Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is An American in Paris (1951).
It may not mean much when I say this, given that I dislike most of the musicals that have taken home the award, but An American in Paris is by far the best musical to have won Best Picture*. Though not as good as Singin’ in the Rain, which Gene Kelly would go on to make the following year, cashing in on the success of An American in Paris, he still finds himself in a role that is perfectly suited to him which allows for his charm to seep through with plenty of time to steal the screen by singing, acting, and dancing like no one else. There are some narrative issues as well with a fairly standard plot being employed only to move between musical numbers, but the technical mastery shown is stupendous with beautiful artistry displayed in every set piece and song, and it makes it impossible not to be swept up at least in the stunning final dance sequence. No one ever moved like Gene Kelly, and I would be content to watch a musical of any quality just to see him dance.
*Since writing this, I have reevauluated and come to the conclusion My Fair Lady is the best musical to have won Best Picture and honestly Oliver! is about the same level. A couple of truly joyous films. The rest are so inferior though that they would be better served with a comparison to the films I made when I was ten years old than to these ones.
The Real Best Picture:
I enjoy An American in Paris and appreciate that at least one good musical won but it should’ve gone to A Streetcar Named Desire. STELLA!!!