Sunday, April 24, 2016

12 Paris Locations that Fans of the Classic "Gigi" Won't Want to Miss

Gigi and Gaston catch everyone's eyes as they enter world-famous Maxim's

Today's Dreaming of France post is a reprise of my longest and most popular Dreaming of France entry. A trip through the Parisian locations used in the classic film Gigi, based on the book by Colette, and one of my favorite film classics. Originally published 3/30/2015

"Gigli?" my son asks, wondering why I'd be at all interested in the Ben Affleck, J-Lo disaster, the epitome of a bad romance, made even worse because its epic failure has been immortalized on film.

"No! Not Gigli. Gigi. Very famous movie musical? Takes place in Paris during the Belle Epoque? Won 9 Oscars? Starred Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan? Vincent Minelli directed?"

"Hmmm" he nods, a shrugging respect for the director, meaning maybe he'll watch it with me one day especially as he's also curious about the Belle Epoque and wouldn't mind going back to Paris and getting a good look at Maxim's for himself.

So, I wager, would some of you. Or if you've just returned from Paris, I imagine you're ready to turn around and go right back to the city of lights. Recently when I shared some clips from Gigi, along with the vintage trailer, Linda, a new reader—a new voice in the comment section anyway—got to thinking about the film locations.
"One of my favourite films ever. I loved the scenes in Paris in the movie too and, even now, try to guess where they are, especially when Gaston is singing and realising that he is in love with Gigi."
I decided it would be 'fun' to try to track down some of the locations. Fun! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. First I re-watched Gigi, which is a minute shy of 2 hours, if you watch it start to finish, no bathroom breaks. Except that I watched it and paused it at every key location. And then, not to be too much of a martyr about it, I hunted down the locations using imdb info and whatever I could glean on google and found pictures to post here for you. I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it took me but it was more than a couple of hours. Here ya go, Linda—and my friends playing along at the Dreaming of France meme—this one's for you ... hold on to your hats; it's a long one.

                                                          #1: The Bois du BoulogneDo you have a picture of yourself at the Bois du Boulogne or any of the Paris locations seen in Gigi? We'd love to see them! Send your photos to me and I'll make a space just for your Gigi pix!


Let's start at the very beginning ... Gigi opens with Honore Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) standing in the famed Bois du Boulogne watching all the girls go by. The year is 1900 and the images look like they're straight out of a painting by one of the impressionists. I'd say George Seurat except it's not Sunday, and it's the wrong park and Seurat's not actually an impressionist, he's a Neo-Impressionist. So. Still, the Bois du Boulogne, one of France's most famous parks, was a place to take a stroll or carriage ride along the gravel path, or to row a boat; it was a place to see and be seen. There is still sitting and strolling and rowing, but things look a bit more casual now. 



After Chevalier breaks out into "Thank Heavens for Little Girls" which yes, sounds absolutely creepy now, to our jaded ears, but sounded like your basic sweet old gramps back in 1958, we meet Gigi (Leslie Caron) who looks for all the world like Madeline, our favorite French schoolgirl. 

We follow the playful young filly as she runs from the park and dashes up the steps to the apartment where she lives with her grandmama, 'Mamita' Alvarez played by Hermione Gingold. 


While she is heard, but never seen, Gigi's mother lives there too, a singer with the Opera Comique. Mamita clearly regards her as a failure and hopes for a different life for Gigi. Not a lot of options, you may recall, for young women at the turn of the century. And a good man is hard to find.

Cour de Commerce St. Andre/ Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

Where is that charming little apartment where Gigi lives? I'm taking the lead from Fodors, their guide advises to make your way to the prettiest nook on the Left Bank, the Cour de Commerce St. Andre (above).

