Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1944) di Colette. Scen.: Alan Jay Lerner. F.: Joseph Ruttenberg. M.: Adrienne Fazan. Scgf.: Cecil Beaton, William A. Horning, Preston Ames. Mus.: Frederick Loewe, Lela Simone. Int.: Leslie Caron (Gigi Alvarez), Maurice Chevalier (Honoré Lachaille), Louis Jourdan (Gaston Lachaille), Hermione Gingold (Madame Alvarez), Eva Gabor (Liane d’Exelmans), Jacques Bergerac (Sandomir), Isabel Jeans (zia Alicia), John Abbott (Manuel), Edwin Jerome (Charles), Lydia Stevens (Simone). Prod.: Arthur Freed per MGM Corp., Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.. 35mm. D.: 115’. Technicolor.
“You can see every tree almost saying ‘Look at me!’”. Ageing boulevardier Maurice Chevalier is right to draw petulant Louis Jourdan’s attention to the visual splendours of Paris in the song It’s a Bore!. Gigi, Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 effervescent musical, the last great flourish of the Arthur Freed unit, is as much a pageant as it is a retelling of Colette’s 1944 novella. Out of Gigi’s record-breaking nine Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director), three were devoted purely to the look of the film: the set decoration, colour cinematography and costumes. The vibrant jewel-coloured interiors of Paris salons were lovingly recreated in Los Angeles by Preston Ames and his team, but the sun-drenched Bois de Boulogne plays itself, one of several city locations used in the film, which was shot in MGM’s own Metrocolor by Joseph Ruttenberg. Cecil Beaton’s kaleidoscopic costumes rate among his best work, including a white gown adorned with bluebirds, worn by Leslie Caron in the title role.
The songs, written by Lerner and Loewe and arranged by André Previn, are the aural equivalent of all this elegant spectacle, from sparky duet I Remember It Well (based on an old song Lerner had written with Kurt Weill) to the revelry of The Night They Invented Champagne, and Chevalier’s famous paean to young ladies who “grow up in the most delightful way”. Title number Gigi won one of those Oscars, as did Previn’s score. And Gigi is as witty as it is good-looking, thanks to Colette’s sparkling original text, and some delectable performances. Chevalier’s role was written for him, while Jourdan was a last-minute replacement for Dirk Bogarde and Caron stepped in when Audrey Hepburn declined – although both now appear to be inspired decisions. Even so, it’s the two older women, Isabel Jeans as Aunt Alicia, and especially Hermione Gingold as Madame Alvarez, who offer the film’s sharpest, and most Colettian, badinage. Thank heaven…