Zou Zou (Josephine Baker)

This is my second Josephine Baker film and if there is one thing I have noticed it’s that her movement to France certainly didn’t free her from racism. She was far from the racism in America she grew up with, but she was still the one black in a sea of whites and that novelty was milked for all it was worth. That said, while Baker was a star full of personality and song in France, her counterparts in America were playing maids. That’s groundbreaking and makes Baker a hero. Now for the film itself.

The movie is very similar to the kind of musicals that were being made in Hollywood during the 1930’s like the Busby Berkeley films 42nd Street and Footlight Parade.

Homogenized Women Dancing In Geometric Patterns

The Incredible Shrinking Women!

It begins with the introduction of “twins” Zou Zou (Josephine Baker) and Jean (Jean Gabin). Despite the obvious physical differences and backgrounds their papa raises them as siblings. As adults Jean is called to the sea while Zou Zou takes care of papa and worries about Jean. It doesn’t take long for Jean to wash out of the navy. He ends up an electrician at a theater and Zou Zou ends up working as a laundress. It’s this part of the film where Baker is in off the wall mode.

She Throws Herself Against That Glass

From there it takes one unwieldy star and a mistaken audition by Zou Zou for a musical for her to be propelled to stardom. There is a little subplot involving Jean getting falsely accused for murder, but it just adds a little tragedy and not much else.

It’s fun and average, but the historical importance means that if you haven’t seen a Baker film then this one will foot the bill. I recommend it.

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