In the 1930s, black performers were forbidden to steal the spotlight from white actors on the American screen. To circumvent this unwritten law, singer/dancer/comedian Josephine Baker accepted the invitation to work in France. The resulting films—Princess Tam Tam and Zou Zou—reveal what segregationist producers in the U.S. were afraid of: a confident, sexy, scene-stealing African American woman who spewed exuberance, expressiveness and raw charisma like an uncorked bottle of champagne. Princess Tam Tam is a Pygmalion-like comedy in which Josephine Baker stars as a mischievous shepherd girl who rises through society to become a pretend princess and the toast of Paris nightlife. Conceived as a vehicle for Baker, then among Europe’s most popular entertainers, Zou Zou was her debut talking film. In the tradition of 42nd Street, it tells the story of a talented Cinderella (Baker) who saves a show and becomes an overnight sensation. Features Josephine’s poignant rendition of “Haiti,” sung while clad in feathers and swinging in a birdcage.
Three 2005 documentary shorts focus on Josephine Baker: “The Woman,” “The Performer, ”and “The Films.” Includes interviews with actress Lynn Whitfield, theater critic Margo Jefferson, dance historian Elizabeth Kendall and Baker’s adopted son Jean-Claude. | Video tour of Chez Josephine, Jean-Claude Baker’s culinary exhibition of rare Josephine Baker paintings and posters. | The Fireman of the Folies-Bergère, a 1928 short featuring Baker | And more! Region ABC