Name Occurs Before Title
Print Viewed By AFI
New York opening: 15 May 1958; Los Angeles opening: 10 Jul 1958
mid-Jul--late Oct 1957; retakes 10 Feb--20 Feb 1958
Duration (in mins):
Duration (in feet):
Duration (in reels):
Print this page
Display Movie Summary
(Charles, the butler)
Monique Van Vooren
In 1900 Paris, Honoré Lachaille, elderly connoisseur of beauty and fashion, strolls through the Bois de Bologne, appreciating the splendor of youth personified by spirited school girl Gigi Alvarez. Later, Honoré meets his elegant nephew Gaston, the wealthy heir to a sugar empire, who declares his weariness at being the center of Paris society. To Honoré’s surprise, Gaston admits the only place that he can relax is at the modest flat of Honoré ‘s former paramour, Mme. Alvarez, Gigi’s grandmother and guardian. Meanwhile, at her weekly etiquette lessons with her regal great-aunt Alicia, Gigi struggles to stifle her natural buoyancy while learning about the intricacies of dining. When Gigi laments that she is never allowed to accept invitations and has no friends, Alicia explains that she is not to mingle with ordinary people who live ordinary lives. Gigi concedes she is aware that the women in her family are unusual in that they never marry, but remains puzzled by it. Alicia then advises Gigi of the importance of recognizing expensive jewelry and cautions her never to accept second-rate baubles or men. After showing Gigi how to distinguish fine cigars, Alicia reminds her niece that everything she is learning has a purpose and admonishes her to remember that love is an art. Confused about what eating, jewelry and tobacco have to do with art, Gigi heads home and runs into Gaston, who has been visiting Mme. Alvarez. Delighted by Gigi’s guileless nature, Gaston invites her for a glasé at the skating rink, where his current lover, Liane d’Exelmans, is taking skating lessons. Gigi startles Gaston when she declares that she finds Liane common and coarse. That evening while dining with Liane and Honoré at Maxim’s restaurant, Gaston realizes that despite Liane’s effusive attentions, her thoughts are elsewhere. The next morning Gaston tells Honoré that he is deeply insulted to have learned from private detectives that Liane is secretly seeing her skating instructor. When Gaston hints that he will end his relationship with Liane through a note, Honoré insists that the break-up must be in keeping with Gaston’s stylish reputation. Taking Gaston’s brand new automobile, the two men follow Liane to Honfleur where Gaston pays the skating instructor to leave Liane, then rebukes her in a restaurant and declares their association over. Honoré then encourages Gaston to attend all of the upcoming fashionable parties in order to show that the break-up has had no effect on him. Gigi and her grandmother follow Gaston’s subsequent revelries through the society newspaper columns and several weeks pass before he visits them again. Arriving one evening bearing chocolates and champagne, Gaston reveals that he will soon be going to Trouville-by-the-Sea. After Mme. Alvarez convinces Gaston to pass up a party with two hundred guests at the Eiffel Tower, Gigi offers to play cards with him and bets that if Gaston loses he must take her and her grandmother to Trouville. When Gigi wins the game, Gaston gallantly agrees to fulfill his part of the wager, despite Mme. Alvarez’s protests, and admits that he has more fun with Gigi than anyone else. At Trouville, Gaston accompanies the exuberant Gigi on the beach, playing tennis and riding burros. Honoré, who has also come to the seaside, is startled to find Mme. Alvarez and the two reminisce about their romantic past. Upon returning to Paris, Mme. Alvarez is summoned by Alicia, who scolds her for accepting Gaston’s invitation to Trouville when Gigi has not been properly prepared. Aghast at the suggestion that Gigi is old enough to be groomed for a romantic alliance with Gaston, Mme. Alvarez nevertheless reluctantly accepts her sister’s advice. While Gaston is away resting in Monte Carlo, Gigi visits Alicia’s daily, but her great-aunt is discouraged that Gigi remains too immature to appreciate her lessons. Although Gigi is ill at ease in the flattering gowns purchased for her by Alicia, when Gaston returns she tries one on for him. Gaston is so outraged by Gigi’s unexpected grown-up transformation that he storms out of the flat, only to return moments later to ask Gigi to tea at the swank Reservoir club. Mme. Alvarez forbids it, and in private tells Gaston that if Gigi is to be seen in society spots with him, they must have a formal understanding. Infuriated by the idea, Gaston departs, angrily walking the streets berating Gigi as a mere child until he realizes that she is indeed becoming a young lady. Gaston returns to the Alvarez flat and presents an offer to Mme. Alvarez, who in turn seeks approval from Alicia. After Alicia consents to the terms for Gaston to formally take up with Gigi, the women agree that for the time being Gigi will not be told of the arrangement. Later, Gaston drops by the flat with flowers for Gigi and an invitation to dinner. When Gaston attempts to explain the change in their relationship to Gigi, he is stunned when she flatly refuses him. Gigi reveals that she understands that she is now to be Gaston’s lover and she is also aware that when he becomes tired of her she will be expected to go on to another man. Gigi concludes that it is not in her nature to live this way. Shocked at her frankness, Gaston is embarrassed, but