Monsieur, soon it will be springtime in Paris. The children will be dancing in the Bois de Boulogne; men with tiny carts will be selling marrons chauds in the streets, and everywhere young couples will be in each other’s arms, kissing. Have pity on a man who only breathes, lives, and loves when he’s in Paris!.
For me, Doris Day has always been a sort of a joy which I take in small doses. Why small doses? Well, for no particular reason, really. I remember in the years when I was just discovering classic cinema, Ms Day was one of the first actresses I found out about, and I had a phase where I was slightly obsessed with her and everything 50s and 60s… good times. However, as it always happens, my interests have shifted towards different movie eras and other stars have occupied my attention… But, every once in a while it feels good to go back to my cinematic “roots” and watch a sweet 1950s comedy (there is something especially heartwarming about comedies from that particular decade – do you also feel that way?)
All of this to say: even though I’ve only seen a couple of Doris films so far, the ones I have seen have mostly been delightful. And in honor of what would have been Ms Day’s 99th birthday, I have picked the oportunity to watch April in Paris, which has been on my mental list, I think, for quite a while now. April in Paris was directed by David Butler (Tea for Two, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, It’s a Great Feeling) and boasts a cast of Doris Day, Ray Bolger, Eve Miller and Claude Dauphin amongst others. The costumes were designed by Leah Rhodes and the title song was written by Yip Harburg and composed by Vernon Duke. With that said, I must admit that I enjoyed some of the other songs in the film more (because this is a musical we’re talking about, there’s a lot of singing!). I usually don’t pay enough attention to music in movies, but this one has some really good numbers. My personal favorites are I’m Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight (listen to it & you dont have to drink coffee in the morning) and That’s What Makes Paris Paree.
Obviously, I’m not one to write thoughtful and detailed reviews on the film’s plot and quality, as much as I enjoy reading them. I’ll just scratch the surface by saying what I loved about this film. Firstly, to give you an idea of the plot: thanks to a wrongly addressed letter meant for Ethel Barrymore, a chorus girl Ethel “Dynamite” Jackson gets invited to travel to Paris to represent the American theatre. Throw in a clumsy politician and his ambitious fiancée, a romance and a delightful Frenchman named Philippe Fouquet, a bon-vivant who seems to be the representative of every stereotype about France. I say ”delightful” and I stand by that, as this guy, played by Claude Dauphin, is easily the funniest character in the film. We are introduced to him as he’s trying to get some money from the US government to transport him back to France, but his role becomes more significant as he goes on to play Ethel’s fake love interest and attemtps to play Cupid for the two main characters. He also acts as a messenger between the characters and the audience, thus breaking the fourth wall. There is even a little plot twist related to him at the end of the film – very sweet.
As for the dancing sequences, one of the most memorable ones has to be the one where Bolger’s character, S. Winthrop Putnam, imagines he’s the US president and does a ridiculous dance around his office – where he is joined by the portraits of Lincoln and George Washington… it’s so silly and cute. And the imagined presidential speech he gives just before he bursts into dance is so cringeworthy it’s funny. And of course, there is the scene in the ship’s kitchen, where they all dance around the table and Winthrop once again makes a fool of himself (albeit a fool with admirable dancing skills). Honestly, I didn’t quite like Bolger’s character here. He doesn’t appear to be very smart and can be just as over-ambitious and greedy as his fiancée (who he’s dating just because she’s the daughter of his boss and can help him advance in business – yikes).Then there’s Winthrop’s fiancée, Marcia, who personifies the stereotype of an annoying fiancée… but it’s so obvious that you’re supposed to hate her that you can’t really hate her too much. Besides, I think that Eve Miller plays this part perfectly… I love her snobbish facial expressions and her pecking at Ethel is hilarious to watch. There’s even a little cat fight scene between Marcia and Ethel – – I generally cringe so hard at these types of scenes, but this one is kind of funny. You see, I had to laugh when Ethel attempts to calm herself down by counting to ten after Marcia has insulted her, but before reaching ten she leans over Winthrop and slaps Marcia… I guess it’s cheap humour, but here it serves to show off Ethel’s fiery character. She’s the kind of girl who knows what she deserves and won’t take any nonsense from anyone.
Of course, the costumes deserve some attention as well. I tried to take as many pictures of different outfits as I could, hence the blurry quality of some screencaps (I do apologize!). The costumes just compliment the story nicely: notice Marcia’s more mature and posh outfits, often including fur – you can tell she’s trying so hard to be a lady. Ethel’s outfits in contrast seem more playful and romantic. (By the way, I had no idea that Leah Rhodes also designed costumes for The Big Sleep – I loved the clothes in that film!)
Summing up, April in Paris provides some delightful escapism. It’s the kind of a film to get immersed in and forget about everything else for about an hour and half. And let’s face it – a little bit of escapism never hurted anyone. So unleash your inner romantic, sit back, and enjoy your vicarious flight to Doris Day’s Paris. Especially suitable now that it is actually April.
This is my contribution to the Fifth Annual Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Thanks again to Michaela for hosting this blogathon! Check out all of the other entries here.