Study Guide

An American in Paris Setting

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Paris, Circa 1951

Pop quiz: what's the most romantic city in the world? If you said Sarajevo, Seoul, or Scranton, Pennsylvania, think again. Also, maybe try checking out a travel website or two before your next vacation.

For most starry-eyed dreamers, Paris is the most romantic city in the world. The architecture! The café culture! The accents! The French capital is the perfect backdrop for Jerry Mulligan's amorous adventures through the 1950s art scene. But you don't have to take our word for it. Here's what film critic Kate Cameron has to say about things:

An American in Paris…embodies so much of the color, atmosphere, and spirit of the city on the Seine that to anyone who loves the town it is a dream come true. All the romantic elements of Paris are rolled into one gorgeous Technicolor film for our delight. (Source)

In fact, the movie does such a good job of capturing the playful, dreamy quality of Paris that it's almost hard to believe that, aside from the travelogue photos that open the film and a couple of longshots of landmarks, not a second of it was actually filmed there (source).

Strange but true, Shmoopers: 99% of the "Paris" we see in the film was shot on a Hollywood soundstage, right here in the U.S. of A. Whether Jerry and Lise are dancing along the River Seine or through a series of vivid French paintings, each setting is the product of director Vincente Minnelli's imagination and his collection of art books (source).

It's fitting, then, that the Paris in An American in Paris has a storybook quality to it. The city has an energetic, almost enchanted atmosphere. It creates a mood where anything seems possible and everything's full of excitement, whether you're a struggling artist, a wealthy socialite, or a French kid hungry for American bubblegum. The movie's Paris setting is so gosh darn magical that it makes even a messy, treacherous, thoroughly twisted love triangle seem downright romantic. In short, An American in Paris is a love letter to the City of Light.

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