Gigi points out that he was not embarrassed to make the arrangements for her to become his mistress with Mme. Alvarez. Gigi then confesses her wish that she and Gaston could go on as they have in the past, but Gaston declares they cannot because he loves her. Stunned, Gigi berates him for wanting her as a mistress if he truly cares for her and flees to her room. Confused and angry, Gaston scolds Mme. Alvarez for bringing Gigi up improperly and departs. While Gaston meets with Honoré to complain about the situation, Mme. Alvarez telephones Alicia with the news. Horrified, Alicia leaves her apartment for the first time in years to come to her sister’s flat. The women are surprised when Gaston arrives, having received a note from Gigi. To Alicia’s relief, Gigi tells Gaston that she would rather be unhappy with him than without him and agrees to the arrangement. Although unsure about the undertaking, Gigi, beautifully dressed, accompanies Gaston to join the society crowd at Maxim’s. Using all of Alicia’s tips, Gigi plays the perfect companion, which unsettles Gaston, who nevertheless presents her with a beautiful emerald bracelet. When Honoré congratulates Gaston for finding so young a companion who will keep him happy for many months, Gaston abruptly takes Gigi home without a word. Gaston then walks the streets of Paris in a state on confusion until he comes to a sudden realization and, returning to the flat, asks Mme. Alvarez for the honor of Gigi’s hand in marriage.
Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.
An Arthur Freed Production
(Dir and staging of number "The Night They Invented Champagne")
(2d asst dir)
Alan Jay Lerner
(Dir of photog)
(Asst cam op)
W. J. Shanks
C. E. Rogers
William A. Horning
(2d prop man)
(Mus supv and cond)
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
(Main title illustrations from drawings by)
David Stone Martin
(Unit mgr/Asst to prod)
(Singing voice double for Leslie Caron)
Charles K. Hagedon
"Thank Heaven for Little Girls," "It's a Bore," "The Parisians," "Gossip," "She Is Not Thinking of Me," "The Night They Invented Champagne," "I Remember It Well," "Gaston's Soliloquy," "Gigi," "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" and "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe.
Alan Jay Lerner
Based on the novelette
by Colette (Paris, 1945).
Loew's Inc. & Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.
Westrex Recording System and Perspecta Sound
Ice skaters and ice skating
Maxim's (Paris, France)
Paris (France)--Bois de Boulogne
The working title of the film was
. The following written acknowledgment appears in the onscreen credits: “We gratefully acknowledge the use of the gardens and parks of Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André of Paris, Maxim’s, Carrere’s Auberge de la Moutiere, Palace de Glace with special appreciation for permission to photograph interiors.” Cecil Beaton’s onscreen credit reads: “Costumes, scenery and production design by Cecil Beaton.” After the opening credits, Maurice Chevalier as the character “Honoré Lachaille” directly addresses the camera while strolling through the Bois de Bologne in Paris. After introducing himself as a happily unmarried older man, he states that although many people do marry, there are others who choose not to, then expounds the joy of watching little girls grow up.
was based on the 1945 novelette by renowned French writer, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873--1954), who published under the name Colette. A 1959
article indicates that Colette based the story on a conversation she overheard in 1914 Paris between two women discussing their astonishment at a young girl winning a marriage proposal from a wealthy older man after refusing to become his mistress. The article adds that Colette described another influence as the 1926 marriage of a budding star ballerina, the free-spirited and youthful Yola Henriquez, to the much older, wealthy and fashionable Henri Letellier.
According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in Apr 1950, Murray O’Hanlon of Spalter International Pictures in New York inquired about the possibility of
being adapted to the American screen. PCA head Joseph Breen reviewed the 1948 French film based on Colette’s work, directed by Jacqueline Audy and starring Daniele Delorme as “Gigi” and Frank Villard as “Gaston.” Breen responded that the basic story was in direct violation of the Production Code and could not be approved. Breen went on to state: “The problem is so basic to the picture that we cannot suggest any eliminations which might bring it into conformity with the Code.” In 1951 American screenwriter and playwright Anita Loos adapted Colette’s novelette into a play. Upon seeing Audrey Hepburn filming a small role in the 1951 French film,
Nous irons de Monte Carlo
, Colette contacted Loos to recommend Hepburn for the starring role in the Broadway production. The play opened at the Fulton Theatre in New York City on 24 Nov 1951 with Hepburn as Gigi, Michael Evans as Gaston and Josephine Brown as “Mme. Alvarez.”
Correspondence in the PCA file dated Jul 1952, from screenwriter and novelist Niven Busch, presents his outline of how to deal with the inherent problems of telling a story about a family of courtesans. An Oct 1952 internal memo from Geoffrey Shurlock indicates that Busch’s proposed treatment of
would eliminate its objectionable elements and would likely be acceptable to the PCA. There is no further information that Busch proceeded with the project.
