One of my favorite pastimes is watching old movies. The work of a creative director and a talented cast of actors constructed from the expression of an interesting perspective results in an unforgettable artistic experience that I call a movie. Movies reflect our society and every aspect within our culture. They reflect our values, prejudices, fashion, economic status, social status, architecture, work ethics, and relationships, parenting skills, diversity, entertainment, sexuality, politics, religion and many things not mentioned here. When watching classic movies, if one opens ones eyes one can see perhaps that which they missed back when.
When I was about seven years ago I watched a movie that I simply could not forget. A tall, dark man pretty with a wonderful speaking voice, and a beautiful young black woman wearing beautiful clothes and a beautiful speaking voice were on the big screen. They were not maids or butlers, they were not afraid of their shadows. He was a musician (saxophonist) and his name was Eddie Long played by actor Sidney Poitier. Poitier’s band leader and best friend was musician (Trumpeter) Ram Bowen, played by actor Paul Newman. She was a college student and was soon to become a teacher; her name was Connie Lampson played by actress Diahann Carroll. Carroll’s best friend was a divorcee and mother of two Lillian Corning, played by actress Joanne Woodward.
The four meet in Paris when the Carroll and Woodward characters are on a two week vacation there. The story is an excellent mix of Jazz, dreams, romance and reality. The closeness of the two men and women of different colors in 1961 in Paris was refreshing to see. At the time I watched it as a little girl it was like a fantasy world for it was the only place I have ever seen where black folk men and women in black and white skin just acted like people. Not a black person or a white person just people, just friends.
I did not understand the dynamic of the relationship on an intimate level, I saw for the first time a black man and woman showing affection for each other on the big screen. . As a little black girl they became a symbol for my romantic dreams. Poitier was my prince charming and Carroll was by Cinderella. After watching that movie the image of the man that I would fall in love with and marry was formed.
Viewing this movie a couple of nights ago, I saw new things; I saw racism when the Poitier character explains to Carroll the reason that he does not miss the United States . I saw drug abuse when the gifted musicians when Michel Devigne (the character played by Serge Reggiani) injects himself with heroin. I saw jealously when Marie S©oul, the character played by Barbara Laage realized that Newman was spending more time with Woodward than with her.
In the opening scene of the movie; the escapisms of Paris is very present; interracial couples, an older woman and a younger man, two women looking goo-goo eyed with each other, a young boy of middle eastern descent enjoying the music, an older man enjoying the music and all of them happy, smiling and jamming to the beat of the jazz and diversity. The movie also features the world famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong who plays the jazz musician Wild Man Moore. The music was written and performed by Duke Ellington and his band and Martin Ritt was the director.
A true classic movie and the chemistry of the duo of the married couple Newman and Woodward and Poitier and Carroll was magical. The ending of the movie was bittersweet and in reality as in the movies hearts are broken. It was during the filming of this movie that Diahann Carroll and the married Sidney Poitier were said to have fallen in love. He promised to leave his wife (Juanita Hardy) for Carroll but he did not. Carroll felt hurt by Poitier and it is rumored that they have not spoken in nearly forty five years. Poitier did divorce his wife his wife in 1965 and later married actress Joanna Shimkus, whom he met during the filming of the movie The Lost Man. They have been married for 35 years and have two daughters. Poitier also has four daughters from his first marriage to Juanita Hardy.
Newman and Woodward had a similar love story, he met Woodward while filming the Long Hot Summer in 1957 and when the movie was finished he divorced his first (Jackie Witte) and married Woodward in 1958. They were married for more than 50 years until his death from lung cancer on September 26, 2008 ; he was 83-years old. Newman had four daughters, one with his first wife and three with Woodward. He also had one son Scott who preceded him in death in 1978 from a drug overdose.
Diahann Carroll has not had much luck in love, she has been married four times. Three of those marriages ended in divorce and as a widow. She has one daughter from her marriage to her first husband, Monte Kay. Kay was producer, jazz entrepreneur and nightclub founder, he died in 1988.