Romance in Paris
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Romance in Paris I

Written by Rick Archer
March 2013

Based on my visit to Paris in during Oslo 2010 cruise, it was easy for me to see why the famed City of Light is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world. 

Out of curiosity, I typed "Most Romantic City" into Google.  The first list of the ten most romantic cities in the world included Venice, Paris, Prague, Florence, Rome, Lisbon, Vienna, Seville, Buenos Aires, and Marrakech.  To my surprise, Venice was listed ahead of Paris.  Très terrible!  The nerve!

Curious, I opened the second listing as well.  This time Paris was on top with Venice second.  In order:  Paris, Venice, London, New York City, Lisbon, Rome, Barcelona, New Orleans, Melbourne, and Monte Carlo.  I definitely agreed with adding Barcelona to the list, but I wasn't so sure about New Orleans.  I decided we needed a tie-breaker. 

The third list was from CNN.  The writer was so snotty I decided not to use it.

The fourth list put Paris at the top and Venice in tenth place. Paris, Vienna, New Orleans, Monte Carlo, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Boston, New York, Venice.

The fifth list - Frommers - was a bit on the eclectic side with several newcomers.  However, Paris was still in first place.  Paris, Florence, Prague, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Kyoto (Japan), Bruges (Belgium), Bath (England), Marrakech, Jaipur (India).

Obviously in any competition decided by subjective opinions, anyone can have their favorite.  Without a doubt there are several beautiful cities that come to my mind as good alternatives, but to me it seemed the consensus winner was indeed Paris.

Paris sees millions of lovebirds flocking each year to take in such wonderful sights as the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River.  What could be more romantic than to drink wine at a lovely cafe in the artistic atmosphere of the Left Bank?  And wouldn't it be sweet to lean against the edge of one of the beautiful bridges staring down at the river? 

With rich food, glamorous fashion, and countless charming boutiques and cafés for a young couple to explore, it is no wonder that Paris is known globally as the City of Love.  Cliché or not, Paris is definitely a city made for lovers.

Wherever you turn, there is a picture-perfect moment awaiting.  Whether it is strolling along the Seine, sharing a crêpe at a roadside stand, walking hand-in-hand through a museum, kissing under the Eiffel Tower, or taking a bicycle ride through Montparnasse, there are so many fun things to do and see.

I suppose there is a danger of sorts.  If you are a young man in a relationship, but not quite yet ready to propose, you may want to save Paris for another time.  It is said that Paris has a very powerful effect on one's mood.  It is also said there is a fever that can strike a visitor very unexpectedly. 

Perhaps it will hit you as you cross the 16th-century Pont Neuf at sunset.  Or maybe you will be infected as you linger at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Or maybe it will strike as you sit by the pond at Jardin du Luxembourg.  Or maybe you will be overcome as you wander through Place des Vosges in Le Marais.  You are never safe.  The danger could lurk behind any corner of the city.   Quite unexpectedly, you could find yourself falling to your knee on a spur of the moment and helplessly beg your young lady to marry you. 

It has been known to happen. 

Paris in Cinema

Okay, so we agree that Paris is undeniably romantic.  The city's reputation is not a myth.  So how did this come to be?  What are the reasons behind the legend?

When I decided to explore the reasons why Paris is one of the ultimate icons for Romance, it occurred to me that Cinema has played a powerful role in establishing the city's reputation as a playground for lovers.

One need look no farther than Casablanca, one of the most famous movies of all time.

During the movie via flashbacks, we learn that Rick and Ilsa fell deeply in love back in war-torn Paris.  As they danced to the haunting strains of the song "Perfidia", they gazed into one another's eyes and became inseparable... inseparable of course until the moment Ilsa mysteriously jilted Rick and disappeared from Paris. 

Later in the movie they meet again in Casablanca... and fall in love again as well.  And yet at the end of the movie, Rick puts Ilsa on a plane bound for Lisbon to accompany her husband Victor. Ilsa desperately wants to stay with Rick, but he won't let her. 

As Ilsa questions why Rick is sending her off on the plane to be with Victor, she blurts out, "But what about us??"

Rick replies, "We will always have Paris." 

Casablanca is one of the most famous movies to ever reference Paris as the place to fall in love, but it has plenty of company.

A cursory glance reveals a staggering number of romantic movies set in Paris. 