#2:  Cour de Rohan courtyard, where Gigi lives with her grandmother and mother

Once you've made your way to the little passageway, walk just pass the 12th century turret in the wall, and you'll find a gate that leads to "Paris' most beautiful cul-de-sac, the 17th century Cour de Rohan courtyard—if the gate is open you'll recognize the setting used for Chez Mamita in Vincent Minelli's Gigi film. Linking Bd. St. Germaine and Rue St. Andres des Artes , Rue St. Germaine de Pres, 75006, Station Odeon." You're there!

#3:    29 Avenue Rapp where Aunt Alicia lives

After a visit with Grandmama, Gigi is off to see Aunt Alicia for her weekly lesson in the art of catching the right man. Emanuel Levy in his book Vincente Minelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer  tells us Aunt Alicia lives at Avenue Rapp; above is shot of Gigi going into the doorway. We barely get a glimpse but I did some deep digging and discovered that it's #29,  in the gorgeous example of Art Nouveau built in 1901 by architect Jules Lavirotte. The building features a scandalous Adam and Eve sculpture at the entry; apropos for Alicia who never married, and lives on memories of past love affairs, preparing Gigi for a life much like her own. 

The scandalous #29 Avenue Rapp in the Seventh Arrondisement, not far from the Eiffel Tower

It really is the perfect place for her! Alicia, Grandmama's sister, has the task of turning Gigi into the kind of woman that can attract the right kind of man to take care of her. To take care of her beautifully as Gaston would say. Apparently that includes picking out the perfect cigar; that's a little skill set that angers Gaston later, as he realizes the kind of woman he has helped create, out of the adorable, youthful, innocent Gigi.


In the meantime, we cut to Gaston (Louis Jordan) arriving at his home in his carriage. His home! Mon dieu! It's a museum. No, really! It is. It's the Musee Jacquemart-Andres at 158 Boulevard Haussmann. I can't find a shot of Gaston's carriage pulling up to the building but it's clear when you see the film, this is the place!

#4:  Gaston's mansion; the Musee Racquemart St. Andre on Boulevard Haussmann

If you watch the movie closely you'll see that the interior of Gaston's home looks an awful lot like the  Grand Salon of the musee. If the scene wasn't actually shot there, the space surely inspired Gigi's production designer, Cecil Beaton. 
Save this space and watch the movie, come back and tell me if you don't agree!


When his Uncle Honore picks Gaston up, they drive through the streets of Paris, including riding under the Eiffel Tower while playboy Gaston, tired of his life as a wealthy bachelor, exclaims, in song, It's A Bore.

#5:  The Eiffel Tower

Everything, is in fact a bore, except the short visits he takes to Mamita's home and his refreshing chats with Gigi. He's an old family friend and Gigi is always enthusiastic and eager to see him, curious about the life he leads, a seemingly exciting life that she reads about in the newspapers. I suppose it would be a little like a 16 year old teenage girl having a 33 year old George Clooney as a family friend. How could she not have a crush on him? 

Meanwhile Gigi rebels from her lesson in the art of love, still looking for all the world like Madeline, escapes to Parc Monseau and sings about how much she hates The Parisians. Later we'll see Gaston at the same Park Monseau as he contemplates his feelings for the little girl who, while never an 'ugly duckling' is changing into a beautiful swan.



#6:  Parc Monseau 35 Boulevard de Courcelles, 75008 Paris 

Meanwhile, Gaston ditches Honore and goes to Mamita's but Gigi, who always cheers him up isn't there so he doesn't stay long. When he leaves he runs into her near the park and—rather forcibly— takes her for an ice cream at the Ice Palace where he's meeting his girlfriend of the moment, Liane (Eva Gabor). For awhile he watches with Gigi as she stares in fascination. "She's pretty, isn't she?" Gaston asks, but Gigi says she thinks Liane is common, which gets Gaston thinking.



Besides Liane is very busy having a great time skating and Gaston is furious and jealous as he watches her flirt with her skating instructor.

