April in Paris
Cast & Crew
In Washington, D.C., S. Winthrop "Sam" Putnam, the officious Assistant Secretary to the Assistant to the Undersecretary of State, is embarrassed to discover that a letter inviting Ethel Barrymore to represent the American theater at the International Festival of the Arts in Paris was mistakenly sent to Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson, a Broadway chorus girl. Hoping to rectify the situation, Sam flies to New York to explain the mix-up to Ethel. Later, however, when he is lauded for his ingenious decision to represent the common man at the prestigious event, he re-invites her, enticing her with descriptions of a romantic Paris in springtime. On the French luxury liner to Paris, Ethel is surrounded by the other, distinguished, middle-aged, male festival representatives, who are all unabashedly haughty and determined that Ethel will not disgrace the U.S. with her natural ebullience. Also on the ship is Philippe Fouquet, a French entertainer and nightclub owner famous for his womanizing, who must work as a waiter for his return passage to France, as his money has been indefinitely frozen for back taxes in the U.S. On the last night of the cruise, Philippe rescues Ethel from lessons in using correct dining etiquette and French, and takes her to the shipboard ball, expecting that Sam, who is secretly smitten with her, will soon leave the stuffy group to join her. However, when ordered by his employer to return to the kitchen, the irrepressible Philippe convinces Ethel to go with him and soon has the French kitchen staff honorbound to show Ethel a good time. A joyous party commences, but when the delegation learns that Ethel is dancing in the kitchen, Sam is sent to inform her that she will be returned to the U.S. However, in the kitchen, Sam feels obliged to drink toasts to the U.S., France, and then every other country, so that by the time he meets up with Ethel, he has joined the dancing. At the end of the evening, Ethel and Sam know they are in love, but as Sam's engagement to his boss's daughter, Marcia Sherman, has already been announced in the Congressional Record , there seems to be no future for them. In spite of the obstacles, they decide to be secretly married by the ship captain, and Philippe makes the arrangements for them. Soon after, however, Philippe discovers that the "captain" was really François, a busboy who was stealing liquor from the captain's room when Philippe unwittingly interrupted him. Although Philippe wants to tell Ethel and Sam that their marriage is phony, François convinces him that, to avoid arrest, they must wait until the ship docks. The Frenchmen then booby-trap the couple's bedrooms to delay their marital bliss. After suffering from collapsing beds, self-opening doors and lights that turn on automatically, Sam and Ethel's attempts at a honeymoon are finally curtailed when his boss, Secretary Sherman, shows up to reprimand Sam for joining the kitchen party, and Ethel spends the rest of the night alone in the bathtub. After arriving in Paris, Sam discovers that Marcia has flown in to keep an eye on him. Though he has convinced the delegation to allow Ethel to remain, Sam decides, for the sake of the festival, to delay announcing their marriage, but his hopes for a smooth opening are shattered when, during a speech about peace and harmony, Ethel and Marcia begin slapping each other. Ethel is expelled from the festival hall, and walks off her frustration in the cold and wind of springtime Paris. When she encounters Philippe, he informs her that her marriage is not legitimate. The romantic Philippe realizes how much she loves Sam, and decides to help her get him back. Meanwhile, to avoid being alone with Marcia and her jealousy-inspired ardor, Sam agrees to attend a nightclub with the Shermans, unaware that it belongs to Philippe and that Ethel is the featured performer. Sam becomes jealous and wants to go backstage when he sees Ethel kiss Philippe at the end of their act, but Marcia threatens him with job dismissal if he does. Sam leaves after accusing her of wanting him for his White House potential, and Sherman, who is aware of Marcia's faults, backs him up. In her dressing room, Ethel rebuffs Sam and pretends to be having an affair with Philippe. Knowing that Sam is following her, Ethel follows Philippe to his apartment, where Sam is ready to fight Philippe. To Ethel and Sam's surprise, Philippe's wife Mimi shows up and they learn that Philippe's carefree Parisian demeanor is just a professional act, as he is secretly and happily married, with five children. Now Sam stubbornly accuses Ethel of consorting with a married man, but the Fouquets gently send the sparring lovebirds away. Out on the streets, Ethel and Sam continue their quarreling until daybreak, when, in sight of the Eiffel Tower, they make up.
Jean De Briac
Guy De Vestal
Henry Dar Boggia
Robert Scott Correll
Wilfrid M. Cline
C. S. Friend
E. Y. Harburg
Mitchell G. Kovaleski
Leo K. Kuter
W. H. Patterson
Lyle B. Reifsnider
C. A. Riggs
Alma D. Young
April in Paris
Day plays Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson, a Broadway chorus girl who mistakenly receives an invitation meant for Ethel Barrymore to represent American theater at a Parisian arts festival. The State Department diplomat responsible for the mix-up, played by Ray Bolger, tries to rectify the situation but quickly realizes inviting a chorus girl is actually not a bad idea. He accompanies her on a cruise to Europe and they fall in love as comedy antics ensue.