Movies play a powerful role in our imaginations.  Movies can inspire people.  We see Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and sign up for karate lessons.  We see John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and sign up for Disco lessons.  We see Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls and try out for American Idol

So when we see Paris featured in one romantic film after another, those images stick.

We get the message loud and clear...Paris and Romance are synonymous!  Paris is the place to go for romance. 

To help prove my point, let's take a guided tour of Paris as revealed through Cinema.  I think you will be amazed at the number of films that travel through Paris.


I think you will agree that is quite a collection of movies.  According to my research, every one of these movies either took place in Paris or had scenes filmed in the city.  They definitely cover a wide spectrum.  Many of the movies are musicals such as Romance in Paris, Funny Face, Gigi, and Love Me Tonight.

The musicals and other movies with dance like French Can Can, Streets of Paris, and Moulin Rouge convinced the world that the French were a lively bunch who appreciated a risqué and bawdy lifestyle.  Movies like Amelie, Before Sunset and the French Kiss were highly romantic movies that went straight for the heart.  Others such as Last Tango in Paris were serious films that explored adult themes that weren't always cheerful.

There were plenty of light-hearted romps such as the Reluctant Debutante, the Art of Love, and Funny FaceSabrina and Charade were semi-serious dramas centered around love. 

Besides the sexy stuff, there are many action films with Paris backgrounds. For example, the first Jason Bourne movie and two James Bond films had intense action scenes set in Paris.  The Louvre played an extensive part in The Da Vinci Code.

Even the horror film American Werewolf in Paris and the animated film Ratatouille did their part to promote the city.

And what about the historical films?  The list is extensive. Les Miserables, Tale of Two Cities, Hunchback of Notre Dame. And there were films about Napoleon plus many dramatic World War II movies with Paris scenes (Casablanca, for example).

All of these films help convey the message that Paris is definitely where the action is in more ways than one.

An American in Paris was an excellent example of a movie that played as a non-stop love affair between a director and a city.  This 1951 musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron is considered one of the quintessential movies about Paris.  Director Vincent Minnelli’s gorgeous love letter to the City of Lights received six Oscars including Best Picture.

The iconic Gene Kelly played a former American soldier trying to make a living in Paris as an artist after World War II.  There he falls in love with a young French woman (Caron) who is already engaged to a Parisian cabaret singer.  John Alton’s photography depicts the French capital at its most fascinating, a dreamy backdrop oozing the essence of artistic Paris. 

An American in Paris is just one of many wonderful movies set in Paris. For a review of other great movies set in Paris, here is a good spot to visit: 9 Best Movies Set in Paris

The concept of love crosses a wide spectrum ranging from passion to deep affection.  Whether it was an action film, a comedic romp, an intimate love story or a highly sensual picture, my point is that every one of these films help to increase the fame of Paris.

"The Screen Sizzles with Uninhibited Bardolatry!"

And now it is time to meet Brigitte Bardot, France's most famous film star.  As one of the world's most beautiful women, Brigitte Bardot's movies promoted a side to Paris that the previous films cannot even begin to rival. 

I have never seen a movie with Brigitte Bardot in it, but I completely agree she was ridiculously pretty.  I might add the lady had a figure that actually matched the enticing movie posters I have added below. 

Bardot was the living embodiment of the legend of French sex appeal. With many of her films set in Paris, it was very easy to conclude that Paris was the place to go to have a good time.

Brigitte Bardot's ample charms were first released on the world in the Fifties.  Bardot, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe were the reigning sex symbols.  Unfortunately, since Bardot preferred not to film American pictures, Europe always had the inside track to appreciate her beauty and her coquettish style. 

Nevertheless, through magazines, Americans boys like me at least knew what we were missing.  Bardot promoted her movies by appearing in highly provocative photos. These famous images of Bardot as sex kitten in the 1950s and 1960s became representative of her public persona.  Ms. Bardot certainly played her part well.  She reinforced the growing suspicion that France and Paris formed a hotbed of free love and sexuality.

To me, Brigitte Bardot was the face of France.

And when Paris is used over and over again as the setting for romantic movies, the message is clear - Paris is for lovers.



It has been my hypothesis that Paris has achieved great fame as well as great "notoriety" through cinema.  Although I think I proved my point, I have one more thing to add.

In a review of the 100 greatest Romance classics, Paris fared very well with nine listings.  And if you count Roxanne which is based on Cyrano de Bergerac, the story of a Parisian poet and swashbuckler, then you get ten.

