Gigi


1h 56m 1958
Gigi

Brief Synopsis

A Parisian girl is raised to be a kept woman but dreams of love and marriage.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
The Parisiennes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 May 1958; Los Angeles opening: 10 Jul 1958
Production Company
Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Paris,France; Venice, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novelette Gigi by Colette (Paris, 1945).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
10,368ft (15 reels)

Synopsis

In 1900 Paris, Honoré Lachaille, elderly connoisseur of beauty and fashion, strolls through the Bois de Bologne, appreciating the splendor of youth personified by spirited school girl Gigi Alvarez. Later, Honoré meets his elegant nephew Gaston, the wealthy heir to a sugar empire, who declares his weariness at being the center of Paris society. To Honoré's surprise, Gaston admits the only place that he can relax is at the modest flat of Honoré `s former paramour, Mme. Alvarez, Gigi's grandmother and guardian. Meanwhile, at her weekly etiquette lessons with her regal great-aunt Alicia, Gigi struggles to stifle her natural buoyancy while learning about the intricacies of dining. When Gigi laments that she is never allowed to accept invitations and has no friends, Alicia explains that she is not to mingle with ordinary people who live ordinary lives. Gigi concedes she is aware that the women in her family are unusual in that they never marry, but remains puzzled by it.

Alicia then advises Gigi of the importance of recognizing expensive jewelry and cautions her never to accept second-rate baubles or men. After showing Gigi how to distinguish fine cigars, Alicia reminds her niece that everything she is learning has a purpose and admonishes her to remember that love is an art. Confused about what eating, jewelry and tobacco have to do with art, Gigi heads home and runs into Gaston, who has been visiting Mme. Alvarez. Delighted by Gigi's guileless nature, Gaston invites her for a glasé at the skating rink, where his current lover, Liane d'Exelmans, is taking skating lessons. Gigi startles Gaston when she declares that she finds Liane common and coarse. That evening while dining with Liane and Honoré at Maxim's restaurant, Gaston realizes that despite Liane's effusive attentions, her thoughts are elsewhere. The next morning Gaston tells Honoré that he is deeply insulted to have learned from private detectives that Liane is secretly seeing her skating instructor. When Gaston hints that he will end his relationship with Liane through a note, Honoré insists that the break-up must be in keeping with Gaston's stylish reputation.

Taking Gaston's brand new automobile, the two men follow Liane to Honfleur where Gaston pays the skating instructor to leave Liane, then rebukes her in a restaurant and declares their association over. Honoré then encourages Gaston to attend all of the upcoming fashionable parties in order to show that the break-up has had no effect on him. Gigi and her grandmother follow Gaston's subsequent revelries through the society newspaper columns and several weeks pass before he visits them again. Arriving one evening bearing chocolates and champagne, Gaston reveals that he will soon be going to Trouville-by-the-Sea. After Mme. Alvarez convinces Gaston to pass up a party with two hundred guests at the Eiffel Tower, Gigi offers to play cards with him and bets that if Gaston loses he must take her and her grandmother to Trouville. When Gigi wins the game, Gaston gallantly agrees to fulfill his part of the wager, despite Mme. Alvarez's protests, and admits that he has more fun with Gigi than anyone else. At Trouville, Gaston accompanies the exuberant Gigi on the beach, playing tennis and riding burros. Honoré, who has also come to the seaside, is startled to find Mme. Alvarez and the two reminisce about their romantic past. Upon returning to Paris, Mme. Alvarez is summoned by Alicia, who scolds her for accepting Gaston's invitation to Trouville when Gigi has not been properly prepared.

Aghast at the suggestion that Gigi is old enough to be groomed for a romantic alliance with Gaston, Mme. Alvarez nevertheless reluctantly accepts her sister's advice. While Gaston is away resting in Monte Carlo, Gigi visits Alicia's daily, but her great-aunt is discouraged that Gigi remains too immature to appreciate her lessons. Although Gigi is ill at ease in the flattering gowns purchased for her by Alicia, when Gaston returns she tries one on for him. Gaston is so outraged by Gigi's unexpected grown-up transformation that he storms out of the flat, only to return moments later to ask Gigi to tea at the swank Reservoir club. Mme. Alvarez forbids it, and in private tells Gaston that if Gigi is to be seen in society spots with him, they must have a formal understanding. Infuriated by the idea, Gaston departs, angrily walking the streets berating Gigi as a mere child until he realizes that she is indeed becoming a young lady. Gaston returns to the Alvarez flat and presents an offer to Mme. Alvarez, who in turn seeks approval from Alicia.

