Marquis Sévéro, a rich, lazy Parisian, wants to divorce his wife so that he can marry his own goddaughter Denise. But Denise herself loves André Berval, an engineer employed by the marquis....
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Marquis Sévéro, a rich, lazy Parisian, wants to divorce his wife so that he can marry his own goddaughter Denise. But Denise herself loves André Berval, an engineer employed by the marquis. Filled with jealousy, the marquis sends André to the Antilles, to prospect some land he has just acquired. He promises André that he can marry Denise if he is successful in the tropics, but he then writes to Alvarez, his manager at the site, asking him to prevent André from ever returning to France. The brutal Alvarez forms an instant hatred for André when the engineer breaks up Alvarez's attempt to rape Papitou, a beautiful native girl. Papitou becomes devoted to André, and protects him against Alvarez's schemes. But she faces a crisis herself when she learns that André plans to marry Denise. Written by
Although it came very early in her film acting career, this is well worth seeing for the performance by Josephine Baker. Her talent more than makes up for any lack of experience, and the role gives her a lot to work with. Although there is no singing, her dancing, athleticism, boundless energy, and personal allure all stand out. The rest of the movie is solid rather than impressive, but most of it works all right in itself.
Baker plays Papitou, an innocent, loyal native girl who becomes part of a clash involving a soulless French nobleman, his brutal colonial henchman, and a young engineer hoping to succeed in the tropics so that he can marry his Parisian fiancée. The first half shows the conflict that plays out in the tropics, and the second half shows the characters back in Paris, with the different settings naturally leading to much different kinds of developments.
Baker's role has many similarities to her roles in later movies such as "Princesse Tam Tam" and "Zou Zou". As her first such role, she not only looks quite young, but also seems to have an extra freshness here. The character also is put in very different circumstances in the different parts of the story. From that viewpoint, the first half is more enjoyable, since it shows Papitou in her element. In the second half of the movie, her character is treated rather thanklessly, and at times it is almost painful seeing such an appealing character treated so badly by the story and by the other characters - which indicates how believably Baker defines her character.
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