For, Oct. 10, 2014

"Gigi" (1958) was the last of MGM's classic-era musical extravaganzas, a cinematic adaptation of the Broadway smash that sprang from the 1944 novella "Gigi" by French author Colette.

The film garnered nine Academy Awards, including best picture, best director (Vincente Minnelli) and best screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner).

Today "Gigi" remains an enchanting fairy tale of sorts, with a completely winning performance by Leslie Caron in the title role and such still-vibrant songs as "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," "The Night They Invented Champagne," "I Remember it Well" and, of course, "Gigi," by Lerner and Frederick Loewe (whose other Broadway hits include "Brigadoon," "Camelot" and "My Fair Lady").

Set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the lavish production begins with a wraparound narration by Maurice Chevalier as Honore Lachaille, who introduces us to young Gigi, living with her doting grandmother (Hermione Gingold) and often visited by their friend Gaston (Louis Jourdan), who is Honore's nephew.


                      Hermione Gingold, Maurice Chevalier, 'Gigi'

Soon Gigi is sent to an aunt to be groomed as a courtesan, and in the process she grows up, much to Gaston's consternation as he is confronted by his own feelings, which have blossomed from friendship for a free-spirited girl to love for a cultured woman.

The film is colorful, and the set design and costuming are sumptuous, earning Oscars for art direction, cinematography and costume design.

Jourdan is very charming and Gingold is funny and likable, and a variety of supporting players also have their moments (Eva Gabor among them).

But it's Caron's film and she is utterly delightful at the center of it all, singing, dancing, a buoyant and alive tomboy who transforms comfortably into an adult in full bloom.


It must be said, however, that Chevalier, the sly old scene-stealer, really shines as the film's voice of wisdom, and he has two particularly memorable highlights, his solo with "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and a marvelous, hilarious duet with Gingold, "I Remember it Well."

"Gigi" will play at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 21) at the SCERA Center in Orem.