“Think pink!” demands Diana Vreeland–esque editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) of her fashion-mag coterie. Stanley Donen’s vibrant musical would likewise have you ruminate in big, bold colors, from antiseptic whites to saturated reds to midnight blacks. Audrey Hepburn is the beaming brains as introverted bookstore clerk Jo Stockton, while Fred Astaire is the lanky brawn as tenacious en vogue photog Dick Avery (modeled on real-life lensman Richard Avedon). He loves her “sunny, funny face”—as much as Donen’s movie loves many a Gershwin tune—and wants to splash it all over Prescott’s monthly glossy, Quality. She’d rather bury her nose in professor Emil Flostre’s book on that latest egghead craze “empathicalism.”
A whirlwind trip to Paris (this is the rare Tinseltown musical shot on location) is just what they both need. Astaire does a mock-bullfight number that ranks with his best screen hoofing, while Hepburn—decked out in an ebony turtleneck ensemble that might be labeled “hipster Mummenschanz”—hepcats her way through a smoky Montmartre canteen. You may notice we’re focusing on the dazzling sights, and hardly at all on the muddled portrait of the City of Light as a “mothers, lock up your daughters” cesspool of boho intelligentsia. (Every scene involving the goateed, pompous Flostre is the worst sort of fish-in-le-barrel satire.) Sensation trumps cogitation—unsurprising in a Hollywood production—which doesn’t negate the enduring allure of this beautiful bauble.
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