane Murfin, adapted from story "Viennese Charmer" by J. Carey Wonderly.
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Original Music: Arthur Schwartz, W. Franke Harling (uncredited), Nathaniel Shilkret
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Costume Design: Edward Stevenson
Cast: Lily Pons (Nicole "Nikkie" Martin), Jack Oakie (Whammo Lonsdale), Gene Raymond (Windy McLean), Herman Bing ("Hammy" Mammacher), Mischa Auer (Butch), Lucille Ball (Claire Williams).
by Roger Fristoe