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William A. Wellman
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Max de Mirecourt, celebrated French novelist, takes a vacation from his social-butterfly wife in Tunisia, where he meets beautiful Alwina, a barefoot hill shepherdess. To cure his writer's block, Max casts Alwina as heroine in a real-life 'Pygmalion' story. She reacts to civilized ways and emotions with charming simplicity. Now Max, stung by reports of his wife's affair with a dark-skinned maharajah, has the idea of launching Alwina in Paris society as a princess. Will civilization spoil her wild charms? Who will pair off with whom? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
An advertising poster for this film is pictured on one stamp of a set of five 42¢ USA commemorative postage stamps honoring Vintage Black Cinema, issued 16 July 2008. Other films honored in this set are Black and Tan (1929), The Sport of the Gods (1921), Caldonia (1945), and Hallelujah (1929). See more »
Interesting Re-Working of the 'Pygmalion' Story, & A Decent Vehicle For Baker
The story in this feature is an interesting re-working of the familiar 'Pygmalion' story, making some fairly imaginative changes in the setting and details to add some new themes to the story. It is also a decent vehicle for the vivacious and multi-talented Josephine Baker. Although the material does not give her a chance to display her full range of talents (which would probably take a stage show, rather than a movie), it does provide her with some pretty good musical numbers, and it gives her a role that is a good fit.
Albert Préjean and Robert Arnoux make a good team, as the writer and his collaborator who travel to Africa so that Préjean's character can benefit from a change of atmosphere. As the Bedouin Alwina, whom the two Frenchmen meet, Baker's spirited energy works very well. As the story progresses, the kinds of slights and frustrations that her character faces inevitably remind you of the undeserved problems that Baker herself had to contend with in her own life, giving it an interesting extra dimension.
Préjean and Arnoux balance things well with their light, bantering approach. Préjean, in particular, does a good job with his character, showing that there is some sensitivity underneath his somewhat lazy, self-absorbed exterior.
The story moves at a good pace, leading up to the climax at the Maharajah's lavish party, which includes a couple of creative touches. The concluding series of plot turns resolves things in a light fashion, while also suggesting a couple of ideas which, as long as you are careful not to misunderstand them, are worth thinking about. The movie avoids taking itself too seriously, and that helps it work rather well.
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