#7:     Theatre du Rond (Palais du Glace) 2bis Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 

Sadly, the Ice Palace, the Palais du Glace, no longer exists as a skating rink; built in 1894, the Palais du Glace became the Theatre du Rond Point in 1980. Truthfully, we see very little of it in Minelli's movie anyway. It's not a stop I'd necessarily make if you're on a search for Gigi's Parision film locations.  Maxim's is a whole other story. And it's the next place we see in the film.

#8:   Maxim's, #3 Rue Royale, Paris

As you can imagine most of the movie's interior scenes were shot on a soundstage at MGM. But not all. Not Maxim's. Maxim's could only be Maxim's. Director Vincente Minelli wanted to capture the flavor of the original with its iconic Art Nouveau decor and insisted on shooting inside the real restaurant, which first opened in 1893, during the Belle Epoque. How fantastique that Maxim's is still up and running! If I'm honest, I wish Minelli had captured even more of the amazing looking locale.


We first see Maxim's when Gaston takes Liane to the de rigeur Paris night spot. At this point he's convinced Liane has been cheating on him with her handsome skating instructor and sings "She is Not Thinking of Me" as he watches his very flirtatious girlfriend gad about with one and all.

Look at that gorgeous Art Nouveau mirror behind them. The shoot was reportedly a nightmare as the large mirrors reflected not just the actors, but all the equipment and the crew. While his crew wanted to cover the mirrors, Minelli refused to lose the iconic look of Maxim's and insisted they figure it out. At that point I'm sure the gaffer pouted and sang a little "He is not thinking of me" tune himself. But the mirrors stayed.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris was also shot at Maxim's

Later, after Gaston has broken things off with Liane, he takes Gigi and Grandmama/Mamita to the coastal resort town of Treauville. The scenes at the beach were shot right here in Los Angeles at Venice Beach so you can stop looking for the Pacific Ocean in France; it's not there! 

It's after the trip that everything changes. Aunt Alicia decides they must seize the opportunity to get Gigi ready to take up Liane's spot. At first Grandmama is shocked but then sees it could be Gigi's best chance so Gigi's training goes into overdrive.


The next time Gaston comes to visit, he finds a very different Gigi. An excited 16 year old eager to see what Gaston thinks of her new dress. Gaston, expecting to see the young girl he's grown fond of over the years, isn't unlike a father who sees his daughter dressed up for a date for the very first time. It's a shock. Gaston reacts badly, telling her she looks like an organ-grinders monkey and Gigi tells him to take a hike. He doesn't get very far, rethinks things and comes back saying he wants to take her out.


Mamita says no and sends Gigi to her room, telling Gaston that Gigi can no longer just be friends with him. If he wants to continue to keep company with her, they must make some arrangement because otherwise Gigi's reputation will be compromised by being seen with him, with nothing for her to gain from it. 

It's then that he storms out of the apartment thinking the whole thing is absurd. She's a little girl! And so we come to the sequence Linda asked about, the sequence where he sings the title song and realizes he is in love with Gigi.

#9:  Place Furstenberg.  Gaston rushes out of Mamita's house into pretty plaza

Linda's big question isn't such an easy one to pin down. Minelli used 'creative geography' s technique created by Jean Cocteau to make a variety of Parisian locations seem as though they were next door to each other. Filmmakers do it all the time. It's cheating in the strictest sense of the word, but filmmaking isn't about reproducing reality, it's about making magic, and the sequence is definitely that. When he leaves the apartment we first see him in Place Furstenberg, a beautiful little plaza which artists from Hockney (below) to Delacroix —Michel, not Eugene—have immortalized on canvas. Eugene Delacroix did however have his studio there, you can visit the museum AND follow in Gaston's footsteps at the same time! You'll find the link with directions and hours etc below.





Place Furstenberg by David Hockney

Storming out of Mamita's apartment, Gaston crosses the square and makes his way to the Pont Alexandre III bridge, pretty identifiable through its classic symbols.