After Alicia consents to the terms for Gaston to formally take up with Gigi, the women agree that for the time being Gigi will not be told of the arrangement. Later, Gaston drops by the flat with flowers for Gigi and an invitation to dinner. When Gaston attempts to explain the change in their relationship to Gigi, he is stunned when she flatly refuses him. Gigi reveals that she understands that she is now to be Gaston's lover and she is also aware that when he becomes tired of her she will be expected to go on to another man. Gigi concludes that it is not in her nature to live this way. Shocked at her frankness, Gaston is embarrassed, but Gigi points out that he was not embarrassed to make the arrangements for her to become his mistress with Mme. Alvarez. Gigi then confesses her wish that she and Gaston could go on as they have in the past, but Gaston declares they cannot because he loves her. Stunned, Gigi berates him for wanting her as a mistress if he truly cares for her and flees to her room. Confused and angry, Gaston scolds Mme. Alvarez for bringing Gigi up improperly and departs. While Gaston meets with Honoré to complain about the situation, Mme. Alvarez telephones Alicia with the news.

Horrified, Alicia leaves her apartment for the first time in years to come to her sister's flat. The women are surprised when Gaston arrives, having received a note from Gigi. To Alicia's relief, Gigi tells Gaston that she would rather be unhappy with him than without him and agrees to the arrangement. Although unsure about the undertaking, Gigi, beautifully dressed, accompanies Gaston to join the society crowd at Maxim's. Using all of Alicia's tips, Gigi plays the perfect companion, which unsettles Gaston, who nevertheless presents her with a beautiful emerald bracelet. When Honoré congratulates Gaston for finding so young a companion who will keep him happy for many months, Gaston abruptly takes Gigi home without a word. Gaston then walks the streets of Paris in a state on confusion until he comes to a sudden realization and, returning to the flat, asks Mme. Alvarez for the honor of Gigi's hand in marriage.

Crew

Preston Ames

Art Director

Mel Anderson

Best Boy

Cecil Beaton

Scenery

Cecil Beaton

Production Design

Cecil Beaton

Costumes

Ned Belford

Assistant Camera op

Margaret Booth

Supervising Editor

Jerry Brady

Assistant Editor

James Brock

Sound Mixer

Eric Carpenter

Stills

Grace Dubray

Script Supervisor

Adrienne Fazan

Film Editor

Hank Forrester

Grip

Arthur Freed

Producer

Arthur Freed

Company

Keogh Gleason

Set Decoration

Henry Grace

Set Decoration

Bill Graham

2d Props man

Herman Groves

Boom

Sydney Guilaroff

Hair Styles

Guillaume

Hair Styles

Charles K. Hagedon

Color Consultant

Elwin Hollenbeck

2d Assistant Director

William A. Horning

Art Director

Harry Lazarre

Props

Alan Jay Lerner

Screenwriter

Alan Jay Lerner

Composer

Frederick Loewe

Music

Frederick Loewe

Composer

William Mcgarry

Assistant Director

Dr. Wesley C. Miller

Recording Supervisor

Vicky Nichols

Women's Wardrobe

Charles Parker

Makeup

André Previn

Music Supervisor and Conductor

Ace Riley

Camera Operator

C. E. Rogers

Best Boy

Joseph Ruttenberg

Director of Photography

William Ryan

Unit Manager/Assistant to prod

Conrad Salinger

Orchestration

Dave Saltuper

Men's Wardrobe

Sem

Main title illustrations from drawings by

W. J. Shanks

Gaffer

William Shanks

Assistant Director

Lela Simone

Music

David Stone Martin

Drawings

Emily Torchia

Pub

Robert Tucker

Vocal Supervisor

William Tuttle

Makeup

Charles Walters

Director and staging of number "The Night They Invented Champagne"

