The Influence of Paris On Classic Hollywood Cinema

Hollywood in Paris
source: Paramount Pictures

Lise: Paris has ways of making people forget.

Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It’s too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way.

-Leslie Caron as Lise and Gene Kelly as Jerry Mulligan in An American In Paris (1951)

Paris.

Since it’s industrial revolution in the mid-1800s, the self-proclaimed,”City of Lights” has grown to represent a number of different things in the human psyche.

Whether it be the sound of the cobblestone streets beneath your feet as you walk beside the Seine River, the monotone “bonjour” as you stride into your favorite Boulangerie or the thousands of tourists who are jostling with each other in a race to see who can snap the most cliché selfie, Paris has been tourism hot-spot for decades.

In the eyes of the classic film fan, however, Paris holds a special connotation in our hearts.


Arguably starting with Humphrey Bogart‘s legendary quote during the climax of Casablanca, the City of Paris has been a staple in pop culture since the advent of the movie camera. It’s no wonder that many classic film directors have chosen “The City of Love” as the backdrop to several of their movies.

Paris in movies
“……French New Wave at it’s finest.”

So, what makes Paris so special?

In the classic film sense, it encapsulates everything that’s so extraordinary about that specific era in movie history.

Paris is the place where a lonely writer can turn into an international marvel, where an ex-GI can chase his dreams of being a painter, and where a homely librarian can turn into a top model; Paris is the place where dreams become reality.


There are several movies that embody this feeling.

An American in Paris, Funny Face, and Moulin Rouge! are some of the better examples of this phenomenon. Other films in this category include The Last Time I Saw Paris, Les Girls, and 1958’s Academy Award Winning film GigiEven the plot of light-hearted romantic comedies like Stanley Donen‘s Charade has a feeling of improbability and absurdity that could only to recreated in a city like Paris.

 

Paris in Hollywood 2
When good Americans die, they go to Paris.” 
― Oscar Wilde

In summation, Paris’ importance to classic Hollywood has been immense. Filmmakers, actors, actresses, producers, and screenwriters have all come together to help create a lore to this city that’s been so prevalent in our movie history.

The next time you happen to view a film that takes place in the ‘City of Love’, be sure to take a good look at its surroundings, you never know what magic Paris will conjure up this time.

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