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Robert Le Vigan
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As children, Zouzou and Jean are paired in a traveling circus as twins: she's dark, he's light. After they've grown, he treats her as if she were his sister, but she's in love with him. In Paris, he's a music hall electrician, she's a laundress who delivers clean underwear to the hall. She introduces him to Claire, her friend at work, and the couple fall in love. Jean conspires to get the show's star out of town and for the theater manager to see the high-spirited Zouzou perform. When Jean's accused of murder and Zouzou needs money to mount his defense, she pleads to go on stage. Her talents may save the show, but can anything save her dream of life with Jean? Written by
Josephine Baker had achieved legendary status by the time she made her first film. Now, it would seem, instead of performing for just a few hundred in a theater or cabaret, her uniqueness could be seen by millions and preserved forever.
In a similar situation, legendary performers such as Jolson and Chevalier brought to their films precisely what the audience wanted to see : i.e., the essence of their live performances.
For reasons that both frustrate and mystify (whatever those reasons might be), Josephine Baker chose to omit almost entirely from her films the essence of the phenomenal entertainer that she was. Had she decided to cultivate a reputation as an Actress by this time in her career? There are a few brief film clips of her performing onstage in the manner that had made her a sensation. In "Zouzou" we get two or three minutes of the Josephine Baker the world remembers (one scene - when she performs behind a closed curtain, certain that no one can see her). In "Princess Tam Tam" there is absolutely nothing of the classic Baker. Love songs, ballads of yearning, sung in a tremulous voice that would not have provided her with a living...she barely moves during these songs, hardly changes expression, though gifted with one of the most expressive faces (and bodies) anyone could wish for.
What a waste. How sad.
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