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 Gigi (1958).
Gigi, Vincente Minnelli’s second Best Picture winner sees him returning to Paris for another musical. Though, unlike the earlier An American in Paris, it won him the award for Best Director as well. It pales in comparison to his earlier effort and comparisons between the two are naturally drawn throughout. It maintains a sense of escapism with some fun musical numbers and even improves on the visuals in some ways with a new, though similar, style that shows Paris as more of a city than a storybook, while having fun humor throughout. Unfortunately, its stars don’t bring the charisma that Gene Kelly had and the great choreography is gone too, along with the stunning final sequence. Though Leslie Caron brings some charm to the film and Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier are amusing to behold, there’s little to make the film stand out. Add to that some things that didn’t age so well like the story being about a man who has known a girl her whole life deciding she is old enough to marry, opening and closing songs about little girls becoming desirable, and jokes congratulating a man for pushing a woman to a suicide attempt, and it just doesn’t hold the appeal for me that it did for moviegoers and the Academy when it dominated everywhere during its release.
The Real Best Picture:
The lineup that year was one of the weaker ones but Cat on a Hot Tin Roof takes it for me.