According to correspondence in the M-G-M Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, in Dec 1951 Joe Fields, who along with Robert and Raymond Hackims held the film rights to
, hoped to interest producer Arthur Freed in the property. Fields pitched the idea to M-G-M production head Dore Schary and suggested casting Leslie Caron, who had just appeared in the studio's
An American in Paris
(see above) and who subsequently appeared in the 1956 London production of Loos’s play. Freed screened the 1948 French film but did not did not see the play with Hepburn until 1953. The PCA file indicates that in Jan 1955 Freed seriously began to grapple with the censorship difficulties of
. In Mar 1955 the PCA’s Robert Vogel sent Freed a list the objectionable elements in the story: “All the characters in the story participate, or did participate, or intend to participate, in a man-mistress relationship. The heroine is deliberately trained to enter such a relationship …shown in detail and with much sympathy. …(T)he story indicates that such low relationships are commonly accepted practices. …(N)ever is there the slightest indication that such relationships are sinful.” By the end of 1955 Freed had satisfied the PCA that the a screenplay could be written emphasizing Gigi’s rejection of the way of life of a courtesan.
In his autobiography (entitled
I Remember It Well
from the song sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in
), Minnelli noted that the French film version provided an “adequate” story, but he found the play “too farcically played.” Freed and Minnelli approached Alan Jay Lerner and partner Frederick Loewe, who had just completed the Broadway musical
My Fair Lady
, about creating a musical around the Colette story, and the pair agreed. By 1957 Lerner had fashioned a script that was accepted by the PCA and had introduced changes from the novelette and the play, both of which end with Gigi startling her mother and aunt by skillfully manipulating Gaston into proposing. The character of “Honoré Lachaille” does not exist in the Loos play and an unnamed charming older society figure once involved with Gigi's grandmother, Mme. Alvarez, is only suggested in the novelette. The French film introduced Gaston’s uncle Honoré and placed Gigi’s mother in the background, details retained by Lerner.
Minnelli indicated in his autobiography that he hoped to lure Ina Claire out of retirement to play “Aunt Alicia,” but when she refused, Beaton (who had also worked on
My Fair Lady
) suggested Isabel Jeans. A modern source relates that Freed also considered Gladys Cooper for the role. Chevallier was always considered for the role of Honoré. Modern sources indicate that Lerner considered Dirk Bogarde for the role of Gaston, but the actor was unavailable. When Louis Jourdan was cast in the role, Lerner and Loewe arranged his songs to be delivered in the semi-spoken manner used by Rex Harrison in
My Fair Lady
The film was shot on location in Paris at many of the famous locations seen in the film including the Bois de Boulogne, the Palais de Glace, Maxim’s restaurant and the Musée Jacquemart-André, which was used as Gaston’s apartment. The scenes in Trouville by-the-sea were shot in Venice, California. Additional scenes and re-takes were shot at M-G-M Studios in Culver City, CA. Modern sources indicate that long-time M-G-M cinematographer Ray June photographed the re-takes. A
news item indicates that Cesare Danova was tested for a role. An Aug 1957
item adds Richard Winckler to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The publicity and artwork for the film featured Beaton’s distinctive signature logo of the film’s title.
According to a modern source, during post-production editor Adrienne Fazan requested assistance for looping from long-time M-G-M editor Margaret Booth, but Booth became involved in overseeing editing of the entire picture. The same source quotes Fazan as claiming that Booth’s severe cuts removed all the story’s warmth from the film. A 20 Jan 1958 preview in Santa Barbara was described by Lerner as “a disaster.” Both Lerner and Loewe insisted the picture was “not the film we wrote,” considering it too long and too slow. Despite the success of a later preview in Pomona, the writers remained unhappy and the studio approved retakes of several songs by Jourdan and Caron.
Freed arranged for a grand premiere at New York City’s Royale Theatre. Reviews praised the film while noting its similarities to
My Fair Lady
, with the
critic commenting that “Messrs. Lerner, Loewe and Beaton have stolen
from themselves.” The film went on to great success and is recognized by many film historians as the last of the great M-G-M musicals.
set a new Academy Award record by winning in all nine categories for which it was nominated (previous record holders winning eight awards were
Gone With the Wind
, 1939 [please see
AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40
From Here to Eternity
, 1953 [see above] and
On the Waterfront
, 1954 [see below] including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Music, Best Song (“Gigi”), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Film Editing.
1 Jul 58
pp. 424-25, 440, 442.
19 May 1958.
26 May 1958.
15 May 58
15 May 58
13 Feb 1957
5 Mar 1957
29 Apr 1957
3 Jul 1957
2 Aug 1957
8 Aug 1957
25 Oct 1957
7 Feb 1958
15 May 58
Los Angeles Examiner
19 Nov 1955
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 May 58
New York Times
16 May 58
21 May 58
Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.