Rome, New York, Moscow, London, Prague, Philadelphia, Monaco, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Morocco are other cities used as settings, but a cursory review of the list doesn't even begin to suggest a rival city. If forced to pick a runner-up, it would be New York, then London, but neither city comes close to Paris.  Paris stands alone. 

My point is simple.  When you consider the power of movies to shape our impressions and imagination, you begin to see why we all think first of Paris.  Cinema has chosen to deem "Paris" as the most romantic city in the world.  Who are we to argue?

01. "Casablanca" - 1942
02. "Gone with the Wind" - 1939
03. "West Side Story" - 1961
04. "Roman Holiday" - 1953
05. "An Affair to Remember" - 1957
06. "The Way We Were" - 1973
07. "Doctor Zhivago" - 1965
08. "It's a Wonderful Life" - 1946
09. "Love Story" - 1970
10. "City Lights" - 1931
11. "Annie Hall" - 1977
12. "My Fair Lady" - 1964
13. "Out of Africa" - 1985
14. "The African Queen" - 1951
15. "Wuthering Heights" - 1939
16. "Singing' in the Rain" - 1952
17. "Moonstruck" - 1987
18. "Vertigo" - 1958
19. "Ghost" - 1990
20. "From Here to Eternity" - 1953
21. "Pretty Woman" - 1990
22. "On Golden Pond" - 1981
23. "Now, Voyager" - 1942
24. "King Kong" - 1933
25. "When Harry Met Sally" - 1989
26. "The Lady Eve" - 1941
27. "The Sound of Music" - 1965
28. "The Shop Around the Corner" - 1940
29. "An Officer and a Gentleman" - 1982
30. "Swing Time" - 1936
31. "The King and I" - 1956
32. "Dark Victory" - 1939
33. "Camille" - 1937
34. "Beauty and the Beast" - 1991
35. "Gigi" - 1958
36. "Random Harvest" - 1942
37. "Titanic" - 1997
38. "It Happened One Night" - 1934
39. "An American in Paris" - 1951
40. "Ninotchka" - 1939
41. "Funny Girl" - 1968
42. "Anna Karenina" - 1935
43. "A Star is Born" - 1954
44. "The Philadelphia Story" - 1940
45. "Sleepless in Seattle" - 1993
46. "To Catch a Thief" - 1955
47. "Splendor in the Grass" - 1961
48. "Last Tango in Paris" - 1972
49. "The Postman Always Rings Twice" - 1946
50. "Shakespeare in Love" - 1998
51. "Bringing Up Baby" - 1938
52. "The Graduate" - 1967
53. "A Place in the Sun" - 1951
54. "Sabrina" - 1954
55. "Reds" - 1981
56. "The English Patient" - 1996
57. "Two for the Road" - 1967
58. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" - 1967
59. "Picnic" - 1955
60. "To Have and Have Not" - 1944
61. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - 1961
62. "The Apartment" - 1960
63. "Sunrise" - 1927
64. "Marty" - 1955
65. "Bonnie and Clyde" - 1967
66. "Manhattan" - 1979
67. "A Streetcar Named Desire" - 1951
68. "What's Up, Doc?" - 1972
69. "Harold and Maude" - 1971
70. "Sense and Sensibility" - 1995
71. "Way Down East" - 1920
72. "Roxanne" - 1987
73. "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" - 1947
74. "Woman of the Year" - 1942
75. "The American President" - 1995
76. "The Quiet Man" - 1952
77. "The Awful Truth" - 1937
78. "Coming Home" - 1978
79. "Jezebel" - 1939
80. "French Kiss" - 1995
81. "The Goodbye Girl" - 1977
82. "Witness" - 1985
83. "Morocco" - 1930
84. "Double Indemnity" - 1944
85. "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" - 1955
86. "Notorious" - 1946
87. "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" - 1988
88. "The Princess Bride" - 1987
89. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" - 1966
90. "The Bridges of Madison County" - 1995
91. "Working Girl" - 1988
92. "Porgy and Bess" - 1959
93. "Dirty Dancing" - 1987
94. "Body Heat" - 1981
95. "Lady and the Tramp" - 1955
96. "Barefoot in the Park" - 1967
97. "Grease" - 1978
98. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - 1939
99. "Pillow Talk" - 1959
100. "Jerry Maguire" - 1996


The Art and Beauty of Paris

Rick's Note: In our next Newsletter issue, we will explore the Art and Beauty of Paris



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