S. Winthrop Putnam (Ray Bolger), or “Sam” for short, works for the government. His latest jobs involve cleaning up a couple of messes.
Philippe Fouquet (Claude Dauphin) is a French entertainer who has been living in the United States, but has found his monetary assets frozen by the government just in time for his return to France. With his resources tied up, he can’t exactly afford his passage home, so he turns to Sam for help.
Ethel “Dynamite” Jackson (Doris Day) is a chorus girl who has been mistakenly invited to France for the International Festival of Arts, when the government actually intended to invite Ethel Barrymore. Sam must find Miss Jackson and break the news to the poor girl.
The situation gets complicated when Sam meets Ethel and quickly finds himself smitten with her. Will he be able to win her over after crushing her dream? He just might get the chance when the news of a “normal” girl being selected to represent the country is leaked, with Ethel quickly winning the favor of the general public.
April in Paris was directed by David Butler and written by Jack Rose. Though named after spring in one of Europe’s most romantic cities, most of the film takes place on a ship. This was one of six films that Butler made in collaboration with leading lady Doris Day.
The story of April in Paris is a fluffy one and a very thin one, but the film is oodles of fun to watch if you’re a fan of the musical genre. There are plenty of toe-tapping highlights to be enjoyed throughout the film, including Ray Bolger’s “Life is Such a Pleasure” song-and-dance routine, which has him dancing alongside himself… but dressed as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Other favorite songs of my include “Give Me Your Lips,” performed by Philippe; and “I’m Gonna Rock the Boat,” performed by Ethel (with a back-up troupe of sea-faring chefs and waiters); “That’s What Makes Paris Paree,” a duet by Philippe and Ethel; and the title song, “April in Paris,” especially when performed by Philippe at a windy, rainy outdoor cafe.
Doris Day is just as delightful to watch as the musical numbers themselves. I always enjoy her films. Always. She’s just incredibly likable and has a way of winning the audience’s favor from her first scene. April in Paris is no exception; the viewer very much wants the chorus girl to make an international star of herself in Paris, and to find love.
In addition to Day, I really enjoyed Claude Dauphin’s performance here. He’s hilarious, an exaggeration of the “womanizing Frenchman” stereotype. He even describes the food in smutty terms! For dinner, he serves chicken and describes the dish as “surrounded by naughty little mushrooms, swimming naked in a pool of burgundy!” He’s not totally immoral, though. When Ethel and Sam think they’re married, but actually their ceremony wasn’t legal, he goes to great lengths to keep them from consummating the marriage. He even throws the mattress from Ethel’s stateroom overboard, into the ocean, and has a friend set up a series of traps in Sam’s stateroom!
The film’s gags can be a bit silly at times, but along with the lovely musical numbers they make for an easy, sweet watch. I wasn’t crazy about the ending — if you couldn’t tell from the rest of my review fawning over them, I loved Day and Dauphin together — but April in Paris is perfectly enjoyable. The score: 3.5/5