The musical highlight of the picture is probably "I'm Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight," performed in the ship's kitchen, but other memorable numbers include Bolger dancing with full-length portraits of himself dressed as George Washington and Abe Lincoln, and a number with numerous French poodles all dyed to match the pastel colors of their handlers' clothes.
The credited choreographer is LeRoy Prinz, but that was due mainly to his position as head of that department at Warner Brothers. (It was common practice at the time to credit certain technical department heads even when underlings did the actual work.) In her memoir (as told to A.E. Hotchner), Day writes that LeRoy's brother Eddie Prinz did the choreography, but a more recent biography by David Kaufman reveals that Donald Saddler actually choreographed Day's numbers. Saddler is quoted at length speaking of the strong relationship he enjoyed with Day on this and two further films.
"There was instantly a nice rapport," Saddler said. "And after a while, I could think ahead, because I knew how she moved, and it proved a great asset. I always made her feel that if a step wasn't right, then I'd just give her another one. And she was Warner Brothers-trained, where sometimes they would just go on the set, improvise the number, and shoot it.
"Of all the stars and principals I've ever danced with, I think she was one of the most gifted. I don't think she ever had any idea of how great she was. She just thought that was the way she was supposed to be. But when she was working, she was in her own world.... She could do anything.... If she couldn't take a step I gave her and make something out of it -- or make it her own -- then it was the step's fault, because she had perfect rhythm."
Saddler also said that LeRoy Prinz warned him to always praise Day's takes because "we only do single takes here" (meaning - at Warner Brothers). Saddler and Day got around this by developing a system of hand signals, so that if Day felt she needed another take, she would secretly signal Saddler, who would then say that he had made a mistake and needed to redo the shot.
Day later recalled in her memoir how difficult it was to learn to dance for the camera: "A film dancer does not have the freedom of a stage dancer. She must dance precisely to a mark. Her turns must be exact. She must face precisely in the camera direction required while executing very difficult steps... I would drag myself home at night, too tired to move another step, but I kept practicing -- in my head. It was a trick I learned early on that was of great help to me. I could rehearse a dance routine in my head, watching myself perform, and that did me almost as much good as getting up on my feet and doing it. I rehearsed songs that way, too. Not just the lyrics, but the actual rendition of the song, the phrasing, breathing, all of it, without singing a note."
Biographer Tom Santopietro was one of many to heap praise on Day's vocal talents, writing of her performance in April in Paris: "Her silken rendition of the beautiful title song lifts the film to an entirely different level, if only briefly. The emotional directness of her singing, which only the very best vocalists ever achieve, is what matters here and what the audience responds to. This is true artistry and why even a trifle like April in Paris is worth examining."
Critics of the time basically agreed. The New York Times found the film predictable and the clowning tiresome, "but the dances and musical numbers are fortunately on a higher plane and offer some cheerful entertainment in the light and tuneful line. Mr. Bolger makes lots of magic with his educated feet, especially in one lively number called 'We're Going to Ring the Bell Tonight.' And Miss Day puts her skill at rhythm singing to frequent and favorable use."
From Day's perspective, April in Paris was just another assembly-line product. "I didn't like the movie and I certainly didn't enjoy making it," she wrote. She also said that Bolger and director David Butler had some serious clashes on set, with Butler angry that Bolger was upstaging Day by positioning his body so that the camera would favor him. Day professed not to be aware of the upstaging or even how it could be done.
April in Paris was Day's fourth of six pictures with Butler, whom she described as "urbane, considerate, witty... genial."
Producer: William Jacobs
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Jack Rose, Melville Shavelson (story "Girl from Paris," written by)
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline
Art Direction: Leo K. Kuter
Music: Ray Heindorf, Howard Jackson (both uncredited)
Film Editing: Irene Morra
Cast: Doris Day (Ethel S. 'Dynamite' Jackson), Ray Bolger (S. 'Sam' Winthrop Putnam), Claude Dauphin (Philippe Fouquet), Eve Miller (Marcia Sherman), George Givot (Francois), Paul Harvey (Secretary Robert Sherman), Herbert Farjeon (Joshua Stevens), Wilson Millar (Sinclair Wilson), Raymond Largay (Joseph Welmar), John Alvin (Tracy).
C-101m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
A.E. Hotchner, Doris Day: Her Own Story
David Kaufman, Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door
George Morris, Doris Day
Tom Santopietro, Considering Doris Day
April in Paris
Throughout the film, Claude Dauphin, as "Philippe Fouquet," addresses the audience directly with comments about the action. According to an October 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robert Arthur was originally assigned to direct April in Paris. A Warner Bros. production staff and cast list dated March 7, 1951 lists Percy Warum as "Sherman"; however, the part was played by Paul Harvey in the final film. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, a May 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item added George Dee and Nina Borget to the cast. The film's title song, "April in Paris," was actually written in 1932 for the Broadway musical comedy, Walk a Little Faster.