#10:   Pont Alexandre III


It's ridiculous, Gaston thinks. Gigi is just a child. Isn't she?

"She's a child, just a child. She's a scamp and a brat... But I must confess... in that brand new little dress, she looked surprisingly mature."


#11:  Park Monseau (where Gigi sang The Parisians)

And then suddenly he begins to see what he's been too blind to see before. That his feelings for Gigi, have been growing from friendly affection into something more.


"Oh No!" he sings "But but there's sweeter music when she speaks, isn't there?
A different bloom about her cheeks, isn't there?"
Could I be wrong? Could it be so? 
Oh, where, oh were did Gigi go?
Gigi!
 Am I a fool without a mind?
Or have I merely been too blind to realize? 
Oh Gigi! 
While you've been growing up before my eyes. 
Gigi! 
You're not at all that funny awkward little girl I knew. 
Oh no, Overnight there's been a breathless change in you. 
Oh Gigi! 
While you were trembling on the brink 
was I out yonder somewhere blinking at the stars?
Oh Gigi! 
Have I been standing up too close or back too far?
When did your sparkle turn to fire? And your warmth become desire?
Oh what miracle has made you the way you are?
Gigi! Oh, Gigi."

Arising quickly from the bench Gaston takes a couple of steps and through the magic of the movies, he's back at the Pont Alexandre III bridge.


Gigi!
Gigi!

He's absolutely overcome with his realization and begins racing back to Gigi's home. 


#12:    The Luxembourg Gardens (above and below)  just happen to be en route. 

The Fountain of the Observatory at the Jardin du Luxembourg  Photo Credit: Tennis Tousan


Oh no! I was mad not to have seen the change in you.
Oh Gigi, 
What miracle has made you the way you are?


And Gaston arrives back at the Place Furstenberg ready to make a deal with Mamita. And he's still singing.


While you were trembling at the brink 
Was I out yonder somewhere blinking at a star.
Oh Gigi!
 Have I been standing up too close or back too far?
When did your sparkle turn to fire, and your warmth become desire?
What miracle has made you the way you are?


It's decided then. Or almost. While Gaston and Mamita strike up a business deal, Gigi doesn't want to. She doesn't like the arrangement and wishes everything could stay as they are. Then she changes her mind. She tells Gaston she'd rather be unhappy with him than miserable without him.

That's when Gaston takes Gigi to Maxim's (above). The whole Parisian scene stops and stares as Gigi tries to pass herself off as one of them, another demimondaine. But of course one look at Gigi, with her new grown-up clothing and we see nothing but classic elegance. Compare the garish colors the other women wear while Leslie Caron is dressed stunningly and simply in pure white. Get the message Gaston? Of course he does! Except that he's angry that she's acting like a courtesan, lighting his cigars, treating him the way a high-classed whore would. So once again, the deal is off. He drags Gigi out of Maxim's and delivers her sobbing to Mamita. The truth is he can't bear the thought of what he's caused to be done to her.


Gaston takes a walk along the streets we've walked before, only it's moonlight now, very dark and blue and beautiful. Place Furstenberg (above) and the fountain at the Jardin de Luxembourg (below)
It doesn't take long for him to make his big decision. And I expect you know the rest of the story.
It goes a little something like ... and they lived happily ever after. 



Don't forget. We'd love to see your photos. Well, I would anyway! Planning a trip to Paris? Take some pictures of yourself at these iconic locations from the movie and I'll share them here.