Betty Wand

Singing voice double for Leslie Caron

Bobby Webb

Casting Director

Jack Wilson

Makeup man

Photo Collections

Gigi - Costume Design Sketches
Here are a few original Cecil Beaton costume design sketches for MGM's Gigi (1958), starring Leslie Caron.
Gigi - Leslie Caron Publicity Stills
Here are some photos of Leslie Caron taken to publicize Gigi (1958). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
The Parisiennes
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 1958
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 May 1958; Los Angeles opening: 10 Jul 1958
Production Company
Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Paris,France; Venice, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novelette Gigi by Colette (Paris, 1945).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 56m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
10,368ft (15 reels)

Award Wins

Set Decoration

1959

Best Cinematography

1958

Best Costume Design

1958
Cecil Beaton

Best Director

1958
Vincente Minnelli

Best Editing

1958
Adrienne Fazan

Best Picture

1958

Best Score

1958

Best Song

1958

Best Writing, Screenplay

1959

Articles

The Essentials - Gigi


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, André Previn
Costume Designer: Cecil Beaton
Cast: Leslie Caron (Gigi), Maurice Chevalier (Honoré 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
The Essentials - Gigi

The Essentials - Gigi

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, André Previn Costume Designer: Cecil Beaton Cast: Leslie Caron (Gigi), Maurice Chevalier (Honoré 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

Pop Culture 101 - Gigi


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

Pop Culture 101 - Gigi

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

Trivia - Gigi - Trivia & Fun Facts About GIGI


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

– Honoré 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."
-Honoré / 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 / Honoré

"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)

Trivia - Gigi - Trivia & Fun Facts About GIGI

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, Honoré. That was the most charming and endearing excuse for infidelity I've ever heard." – Honoré 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." -Honoré / 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 / Honoré "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)

The Big Idea - Gigi


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, Honoré 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 Honoré. 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 risqué 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

The Big Idea - Gigi

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, Honoré 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 Honoré. 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 risqué 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

Behind the Camera - Gigi


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 Honoré 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 André 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 André, 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 André from the lion's roar at the very beginning to the final frame before 'The End'," said Lerner. "André 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

Behind the Camera - Gigi

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 Honoré 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 André 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 André, 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 André from the lion's roar at the very beginning to the final frame before 'The End'," said Lerner. "André 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

Gigi (1958) - Gigi


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

Gigi (1958) - Gigi

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

Critics' Corner - Gigi - The Critics Corner: GIGI


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 (André 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 siècle 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

Critics' Corner - Gigi - The Critics Corner: GIGI

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 (André 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 siècle 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

Quotes

Bad table manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more housholds than infidelity.
- Aunt Alicia
The only people who make love all the time are liars.
- Gaston
Liane d'Exelmans has commited suicide... again!
- Aunt Alicia
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. And what makes an artist?
- Aunt Alicia
Cigars and jewelry?
- Gigi
Gigi, you're from another planet.
- Aunt Alicia
Is that the scandalous Madame d'Exelmans?
- Gigi
Yes that's she. Tell me Gigi, the way that you express yourself, does you grandmother hear you talk this way?
- Gaston
She doesn't listen to me much.
- Gigi

Trivia

Features the song, "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight", which Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe had originally written for the 1956 stage musical "My Fair Lady," but which was deleted during out-of-town tryouts. Lerner was against including the song in "Gigi", but was effectively overruled by Loewe, producer Arthur Freed and director Vincente Minnelli. (The song contains the couplet, "'On to your Waterloo,' whispers my heart./ Pray I'll be Wellington, not Bonaparte" - arguably an odd sentiment for a French girl to express. In "My Fair Lady", the song was intended for Eliza Doolittle, who was, of course, English.)

Gaston's walk through Paris while singing "Gigi" uses camera magic to make parts of Paris which are miles apart seem adjacent to each other. This technique, called "creative geography", was created and named by French filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1991.

