Thursday, July 20, 2023

Paris in July: Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

Around this time last year I saw the trailer for Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, and I knew that I wanted to see the movie. We ended up going to an opening night event where we had a glass of wine while we sat and watched. 

This is a movie that made me smile from beginning to end, and it is impossible to think about the movie without using words like charming and delightful. I then chose to re watch it a couple of times on my long haul flights to Europe because it just makes me happy. I have also watched it again recently because it happened to be on TV. It's become one of those movies where if I come across it, I will watch it even if it is already half way through

The title basically tells you the story. Mrs Harris lives in a small flat in London. She lost her husband during WWII, although his death has never been confirmed. She makes ends meet by cleaning for a variety of clients. There is the wealthy woman who never pays her the bills, the charming playboy with his never ending parade of beautiful young women and the aspiring actress who is looking for her big break.

Whilst going about her duties, she finds the most beautiful dress in a wardrobe. She then decides that she needs to own a gorgeous Christian Dior dress of her own. Never mind that the dress would be hundreds and hundreds of pounds, which even today is a lot of money, let along in 1950s! Mrs Harris finds ways to scrimp and save and soon she has enough money. Her plan....get on a plane, got to the House of Dior, pick a dress and then come home the same day. Easy!

When she arrived at the House of Dior it is made clear that she is not the kind of woman who is welcome at haute couture fashion parades, and certainly not the kind of woman who should wear a Dior dress. However, once she gets over the shock of the fact that she will need to stay in Paris long enough for her dress to be made, she begins to win over the the people at the fashion house, due to her caring nature, energy and endless positivity, winning over even the most disapproving characters. Along the way she plays cupid, sees Paris, meets a wealthy widower, goes dancing and helps save a business! Oh, and has an absolutely gorgeous dress made for her.

The movie is basically based on the book of the same title by Paul Gallico, which was originally published in 1958. Having seen the movie a couple of times, I decided that it was time to read the book, or more precisely, listen to the audiobook. Paul Gallico was an American author, and was actually quite prolific, having written more than 40 books, 4 of which tell the story of Mrs Harris.

Obviously, the story has the same fundamental details, but it is clear that the movie is true to the spirit of the book as opposed to the details of the book. I do think that you can tell that this book was written a long time ago. There were moments that I would like to think wouldn't make it into a book being newly published now. For example, some of the attitudes to the French were quite pointed. Another example was the descriptions of Mrs Butterfield who is Mrs Harris' best friend. She is portrayed as a quite large lady. There was a passage where he talked about her Mrs Butterfield laughing until her third chin stopped wobbling. Maybe I noticed this because I am a large lady, but you would think this wouldn't make it through the editing process.

It is quite a short story. I have the print book out from the library at the moment and it includes both this story and the next story of Mrs Harris Goes to New York, which I might read in due course. Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is only 120 pages. New York is around 180 pages.

The book was narrated by British actress Juliet Stevenson who does a great job of bringing the story to life.

Maybe I can sneak in another watch of the movie before the end of Paris in July. Watching the trailer again certainly makes me feel like I need to!


  1. Have you seen the 1980s/90s made for television with Angela Lansbury? Also excellent. I love Lesly Manville's work in this. Gallico has a couple of excellent titles.

  2. I’ve been hearing about Paul Gallico for years. Eventually I’ll get around to reading this book.
    best, mae at

    1. His other famous book is called The Snow Goose I think.