New Thing: Watch ‘An American In Paris’

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try; it’s part of how I live my life on purpose. Some of these new things are exciting, many are terribly mundane.

My 14-year-old self loooooved musicals. Like, sing-into-my-hairbrush, audition-for-everything loved.
RENT? I saw it live.
Gypsy? I can still sing the Caroline The Cow song from memory.
I had big ol’ roles in my high school’s productions of The Wizard of Oz and The Secret Garden and recreated that fork-as-a-comb scene from The Little Mermaid, oh, always.
But as I got older – and a bit more cynical – all that singing and dancing lost a tiny bit of its luster. I was annoyed by songs that didn’t seem to fit into the plot and I was fairly sure gang turf wars weren’t solved by dance offs. I still loved Pitch Perfect and Empire … but not quite as much as I would have circa 1997.
So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I checked out An American In Paris from my library. Would I be able to suspend my So Adult disbelief and eye rolls and just enjoy the costumes and dancing and fluttering eyelashes?
An American In Paris centers on Jerry Mulligan, an ex-GI who has stayed in Paris post-war to paint. He and his French friend Henri inadvertently fall for the same perfume store clerk, a shockingly young woman name Lise. Add to this a rich, ‘older woman’ who wants to ‘sponsor’ Jerry’s work and hijinks, obviously, ensue.
Some commentary, in bullet point form: 
* Gene Kelly dances with such joy I’m convinced he’d be tappity tapping around flower markets with little French children even if he weren’t a famous movie star. It was all I could do not to google ‘adult tap classes’ ten minutes into watching this.* Gene Kelly was only 5’7″! His ‘older woman sponsor’ was played by Nina Foch – who was 5’9″ … daring casting for the day, no?* Women of the 1950s: HOW U GET UR WAIST SO SMALL? Really and truly, how did you do that? I mean, it’s unlikely that I’d actually do whatever you did because I like my comfy, stretchy yoga pants, but I’m just saying: I’m impressed.

* Let’s take a moment to roll our eyes and make gagging noises that the age difference between the male characters and the female character they’re both pursuing is 19 years. Gross, guys.

* The tiny houses we currently love don’t have a thing on Jerry’s studio apartment. Note to self: sleep on a cot that’s on pulleys.

* Henri is supposedly an ‘aging cabaret singer’ but the actor was actually three years younger than Gene Kelly. Enter: distinguished graying at the temples.

How do I know all this? Because my friends and I googled it between brie and nut pate. Apparently I can’t completely lose myself in musicals anymore.

How do you feel about musicals? Did you love them – do you still? What are your favorites?

P.S. Other well-known movies I watched for the first time: Casablanca (pretty good) and The Godfather (really good!)

photos by fanpop // classic hollywood central // the red list // daley screening 

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  1. Kelly

    Love that this was on your list of new things. Reminds me that new things don't have to be big & crazy things! Also, your HS roles sound much better than mine, as get this—I was the rear of Caroline the Cow!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      No way! Well, at least it's a fantastic song? 😉

  2. Molly Mogren Katt

    I just watched the Godfather for the first time a few weeks ago. SO GOOD! How'd I make it to 32 without seeing it? I've been missing so many pop culture references and not even knowing it! I've never seen Citizen Kane either (though the score was my music when I used to be a competitive figure skater back in the day. I can't believe I used to do that!).

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      1. I had no idea you were a competitive skater! SO COOL.

      2. I watched Citizen Kane in college and found it pretty 'meh.' But maybe I need to try again as an adult?

  3. Vanessa

    "* Women of the 1950s: HOW U GET UR WAIST SO SMALL? Really and truly, how did you do that? I mean, it's unlikely that I'd actually do whatever you did because I like my comfy, stretchy yoga pants, but I'm just saying: I'm impressed."

    Girdles! The corset was out and the girdle was in. Also everything was high waisted so that helps.

    But ugh, girdles. When I was 12, I started my period and my mom (born in 1940, so she was in her 60s in the 1990s) made me wear a girdle to "keep my pad in place". Thankfully, one of my older sisters came to my rescue and reminded my mom that kotex now had a sticky back so they wouldn't "float around".

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Mom! Gosh! I imagine being a 12 year old in a girdle was …. less than fun 😉

  4. Manisha

    I always say that if I could sing, my life would be a musical! But do I watch any musicals these days? Not so much the grown-up ones but there is plenty of children's shows I get into. I suppose now I have to put this on my list of movies to watch. Thanks!

  5. Amanda

    Gene Kelly musicals seem to be be my favorite. He truly does dance with such joy. Also, when I saw 'The Godfather' for the first time, I kept yelling at the TV, "WHY ISN'T ANYONE CALLING THE PARAMEDICS?!?!?!" then had to remember that cell phones didn't exist…on multiple occasions.

  6. Stacia Baskin

    I still completely adore musicals, but I had a hard time with An American in Paris. I would suggest you don't give up!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Well, I'm TOTALLY going to see Pitch Perfect II in the theater. So. 😉

  7. Amy Serbu

    I've always loved this movie. We all have a such a unique rythym and it reminds me of that!

  8. Grainne

    The last musical I saw was Into The Woods, not enough joy or dancing to rate in my book and lyrically?! Let me tell you, it is NOT socially acceptable to be walking around muttering "into the woods, into the woods, I want a child" under your breath.

  9. Jess

    Love, love, LOVE musicals. I loved American in Paris but some of my real favorites are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Flower Drum Song. Also Oklahoma and The Music Man, and White Christmas, and and and …
    But I also love the more modern ones, like Chicago, RENT, Rock of Ages, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. 🙂

  10. Angie

    I loooooove musicals and think that gang warfare should be solved with dance offs.

  11. vanessa

    Generally speaking, I don't like musicals anymore. Wicked? Les Miserables? Loved them as novels. Not going to see people sing the plot. &I've never really found Broadway plays appealing. There's all these dance numbers that don't make sense & oh-my-god can you express your feelings without a melody!?

    That being said, I am utterly obsessed with The Sound of Music. My parents own it on VHS. I'm surprised it's in working condition, considering how many times I played it. I still watch that exact tape once a year. I mean, come on, Julie Andrews? The Alps? A big, happy, singing family that flee from the Nazis?

    And I'm 1/4 Austrian, so like, I have to love it, right? I nearly died from joy during this year's Oscars. Lady Gaga beautifully preforming a medley from the musical, looking down right ethereal was heaven enough. I thought "The only thing that could make it better would be… OMG it's Julie Andrews! She's on stage! Giving cheek kisses to Gaga!"

    But I gotta say, Singing in the Rain is solid. I once re-enacted Gene Kelly swinging around a lamp post (a stop sign) to lighten the mood of a disastrous moving endeavor. &I didn't truly get Barbara Streisand until I watched Funny Girl. At 16, it was like confirmation that I could do the same things as the other prettier girls. Or, rather, that I was the pretty girl.

  12. Chrystina

    Believe it or not I actually just wrote a guest post for The Good Groupie that will be released next week on 5 musicals to start with if you don't like musicals (or 6 reasons why you should watch musicals even if they're not your thing – I'm not sure which title we decided on yet). I'll post the link when I have it (if I remember, I hope I remember). Anyway, I think the key is to find more cynical musicals then 🙂 – two of the ones on my list are Rent (which you've already seen) – and there's nothing to idealistic in there. Also, Spring Awakening made the list as well. There are definitely some classics that are a little bit "well pin a rose on your nose" (to quote Stephanie Judith Tanner), but there are definitely some good ones and songs out there for those who don't want to be quite as… musicaly.

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