Recently Watched: Paris Blues

Paris Blues

Some movies are such American classics, that we assume everyone has seen them. But that’s not always the case. Just this year was the first time that I saw The Sting, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. How could that be? I just never got around to it.

After seeing it, I know why it’s a classic. Wow! I loved it! I still haven’t seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — another Newman and Redford classic. That will be remedied soon!

But last night, I saw Paris Blues. It’s a lesser known film than the others and doesn’t include Robert Redford. But it has gigantic star power nonetheless. With Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Louis Armstrong and music by Duke Ellington, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this movie until recently.

Paris Blues is a romantic drama from 1961, in black and white, yet has a modern feel. With all the music, dancing and romance, it made me wonder why nobody has ever done a remake. I could definitely see it.

In the beginning, Paul Newman’s character is after Diahann Carroll’s character. However, the movie wasn’t that modern and took the more predictable route. After all, interracial marriage was still illegal in parts of the country. Loving v. Virginia wouldn’t be decided until six years later in 1967.

What adds another layer to Paris Blues are the real life romances happening with both couples. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were already married to each other. Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll were both married to other people, but having an affair. So this must have been an interesting movie set!

Paris looks very gritty in the film, possibly depicting how it looked before being fully rebuilt after the war. Yet the charm remained. The music is wonderful, but it’s still kind of a quiet slice of life film that feels like current independent cinema.

What also feels modern is the issue of race. Both couples are American. Carroll and Woodward’s characters are friends visiting Paris for a two week vacation. Newman and Poitier’s characters are expat jazz musicians. Carroll and Poitier’s characters talk about racism back home and how he doesn’t want to return to the degradation he has to suffer as a Black man. But she says that someone has to stay and fight. Unfortunately, in reality, the fight remains.

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Screenshot: IMDb

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