Audrey Hepburn was the first choice to play Gigi since she had played the role on stage in 1952, but she was making Funny Face (1957) at the time and declined.

Producer Arthur Freed's interest in the story developed in 1953 after Anita Loos expressed her interest in adapting her play as a musical, and after he was able to convince the film industry's Code Office to view the story as condoning rather than glorifying a system of mistresses. Arthur Freed paid Colette's widower $125,000 for the musical rights, and bought out Loos' play version for $87,000.

Notes

The working title of the film was The Parisiennes. The following written acknowledgment appears in the onscreen credits: "We gratefully acknowledge the use of the gardens and parks of Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André of Paris, Maxim's, Carrere's Auberge de la Moutiere, Palace de Glace with special appreciation for permission to photograph interiors." Cecil Beaton's onscreen credit reads: "Costumes, scenery and production design by Cecil Beaton." After the opening credits, Maurice Chevalier as the character "Honoré Lachaille" directly addresses the camera while strolling through the Bois de Bologne in Paris. After introducing himself as a happily unmarried older man, he states that although many people do marry, there are others who choose not to, then expounds the joy of watching little girls grow up.
       Gigi was based on the 1945 novelette by renowned French writer, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), who published under the name Colette. A 1959 Paris Match article indicates that Colette based the story on a conversation she overheard in 1914 Paris between two women discussing their astonishment at a young girl winning a marriage proposal from a wealthy older man after refusing to become his mistress. The article adds that Colette described another influence as the 1926 marriage of a budding star ballerina, the free-spirited and youthful Yola Henriquez, to the much older, wealthy and fashionable Henri Letellier.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in April 1950, Murray O'Hanlon of Spalter International Pictures in New York inquired about the possibility of Gigi being adapted to the American screen. PCA head Joseph Breen reviewed the 1948 French film based on Colette's work, directed by Jacqueline Audy and starring Daniele Delorme as "Gilberte" or "Gigi" and Frank Villard as "Gaston." Breen responded that the basic story was in direct violation of the Production Code and could not be approved. Breen went on to state: "The problem is so basic to the picture that we cannot suggest any eliminations which might bring it into conformity with the Code." In 1951 American screenwriter and playwright Anita Loos adapted Colette's novelette into a play. Upon seeing Audrey Hepburn filming a small role in the 1951 French film, Nous irons de Monte Carlo, Colette contacted Loos to recommend Hepburn for the starring role in the Broadway production. The play opened at the Fulton Theatre in New York City on November 24, 1951 with Hepburn as Gigi, Michael Evans as Gaston and Josephine Brown as "Mme. Alvarez."
       Correspondence in the PCA file dated July 1952, from screenwriter and novelist Niven Busch, presents his outline of how to deal with the inherent problems of telling a story about a family of courtesans. An October 1952 internal memo from Geoffrey Shurlock indicates that Busch's proposed treatment of Gigi would eliminate its objectionable elements and would likely be acceptable to the PCA. There is no further information that Busch proceeded with the project.
       According to correspondence in the M-G-M Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, in December 1951 Joe Fields, who along with Robert and Raymond Hackims held the film rights to Gigi, hoped to interest producer Arthur Freed in the property. Fields pitched the idea to M-G-M production head Dore Schary and suggested casting Leslie Caron, who had just appeared in the studio's An American in Paris and who subsequently appeared in the 1956 London production of Loos's play. Freed screened the 1948 French film but did not did not see the play with Hepburn until 1953. The PCA file indicates that in January 1955 Freed seriously began to grapple with the censorship difficulties of Gigi. In March 1955 the PCA's Robert Vogel sent Freed a list the objectionable elements in the story: "All the characters in the story participate, or did participate, or intend to participate, in a man-mistress relationship. The heroine is deliberately trained to enter such a relationship ...shown in detail and with much sympathy. ...(T)he story indicates that such low relationships are commonly accepted practices. ...(N)ever is there the slightest indication that such relationships are sinful." By the end of 1955 Freed had satisfied the PCA that the a screenplay could be written emphasizing Gigi's rejection of the way of life of a courtesan.
