Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 21
October 4, 1951
An American in Paris premieres

While director Vincente Minnelli and performer Gene Kelly were solid earners for MGM, their new film An American in Paris caused slight trepidation. For one thing, executives wondered whether the public could sit through a nearly 20-minute ballet section that bordered on the surreal (and cost the studios over $500,000 to make). The answer turned out to a resounding yes. The movie was not only a box office smash, but won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Arthur Freed, who oversaw the musical unit of MGM, initiated the project with only a title and a composer. He explained to Alan Jay Lerner, who was to write the script, that the film would be named (and about) An American in Paris with Gershwin music, especially his 1938 suite “An American in Paris.” The rest was dreamed up by Freed’s exceptionally talented team as they went along. Since they were unable to shoot in Paris, the designers created a magical copy in the MGM back lot. Freed picked Kelly as the lead, and worked closely with him and director Minnelli to create a ballet sequence that recreated Paris in the painterly styles of six of its most famous impressionistic and modernist painters (Raoul Dufy, Claude Renoir, Maurice Utrillo, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec). The high art touches were not lost on all. One MGM responded, “Am I wrong? It seems to me that I once saw some paintings on 57th Street that looked like certain sets in the ballet.”


More Flashbacks
Working Girl Dec. 21, 1988
Working Girl Opens

With Carly Simon's anthemic "Let the River Run" scoring Melanie Griffith's Monday-morning commute from Staten Island to Wall Street, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, which opened December 21, 1988, is an upbeat fantasia celebrating female empowerment, class mobility, and the underlying soundness of our financial system.

Read more »
December 21, 1988
Working Girl, a fable of money

Just days before Christmas, director Mike Nichols delivered Working Girl, a new brightly wrapped present of the American dream. If Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street showed the greed and cruelty behind that fueled America’s financial professionals, Nichols' Working Girl gave that same capitalist dream a positive––and feminist––spin. A downtown secretary (Melanie Griffith) steals the identity of her investment banker boss (Sigourney Weaver) in order to sell a sure-fire marketing idea. But rather than being a political fable of the Man––er, Woman––keeping the hero down, like the 1980 feminist comedy Nine to Five, Working Girl was a fable of class mobility. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin commented, "One of the many things that mark Working Girl as an 80's creation is its way of regarding business and sex as almost interchangeable pursuits and suggesting that life's greatest happiness can be achieved by combining the two," In some ways, the film serves as a counterpoint to Pretty Woman, the 1990 film that should have perhaps switched titles with Nichols' comedy. The film proved a feelgood hit, with the Carly Simon anthem "Let the River Run" going on to win the Academy Award for Best Song in 1989. Significantly, the original title to this stirring track was “The Wall Street Hymn.” While the big hair to big money story hit box office gold, the 1990 TV sitcom spun from the story was fired soon after its broadcast premiere.

Read more »