Challenge Week 26: April in Paris

Naomi and I share a lot of the same taste, particularly when it comes to classic Hollywood – and musicals! I figured she’d try to give me something in that area, and I was right, but she had to dig through my seen and unseen lists for a while to do it!

This is one I don’t know how I missed growing up – I watched a ton of musicals, and nearly every Doris Day musical there was. I’d certainly heard of this one, but I think the idea of Ray Bolger as a leading man put me off a bit, because…I mean…the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz as a lead? And you know what, he did fine. He may not be traditionally handsome, but he’s confident and holds the screen anyway.

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Bolger is Sam Putnam, a secretary to a secretary to a secretary in Washington D.C., neck-deep in planning a major expo in Paris. Imagine his consternation when he realizes he accidentally invited Ethel Jackson, a chorus girl, to represent the American stage at the expo rather than Ethel Barrymore! He goes to break the news to Ethel “Dynamite” Jackson (Doris Day, of course), which breaks her heart, as she was ecstatic about the trip. But word of the invitation has gotten around and Sam is being hailed for his progressive thinking at inviting an unknown chorus girl rather than a more obvious star, and he’s got to reinvite her. Lots more hijinks occur, largely involving Sam and Ethel getting married aboard the ship to Paris, only not, because a busboy was impersonating the captain.

This is all a slight bit of colorful fluff, but here’s the thing. This exact kind of fluff is my comfort food. It’s what I grew up watching as a kid, and I’ve never lost my love for it, no matter how much I try to tell myself I’m too sophisticated for it, or my film tastes have matured, or whatever bunk of the week I’m trying to pawn off to bolster my film credentials. I am not, and they have not – I love this stuff, and because I watched so much of it as a kid, it’s increasingly rare that I’m able to watch something like this that I haven’t seen before.

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I don’t know that this one will stick with me more than most of the other musicals that studios churned out in the 1940s-1950s (the songs didn’t make a huge impression on me, except for the duet between Ethel and Philippe “That’s What Makes Paris Paris”, which isn’t a great sign for the film’s longevity), but it did have some things that I thought were very interesting for the time period. For one thing, the French guy Phillipe (Claude Dauphin) breaks the fourth wall to talk to us about what’s going on in the story. This is very unusual in the 1950s, and previously I’d thought it was mostly done in Looney Tunes!

Plus, as you can imagine with the married/not married plot, there’s a lot of innuendo, some of which I have no idea how got past the Production Code – like “shall we allow this young lady to return to America unconjugated?” They also spend quite a decent chunk of the movie after the wedding trying to find a place to sleep together. Things like this point very clearly to Doris Day’s shift in the late 1950s to sex comedies rather than musicals, but I wasn’t expecting to find it in this phase of her career.

Like I said, I don’t know if this will hold its ranking or not, especially as my Flickchart rerank project gets down to other similar films that I currently have underranked, but I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to sit down with something that I found so comfortable, enjoyable, and delightful. I’ve been quite busy and overscheduled the past few weeks, and I needed this. Thanks, Naomi!

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Stats and stuff…

1952, USA
directed by David Butler, written by Jack Rose and Melville Shavelson
starring Doris Day, Ray Bolger, Claude Dauphin

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how April in Paris entered my chart:

April in Paris > Sharps and Flats
April in Paris > The Graduate
April in Paris < Clueless
April in Paris < Drop Dead Gorgeous
April in Paris < Rope
April in Paris < Mon oncle Antoine
April in Paris < My Winnipeg
April in Paris < Monsters
April in Paris > Se7en
April in Paris > Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
April in Paris < Serenity

Final #907 out of 3671 films on my chart (75%)

It is now my #2 David Butler film, my #2 Doris Day film (that will not last my rerank project), my #3 Ray Bolger film, my #36 Musical Comedy, my #27 Musical Romance, and my #9 film of 1952.

April in Paris was recommended by Naomi Laeuchli, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.

A few more screenshots…

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