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Gigi (1958)

Thank heaven for little girls, for little girls get bigger every day.

Directed by:

Vincente Minelli

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

Leslie Caron stars as Gigi, a precocious adolescent girl living in turn-of-the-century Paris. Gigi's mother is an opera singer with little time for her, and instead she is raised by her grandmother Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gingold). Madame Alvarez has ambitions to turn Gigi into a successful courtesan, and to that end Gigi is sent to her Aunt Alicia (Isabel Jeans) for lessons in everything from how to pour coffee to how to select cigars. In the meantime, handsome Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan) is bored with Paris. A bon vivant like his uncle Honore (Maurice Chevalier), Gaston is rich and lives the high life with a series of mistresses, but little really holds his interest for long.

Gaston begins spending increasing amounts of time visiting Madame Alvarez, who happens to be an old friend of his uncle. There he gets to know Gigi as a little girl – not on her best behaviour but full of life and good humour. However, Gigi is growing up and Madame Alvarez and Aunt Alicia have plans to ensnare a fine patron for her – Gaston would be perfect. On realising that Gigi has grown up to be a beautiful young woman, Gaston declares his love for her and promises to set her up with everything that the best mistresses have. But although Gigi loves Gaston too, she has no desire to be a mistress.

This is a sweet and appealing musical with plenty of charm. The Lerner and Loewe songs are some of the most memorable in any musical, and are performed with verve. The cinematography is outstanding, as is the direction, although the film is rather lacking in dance numbers. All the cast do a superb job, although one wonders what the film might have been like with Audrey Hepburn in the lead role – Hepburn played Gigi on Broadway, and was described by the author of the novel as being exactly as she had imagined the character. Often criticised in this modern age for its non-politically correct content, it is not actually as bad as it seems – after all, in the end it is Gaston who is reformed and has to defy the conventions of the society in which he lives, while Gigi is successful in getting more control of her future than her older female relatives once had.

It's Got: Nine Academy Awards and a string of memorable musical numbers.

It Needs: Audrey Hepburn in the lead role.

DVD Extras Only a trailer with this basic release. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, The Pirate.

Summary

Uplifting and cheerful 1950s musical that perhaps didn't deserve all the accolades it has received but certainly came close.

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