Paris Blues (1961) is a stylish film altogether. Set in Paris, on the sounds of jazz, with a good-looking leading cast and beautiful costumes. Paul Newman is Ram Bowen, a trombone player making his living in a jazz group, while aspiring to make it as a composer. Sidney Poitier is Eddie Cook, also a jazz musician playing in the same band, who has moved to Paris to escape the racism in the US. Two American tourists, Connie Lampson (Diahann Carroll) and Lillian Corning (Joanne Woodward), arrive in Paris for a two-week vacation and it’s not hard to imagine the romantic turn the film takes. But let’s talk about the clothes.
Modern men can take a cue from the two leading actors. Both Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier are impeccably attired, whether they are wearing single-breasted suits, cuff-link shirts and plain ties (in the case of Poitier), polo sweaters or shirts and blazers with slacks (in the case of Newman), with a classic watch as accessory and a Burberry trench coat on top. But what makes it more interesting is that their flawless dressing style is accentuated by their strong personalities. The action takes place in a time when jazz musicians were revered, when they set trends and represented a cultural revolution, not only through their music, but through their style and way of life. Ram and Eddie are well aware of this, of their talent and skill, as well as their outer elegance, which is a reflection of who they are. I think we can take it as one more proof that success is related to dressing well.
The ladies are no less stylish than the men (and this is something I can not say as often as I wished), starting with the Parisienne Marie (Barbara Laage). Dressed in a trench, with a scarf on the head and carrying a basket filled with baguettes, you can not get any more French than that. The rest of her wardrobe is just as simple, seeking effortless chic and demanding good taste.
Then we have Joanne and Diahann. The strange thing is that I couldn’t find the name of the costume designer anywhere. Even if the clothes were shopped for off the racks, like it was obviously the case with the Burberry coats, there must have been a wardrobe supervisor at least. That said, I liked the way the womenswear matched the menswear in terms of simplicity and elegance. And another thing that enhanced the film’s beauty was that Joanne and Diahann’s outfits blended so well with the Parisian atmosphere, making both leading ladies look as if they belonged there. Sheath dresses, skirt suits, pleated skirts, beautiful woolen coats with three-quarter sleeves, trenches, sleeveless turtlenecks, leather gloves, pumps and totes, many of them essential pieces, all of them well established classics.
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photos: stills from the film, captured by me from this DVD edition