Film and Television

Spotlight: George Gershwin and AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

The brilliant songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin is one of my favorite things…ever. These brothers contributed no small amount of pieces to the Great American Songbook, interpreted by the greatest vocalists and musicians on the planet and adapted by creative minds who were inspired by them. The most well known adaptation of the Gershwin catalog is the Hollywood classic An American in Paris, one of the best musical movies ever made (according to the American Film Institute) because of its Gershwin score and its stunning Gene Kelly dance sequences.

And this is Gene Kelly’s film, indeed. He called the shots on set. His character is the only well-developed one in the entire story. Some of the most memorable Gershwin tunes that feature in this movie include “By Strauss,” “I Got Rhythm,” “S’wonderful,” “Embraceable You,” and the American in Paris ballet. The ballet, in particular, is notorious for backing a nearly 20-minute dance dream that took a long time and cost a truckload of money to film. “I Got Rhythm” also appears in the Gershwin Broadway show Crazy for You. “By Strauss” and “S’wonderful” are featured on the recording of the newer Gershwin musical Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Now, An American in Paris itself is getting the stage treatment. After playing in an actual Parisian theatre, it’s reportedly transferring to Broadway next year. Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. Although I love the film and will likely buy tickets to the show, my concern for it is that it’s too soon for another Gershwin show to come to New York. (Nice Work has barely been closed for two years and is starting a tour in the fall, while the opera Porgy and Bess also played Broadway not more than three years ago.) Either way, I’m thrilled that the legendary work of the Gershwin boys has stood the test of time and will be brought to new audiences. What are your favorite Gershwin numbers, movies, and shows?

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