Written By: Liz Ronk

Forget the fabled rudeness of the Parisians. Forget the crowds of tourists who flock to the City of Light in the summer, making the city’s winding streets, echoing stone churches and public gardens all but unbearable. Forget that everything, everything, is more expensive in Paris than it has any right to be. Forget that entire neighborhoods sometimes smell, suddenly and inexplicably, of rotting garbage and then, as suddenly and as inexplicably, the stench vanishes. Forget that everybody smokes, everywhere, at all times, no matter what. Forget all of the worst aspects of the French capital and its denizens, and instead dwell for a moment on the Paris of everyone’s dreams.

Picture the book stalls, the fishermen and the artists with their easels along the Seine. Picture lovers walking the winding streets, drunk on one other, oblivious to everyone and everything but each other. Picture Sacré Cœur and Montmartre, the flower peddlers and the Champs-Elysees, the mansard roofs and the zinc bars, Sainte-Chapelle and the Marais. Picture the Paris, in other words, that inspired Hemingway to remark (according to his friend, the writer and raconteur A.E. Hotchner), “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Of all the pictures made of that Paris — the Paris of the last century, when the city was still largely depicted in beautiful black and white — perhaps none is more famous than Alfred Eisenstaedt’s unforgettable shot of kids at a Parisian puppet show, “Saint George and the Dragon,” at an outdoor theater in 1963. Capturing the thrill, the shock, the shared triumph-over-evil that the children feel at the very moment when St. George slays the mythical beast, Eisenstaedt’s picture feels as fresh as when it was made, more than 50 years ago. Here, the picture tells us, is an innocence that can remind even the most jaded of what it was once like to believe, to really believe, in the stories that unfold before our eyes onstage, or onscreen.

The master photographer himself, meanwhile, said of this very picture: “It took a long time to get the angle I liked. But the best picture is the one I took at the climax of the action. It carries all the excitement of the children screaming, ‘The dragon is slain!’ Very often this sort of thing is only a momentary vision. My brain does not register, only my eyes and finger react. Click.”

Here, LIFE.com celebrates Paris in the spring through the lens of Eisenstaedt’s iconic puppet-show picture—as well as a number of photographs of Parisians and their city that he made around the same time, but that never ran in LIFE magazine.

Children watch the story of "Saint George and the Dragon" at an outdoor puppet theater in Paris, 1963.

Children watched the story of “Saint George and the Dragon” at an outdoor puppet theater in Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisians at a sidewalk cafe, 1963.

Parisians at a sidewalk cafe, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Woman sitting with her pet cheetah having tea at a Bois de Boulogne cafe, Paris, 1963.

A woman sat with her pet cheetah while having tea at a Bois de Boulogne cafe, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

People enjoying an afternoon on the banks of the Seine River, 1963.

People enjoyed an afternoon on the banks of the Seine River, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Typical Parisian rooftop scene, 1963.

Parisian rooftop scene, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisians enjoying an amusement park ride, 1963.

Parisians enjoyed an amusement park ride, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Low angle of the Eiffel Tower, 1963.

A low angle of the Eiffel Tower, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Young Parisians enjoy an impromptu outdoor concert on the banks of the Seine, 1963.

Young Parisians enjoyed an impromptu outdoor concert on the banks of the Seine, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisian beatniks hang out on bank of the Seine, 1963.

Parisian beatniks hung out on bank of the Seine, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Paris street scene, 1963.

Paris street scene, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisian girl dressed for her first communion accompanied by family members, 1963.

A Parisian girl dressed for her first communion, accompanied by family members, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

French children playing on toy horse and buggy vehicles, 1963.

French children played on toy horse and buggy vehicles, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Little boy on merry-go-round at the Tuileries Gardens, sticking out his tongue, 1963.

A little boy on merry-go-round at the Tuileries Gardens, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Children at play, Paris, 1963.

Children at play, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisian children riding merry-go-round in a playground, 1963.

Parisian children rode a merry-go-round in a playground, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisians, 1963.

Parisians, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisians play boule, 1963.

Parisians played boule, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Young Parisian woman exhaling smoke, 1963.

A young Parisian woman, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Street performer drawing a crowd, Paris, 1963.

This street performer drew a crowd, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Parisian vendor, 1963.

Parisian vendor, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Man smoking cigar while examining stamps at stamp market on Avenue Matignon, Paris, 1963.

A man examined stamps at stamp market on Avenue Matignon, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Street artists at work, Paris, 1963.

Street artists at work, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Montmartre sidewalk artist and monkey entertaining tourists in the Place du Terte near Sacre Coeur, 1963.

A Montmartre sidewalk artist and monkey entertained tourists in the Place du Terte near Sacre Coeur, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Woman taxi driver sharing front seat with pet dog, Paris, 1963.

A woman taxi driver shared the front seat with her pet dog, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Children, Paris, 1963.

Children, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Children duelists on the Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1963.

Children duelists on the Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Paris, 1963.

Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Elderly woman walking along street while bride and groom walk behind, Paris, 1963.

An elderly woman walked along that street while a bride and groom strode behind, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Paris street scene, 1963.

Paris street scene, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Little girl, Paris, 1963.

Little girl, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Children, Paris, 1963

Children, Paris, 1963

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Amphibious car crossing the Seine, 1963.

An amphibious car crossed the Seine, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Louvre, 1963.

The Louvre, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Ballerinas at the Paris Opera, 1963.

Ballerinas at the Paris Opera, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Young Parisian woman at a discotheque, 1963.

A young Parisian woman at a discotheque, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Young Parisians dancing at a discotheque, 1963.

Young Parisians danced at a discotheque, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Couple embracing at Golfe Drouot dance hall, Paris, 1963.

A couple embraced at Golfe Drouot dance hall, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Woman under streetlight in Montmartre at night, 1963.

A woman under a streetlight in Montmartre at night, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Cat in the street, Paris, 1963.

Cat in the street, Paris, 1963.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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