       In his autobiography (entitled I Remember It Well from the song sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in Gigi), Minnelli noted that the French film version provided an "adequate" story, but he found the play "too farcically played." Freed and Minnelli approached Alan Jay Lerner and partner Frederick Loewe, who had just completed the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, about creating a musical around the Colette story, and the pair agreed. By 1957 Lerner had fashioned a script that was accepted by the PCA and had introduced changes from the novelette and the play, both of which end with Gigi startling her mother and aunt by skillfully manipulating Gaston into proposing. The character of "Honoré Lachaille" does not exist in the Loos play and an unnamed charming older society figure once involved with Gigi's grandmother, Mme. Alvarez, is only suggested in the novelette. The French film introduced Gaston's uncle Honoré and placed Gigi's mother in the background, details retained by Lerner.
       Minnelli indicated in his autobiography that he hoped to lure Ina Claire out of retirement to play "Aunt Alicia," but when she refused, Beaton (who had also worked on My Fair Lady) suggested Isabel Jeans. A modern source relates that Freed also considered Gladys Cooper for the role. Chevallier was always considered for the role of Honoré. Modern sources indicate that Lerner considered Dirk Bogarde for the role of Gaston, but the actor was unavailable. When Louis Jourdan was cast in the role, Lerner and Loewe arranged his songs to be delivered in the semi-spoken manner used by Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady.
       The film was shot on location in Paris at many of the famous locations seen in the film including the Bois de Boulogne, the Palais de Glace, Maxim's restaurant and the Musée Jacquemart-André, which was used as Gaston's apartment. The scenes in Trouville by-the-sea were shot in Venice, California. Additional scenes and re-takes were shot at M-G-M Studios in Culver City, CA. Modern sources indicate that long-time M-G-M cinematographer Ray June photographed the re-takes. A Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Cesare Danova was tested for a role. An August 1957 Hollywood Reporter item adds Richard Winckler to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The publicity and artwork for the film featured Beaton's distinctive signature logo of the film's title.
       According to a modern source, during post-production editor Adrienne Fazan requested assistance for looping from long-time M-G-M editor Margaret Booth, but Booth became involved in overseeing editing of the entire picture. The same source quotes Fazan as claiming that Booth's severe cuts removed all the story's warmth from the film. A January 20, 1958 preview in Santa Barbara was described by Lerner as "a disaster." Both Lerner and Loewe insisted the picture was "not the film we wrote," considering it too long and too slow. Despite the success of a later preview in Pomona, the writers remained unhappy and the studio approved retakes of several songs by Jourdan and Caron.
       Freed arranged for a grand premiere at New York City's Royale Theatre. Reviews praised the film while noting its similarities to My Fair Lady, with the New York Times critic commenting that "Messrs. Lerner, Loewe and Beaton have stolen Gigi from themselves." The film went on to great success and is recognized by many film historians as the last of the great M-G-M musicals. Gigi set a new Academy Award record by winning in all nine categories for which it was nominated (previous record holders winning eight awards were Gone With the Wind, 1939 [please see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40], From Here to Eternity, 1953 [] and On the Waterfront, 1954 [see below] including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Music, Best Song ("Gigi"), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Film Editing.

Miscellaneous Notes

1958 Golden Globe Winner for Best Motion Picture--Musical, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (Gingold).

Voted One of The Year's Ten Best Films by the 1958 National Board of Review.

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1958 New York Times Film Critics.

Winner of the 1958 Director's Guild of America Award for Best Director.

Winner of the 1958 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.

Released in United States 1978

Released in United States 1997

Released in United States October 1990

Released in United States Spring May 1958

Released in USA on video.

Selected in 1991 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

CinemaScope

Released in United States 1978 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - "Salute to Oscar" - Filmex Marathon) April 13 - May 7, 1978.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown in Los Angeles (Laemmle) as part of program "Makes Great Musicals: A Salute to MGM's Legendary Freed Unit" September 6 - December 21, 1997.)

Released in United States Spring May 1958

Released in United States October 1990 (Shown in Los Angeles (Laemmle) as part of program "MGM Musical Festival" October 12-18, 1990.)