The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Paris Blues (1961)

"The plot features Poitier and Newman as American expatriate musicians living in Paris after World War II. Newman is studying classical music while earning a living playing in a jazz club owned by a woman with whom he is having a casual affair. Poitier enjoys life abroad as an escape from the racial hatred he experienced at home in America. They meet two young vacationing schoolteachers, Carroll and Joanne Woodward, and pair off. Carroll eventually convinces Poitier it's better to return to the States and face bigotry head-on rather than hiding out in a foreign country. They leave together with plans to marry. Newman gives up his bachelor status and casts his fate with Woodward after it becomes clear his classical music career is going nowhere. But at the last minute, he meets her at the train station to tell her he won't be going back to America with her after all.
Largely because of Poitier's breakthrough in the 1950s, black actors were beginning to be seen as viable stars for feature films (although some critics carped that with her appearance in this picture, Carroll was transformed into a boring, middle-class white version of a modern black woman). Still, things weren't entirely equal. In the Harold Flender novel on which the movie is based, the story centered only on a black jazz musician who falls for a black schoolteacher vacationing in Paris. For the screen, producers hedged their bets by adding a white couple and casting the very popular Newman and Woodward team. Some viewers have suggested that the film might have been an even stronger examination of race (and a more interesting love story) if the black man had paired off with the white woman and vice versa. There was even a rumor that that was the intention going into production but it's never been confirmed.
In spite of Paris Blues' star power and racial themes, it was not a success on its release and critics found more merit in the music featured in the film. Duke Ellington was commissioned to write the score, which won an Oscar nomination for Best Scoring of a Motion Picture."
- Rob Nixon for TCM
Status: Available for purchase
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