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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>
A French novelist, disgusted by his wife's society friends, goes to North Africa for a respite. There he encounters a vivacious & talented Bedouin girl, living in poverty. To spite his wife, who is romancing a Maharajah, he decides to train & educate the girl, and present her to Parisian society as the PRINCESSE TAM TAM...
The marvelous Josephine Baker is perfectly cast in the title role in this very enjoyable French film. With her enormous eyes & infectious smile, she makes contact with the viewer's heartstrings immediately. Her over-sized personality & obvious joy of performing make her a pure pleasure to watch. Baker makes us care about what's happening to poor Alwina during her transformation & introduction to European mores.
Albert Préjean does very well as the Pygmalion to Baker's Galatea; also effective are Georges Peclet as a half-caste servant, and Jean Galland as the mysterious Maharajah.
The film is very handsome & well made, looking a little reminiscent of Busby Berkeley movies being produced at the same time in America - although unlike American films of this period, PRINCESSE TAM TAM hasn't any racism. It should be pointed out that there was no Hays Office or Production Code in France. Some of the dialogue & action is rather provocative, but it must be admitted that Baker singing & dancing to 'Under The African Sky,' as well as her culminating performance in the Parisian nightclub, are two of the cinema's more memorable moments.
Actual location filming in Tunisia greatly enhances the film.
Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis in 1906, into a very poor family. Her talent & driving ambition, however, soon pushed her into moving East and she was briefly a cast member of the Ziegfeld Follies. Realizing that America in the mid-1920's held great limitations for a gifted Black woman, she managed to get herself to Paris, where she eventually joined the Foliés-Bergeres & Le Negre Revue. The French adored her and she became a huge celebrity. A short return to America in 1935 showed Baker that things had not changed for African-Americans. She returned to France, became a French citizen & worked for the Resistance during the early days of the War. Baker relocated to Morocco for the duration and entertained Allied troops stationed there.
After the War, Baker's fortunes began to slide and she faced many financial & personal difficulties. For a while, she was even banned from returning to the United States. Finally, Baker accepted an offer from Princess Grace of Monaco to reside in the Principality. Josephine Baker was on the verge of a comeback when she died of a stroke in 1975, at the age of 68.
Having appeared in only two decent films - ZOUZOU & PRINCESSE TAM TAM - Baker is in danger of becoming obscure. But she deserves her place alongside Chevalier, Dietrich & Robeson, as one of her generation's truly legendary performers.
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