How to Get there and  More Info:
Bois de Boulogne — ParisInfo.com
Maxim's — Maxim's de Paris
Place Furstenberg/Delacroix museum —Musee Delacroix
#29 Avenue Rapp—TravelFranceOnline.com
Musee Jacqemart-Andre —158 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris 8
Parc Monseau—35 Boulevard Courcelles
Jardin du Luxembourg — ParisInfo.com
Pont Alexandre III — Discover Walks
Cour du Rohan — EyePreferParis

MGM/SONY
Most of what remains of MGM — besides the luxe hotel in Vegas—is part of what is now Sony Studios. It's no Universal — where I was a tour guide in the mid 1980's — but you can take a fairly intimate 2 hour walking tour of the studio where they shot the interior scenes for Gigi plus The Wizard of Oz and more recently Spiderman. Check out SonyPicturesStudiosTours.com Want to see Alex Trebec? Get tix to Jeopardy, also shot at Sony, here.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, Sim. I'm so impressed with your research. I'd love to set up a Dreaming of France field trip and we can visit each place in Paris.

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  2. I love your dedication! We are proud owners of a Mini Cooper and we once took it to Turin to spot the locations used in The Italian Job movie. I think this adds a real something to a city break!

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    1. Thanks Jacqueline! Actually I remember we went to Hawaii once during our son's obsession with the TV show Lost; it did add an extra layer of fun trying to find the various locations. That trip to Turin sounds ab fab!

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  3. This put me in the mood to watch GIGI, I have not seen it in years! Also loved Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.
    Fantastic post, sharing everywhere and now following you ...

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  4. Great photos. I have seen the movie-now I need to visit the sites.

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  5. Sim, Grace and I walked to the library this afternoon and got Gigi. We'll watch it tonight to look for all the scenes you featured.

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    1. I hope you both love it as much as I did:) But honestly with Louis Jourdan, kind of an older Alain Delon, how could you not?

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  6. I am going to watch Gigi again. I think I do so about once a year. Maxim's is in a sort of seedy area in Pigalle and I've passed it a couple of times. I think I need to go inside for a drink. Someone told me that married men still go there with their mistresses. Some things never change. My French daughter in law lives across the street from a beautiful building which used to be a famous "house of ill repute". Thanks for all of the work you did putting this post together. It was fun to read.

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    1. I look forward to hearing how you found Maxim's! I'm glad you enjoyed the post, I had such a great time doing it so thanks for the inspiration!

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  7. Oh my gosh Sim, this is great! What lengths you went to, to put this together. I am quite certain that Gigi was my first real feeling of love for France. So thanks for that memory. Now I can't wait to see the film again & check out all of the sights. Thanks for doing all the leg work! What a great idea!!! Love it!

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    1. Once I started searching online it was like going down a rabbit hole, I was consumed by it. (If I may mix metaphors) I loved every minute of it; now I need to go back to Paris for real. It's been far too long!

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  8. Oh WOW Sim. Such a fantastic post. I can only imagine how long all that took. I don't think I've ever seen Gigi, but you know that I want to now... Happily I've been to 9 of those locations, Parc Monceau and Musee Jacquemart- Andree have both been on my list for at least my last two trips to Paris, but I haven't made it there yet. And I've never been to Maxim's.

    Have you ever found this link at Paris info about film locations in Paris?
    http://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/info/guides/walks-on-the-trail-of-film-locations-in-paris

    And I'm sure I've seen other sites with film specific info but can't find it just now. Happy hunting. I think it's time for a trip back to Paris for you...

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    1. Thanks so much Louise! I think you're right that I need a trip to Paris STAT! In the meantime I'll head over to the link you sent me; thanks very much for that. Hope you enjoy the film.

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  9. Creepy does seem to be the word for Chevalier -- also a former Nazi collaborator at the time the film was made. And the plot about selling women? Oops. Really would take some blinders to watch that now.

    But you've done a splendid job of tracing the famous locations.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  10. PS -- much more fun to look for locations in Charade with Audrey Hepburn!

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  11. I'll meet you in Paris for a Gigi tour! Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

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  12. Thanks for introducing me to your blog via mine! I loved this, so much research and information. Our youngest daughter is called Gigi, quite by coincidence!

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  13. Can anyone identify the gorgeous art nouveau apartment of Honore?

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