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Once upon a time there was an American man named Jerry Mulligan who lived in Paris. When he was discharged from the army he decided to become a painter and continue to live in Paris so he could just paint and study art. Paris is a place that a painter or artist is inspired. This is why Jerry loves it so much. Jerry lives 2 floors above a café in a little cramped apartment. But he is not complaining, he is lighthearted and fun. Jerry is popular with the children on the block because he gives them American Bubble Gum. Adam Cook is one of Jerry's very good friends in Paris. He is currently unemployed and keeps winning scholarships to stay overseas. Though, he is not doing much with any of them.
Adam works at a bistro down the street playing piano for Henri. Henri shows Jerry a picture of his young girlfriend. As he is describing his girlfriend Jerry imagines five different personality of young Lise. Jerry works in Montmartre selling his paintings on the street. He has a hard time with criticism though. One of his first customers we see he tells to "move on" because she is critical of his work. Jerry is fortunate to have Milo pass his way. A wealthy American woman takes a liking to Jerry and offers to buy two of his pieces. He travels with her in a chauffeured car to her hotel so she can be paid. Her parents are suntan oil founders and she is the heiress to their fortune. She takes an immediate liking to Jerry and invites him back to a small party later that evening. She tells him to have her driver take him home.
Later when Jerry arrives at the "party" he admires Milo's dress and wonders about the other party-goers because so far it is only to two of them. Milo said that they are the party. Jerry is not the type of guy that wants to be someone's escort. He offers to return the money and suggests that she find some other man to do this for her. She tells him that she is more interested in his work than him. She wants to help him make it big and introduce him to important art dealers and such. While at a club he has a chance encounter with the infamous Lise.
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Jerry wants a date with Lise, and Milo wants Jerry. The pursuit of Lise is fun for Jerry and he calls her store but is rebuffed. Milo apologizes to Jerry for what happened the night before and explains that she has been working very hard to help him and invites him to lunch. Jerry decides that he wants to pay a visit to Lise perfume shop. He impresses Lise with his perfume selling skills and finally agrees to a date with him. Jerry is ecstatic. He goes to his friend Adam's and sings and dances all over the place.
Jerry was afraid the Lise wasn't going to show up to the restaurant but she does. Jerry wants to learn everything about Lise and they walk and talk along the Seine River. Jerry wants to dance with her but she must be persuaded to do so. They are captivated by one another. Jerry finally gets his long awaited embrace. Lise, without explanation says that she must go. But Jerry makes her agree to see him the next Saturday Night.
Henri is delivering a stage show in a tuxedo and top hat. Lise arrives just after the show has ended and Henri explains his plans to tour with her in America once they are married. Jerry is teased by Adam for his rich sponsor and wonders what she wants in return. Milo shows Jerry and studio that she has set up for him. Saying he cannot afford a place like this Milo says that he will be able to pay her back in three months time. She has an exhibition set up for him then. Milo loves the combination of Jerry and herself. She thinks they work very well together. He finally agrees on the condition that he will pay her back.
Jerry dives into his work painting scenes throughout Paris. And though Jerry and Lise are in love they are keeping their other relationship secret from the other. Jerry is frustrated by his and Lise's relationship. When Jerry tells Adam about his relationship with Lise Adam spills coffee down his front. Henri arrives and talks of his love for his girlfriend and Jerry of his, unaware that the other is speaking of the same girl.
One the bank of the Seine they share with the other their feelings and Lise realizes she must tell Jerry the truth of her engagement and plans to marry Henri. Lise says that she feels obligated to marry Henri because of the protection he has given her. With leis out of his life Jerry finds more time for Milo. He even offers to take her to a ball and Milo is pleasantly surprised with her new found attention. At the ball everyone is there and Jerry cannot break free of his love for Lise. He reveals it to Milo and turns down her future support for his artwork. Jerry is broken hearted and retreats to the balcony to be alone. He manages a goodbye to Lise while they are alone Lise tells him of her love as they embrace for the last time.
A heartsick Jerry is devastated and begins to tear apart a piece of artwork and separate himself from the party for the rest of the evening. Jerry remembers his courtship to Lise and the ups and downs of their relationship, and travels with her through a fantasy land of paintings and artwork. As a rose dissolves into black in his hand Jerry returns to reality and hears a car horn honking. Looking over the balcony he sees Lise giving Henri a kiss good bye and then running towards him up a long flight of stairs for a ending of happily ever after.