Manual Paris in the Fifties

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I cannot remember a single instance of being bullied, which, given my vulnerability in their country, seems remarkable. The France of my memory is a world of women. Our maid, Germaine, who kissed me on both cheeks every day I knew her. The little girl down the street who taught me how to jouer a faire le docteur. French women may not all look like Catherine Deneuve but they are the most effortlessly and unashamedly sensual, and they have a mystique and imponderable mystery about them, and an earth-mother acceptance of the way things are, that is opium to me.

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Think of Simone Signoret. And that dog being walked is always a poodle, always a large one, immaculately clipped and often sitting in its own chair at a restaurant. You did not see any other breed of dog in France. Whenever I walked Bumper, our English springer spaniel, he always drew a crowd.

What you see is the long duffle coat, usually with a hood, often topped by a beret. There are cars zipping along those streets but there are more bicycles than cars, so many they clog the boulevards. You also see a fair number of motor-scooters -- Italian-made Vespas and Lambrettas, with girls riding sidesaddle on the back -- and, more commonly, Mobylettes, the French-made motor-bike. But an American car, any American car, is a rarity.

ISBN 10: 0812927818

If this era has a soundtrack, it is sung by Edith Piaf. The budding sound of American rock music could also be heard coming from black-marketed. But, as I remember it, the appearance of Elvis in was greeted with more giddy laughter and disdainful curiosity than passion, and his French equivalent, Johnny Hallyday, would not release his first single until This is not yet a rock and roll world.

When you see pictures of people in the streets and parks of this time, they always seem to be reading newspapers. Indisputably, the journalistic voice of the midcentury American in Paris belongs to Art Buchwald. How many times can I remember people reading it aloud to each other? People are reading books in those pictures too, and writing them.

Paris in the Fifties by Stanley Karnow: | Books

The days of Hemingway and the Moveable Feast are long gone but a whole new generation of post-WWII American writer-expatriates is here to fill the void, attracted by the legend and the same low cost of living. Richard Wright and the other black writers who hold court at Le Deux Margot. George Plimpton and the Paris Review crowd. French authors too. Of course, these were just names to a ten-year-old that would be fleshed out in the coming decades of reading. Sagan was just eighteen when her angst-ridden novella, Bonjour Tristesse , was published in and it made her an instant icon of the time.

Her boyish haircut and pre-Beatnik dishevelness become a brand and the book was a body part of every Parisienne student and shop girl. Lana Turner kept an apartment in Paris.

I once stalked Greer Garson for most of a day. No sex symbol ever had a greater cultural impact and, had she died young and tragically instead of growing old and heavy before our eyes , she would surely be the same kind of mythic symbol that Marilyn Monroe is today. But B. De Gaulle brought political stability and rid the nation of Algeria and buoyed up the sagging French self-image by kicking out the American military without so much as a thank you.

Paris in the fifties

The skyline of Paris was blighted by the buildings of La Defense and the monolithic Montparnasse Tower and the travesty of the Pompidou Center. Les Halles Market closed, the ancient buildings were scrubbed white, the cinemas began to one-by-one go dark. The same hotel room that cost you five dollars in can now cost you five hundred. In so many ways, this is a better world than I knew in my French boyhood. Fairer, more equitable, more hygienic, less self-deluded. Waiters and taxi drivers are afraid to be snippy because it might earn them a bad review on the internet.

Still, every time I return to this Brave New Millennium France, and as much as I enjoy its pristine national monuments and high-tech sobriety, I miss the old France. I miss the Galois smoke and sooty buildings and Brigitte Bardot. The clothes on display were near enough to touch, though no one did, and no one was scolded for peering too closely.

As he left the Communion rail, he smiled absently at me, before sweeping into the next room. And therein lies the rub. The New Look created a furor precisely owing to this detail. On the surface, France has improved so much in the last six months that all that is lacking is the belief that the vital, invisible underpinnings of state and society can hold the improvements in place.

The average Frenchman can now find in the shops nearly everything he wants except the means of paying for it.

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In midtown Paris shop windows, perfect taste, which is the supreme French luxury, has at last reappeared…. By day, in the limpid spring sunshine, Paris looks her old, beautiful self, reclining full length in the greenery by the Seine. Parisians dine at home, on soup, and go to bed. During the war, most of the major couture houses closed, but some designers, like Fath, in exile, catered to wealthy Germans and to black marketeers and other unsavory types, though he stopped short of being an outright Nazi sympathizer and collaborator, as Coco Chanel had been.

But the essential fact was that Dior understood women, and understood their need to crash out at the end of a long siege. As I took in the displays of gorgeous feathered hats with veils—which at the time permitted women a degree of distance and privacy and even enhanced sensuality now we have only designer sunglasses to shield us , as did the amount of space their voluminous dresses took up—I thought how unfortunate it was that the French had banned headscarves for Muslim girls in middle school, as well as the wearing of burkas by women in public.

And then there were the shoes: in crocodile, in silk, in delicate strips of leather combined with netting; and the gloves—another kind of sensuous covering whose daily wearing has fallen away—wrist-length, in black nubuck and embroidered with tiny strawberries and flowers, as well as extravagant ones featuring leaf designs embroidered with silver and gold sequins and tiny glass tubes that stretch to mid upper arm. When, at last, spring arrives, he writes:.