* * *

“That day in Chicago, why did you stand up?” Roy Hobbs asks Iris when they meet again later in the film at another critical juncture.

Her answer is the one we are always hoping to hear from somebody when times are hard—and what Jean Patou might have been saying to the world in 1929, when he gave us the gift of Joy parfum:

“I didn’t want to see you fail.”

The Gift of Light in a Time of Darkness: Vintage Joy Parfum

Do you remember the scene in the 1984 film, The Natural, when Glenn Close’s character, Iris Gaines, comes to watch Robert Redford’s character, Roy Hobbs—a middle-aged ball player, once her childhood sweetheart—play at Wrigley Field?

She arrives at a crucial time: Hobbs’ dreams of baseball glory, which early on in his life had been dashed by a misfortunate encounter, might now be realized through one of life’s more rare second chances—except that, on the brink of realizing it, he has fallen into a slump. And so Iris arrives at this midseason game at Wrigley Field, dressed in white and looking hopeful as she watches Hobbs and his team square off against the Chicago Cubs. By the top of the ninth inning, however, hopefulness is replaced by a look of concern: the team is behind by one run, there are two outs, and though they have a runner at third base, Hobbs is up to bat…and he hasn’t had a hit all day. He swings and misses the first pitch—Strike One!—as well as the next one—Strike Two!

They haven’t seen each other in years, he has no idea she is in the stands, and she’s spent the afternoon watching him strike out. But in that moment, Iris rises up from her seat—her white dress and hat illuminated by the afternoon sun—to watch him meet that third pitch. And when Hobbs catches sight of her—a beacon of light in a crowd of nameless faces—he smacks a home run so big it actually shatters the scoreboard clock.

I’ve come to think of my bottle of Jean Patou Joy parfum (now nearing vintage status; my husband bought it for me as a surprise gift in 1996), as sharing something in common with Glenn Close’s Iris. It's a perfume that took me a long time to come ’round to, which explains why I still have about a third of my bottle remaining after all these years. Patou’s Joy is not something you wear casually: it is a riveting fragrance, a crescendo of florals that achieves its pinnacle on a

October 5, 2010:

soaring amount of jasmine. The full list of notes includes aldehydes, peach, leafy greens, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, sandalwood, musk, and civet—but of these, jasmine is most pronounced. Though quite beautiful, jasmine in high concentration can be rather demanding in the let-me-dazzle-you department.

Or so I used to think.

Is it mere coincidence that I am falling in love with this fragrance now, in the dismal days of our economic recession? In 1929, French couturier Jean Patou already had several perfumes under his label when he asked perfumer Henri Alméras to create another—the unabashedly costly Joy—in response to the Wall Street crash that reduced the fortunes of the wealthy Americans who once flocked to Paris to buy his clothes. Whether Joy was created as a means of keeping his business afloat (perfumes being more affordable than luxury fashions), or whether “the sumptuous fragrance was offered as a gift to his cherished American customers; a hymn to life in what was a difficult time for many of his clients”—as the story (quoted from the company website) goes—doesn’t matter. What is true is that Joy was an instant and enduring success for all the right reasons. To dab on vintage Joy parfum is to defy all thoughts of gloom, darkness and doubt; it is a perfume of uncommon beauty which, in an almost operatic way, holds one’s focus on that declaration of beauty—and keeps it there.

Images of Glenn Close from the 1984 film, The Natural, are from baseballprospectus.com; bottle image is from perfumezilla.com.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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