The Josephine Baker Story

1991 [english]

Biography / Drama / History

The Josephine Baker Story

1991 [english]

Biography / Drama / History

7.1

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7.1

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Synopsis

Born poor in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker achieved fame and fortune through her sizzlingly exotic, erotic performances. Starting life on the American Vaudeville circuit, success takes Josephine to Paris where her semi-nude dancing causes an international sensation. Through her marriages to an Italian pseudo-count and an orchestra leader, to her bond with army officer Sydney Williams, Josephine's life is a rollercoaster ride of love and rejection from both her lovers and her country. But semi-nude, or head-to-toes in sequins; in battle fatigues or rags - her beauty and ambition ensured that Josephine Baker will always be remembered as the first, and possibly most loved, truly international star. —HBO Home Video.

Uploaded By: FREEMAN

Aug 15, 2021 at 03:51 PM

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grade Movie Reviews

  • Reviewed by EighthSense grade 10 / 10

    She did it HER way

    I remember many years ago reading Josephine Baker's biography, and looking hungrily at the photographs, trying to learn a little more about the woman who had used every ounce of energy and talent she had to serve her purposes-and how noble those purposes were. She could have lived a very comfortable life resting on her laurels, without taking the chances and responsibilities she took, but she did not. This movie does her justice, and it is truly a feast for the eyes and ears, as well as food for thought. Lynn Whitfield's performance is amazing, moving, exciting. It brings Glamor of mythic proportions into the living rooms of people, most of whom would never see something comparable today. It also brings twinges of embarrassment to me as an American, seeing the shameful racist treatment Josephine received in her own country, which she bore in a regally proud way. I had one thought as I was watching her in all her splendor and fame waiting for food that was not to be served to her at the Stork Club: How many of the racists who treated her so awfully were foolish or liars enough to call themselves Christians?


  • Reviewed by richard-1787 grade 6 / 10

    Well intentioned

    This is certainly a well-intentioned movie, and the star, Lynn Whitfield, certainly gives a very moving performance. Much of the movie focuses on Baker's career after the War, where she becomes involved in the civil rights movement. It's very well-meaning, certainly, but not the part of her life and career that interests me, so I found that that part of the movie dragged. Her years in Paris as a performer in the 1920s and 30s get short shrift, and that's a shame, because it's what made a star of her.The movie takes its particular stance on how Baker saw her early Paris performances. While it's an interesting interpretation - very sincere - I don't know how accurate it is. The one aspect of Baker's performances that doesn't get developed in this movie is her role as a comedian. In certain ways, she was something of a Black Fanny Brice. Something of that comes through her early newsreels, but it's missing from the way Ms. Whitfield was directed to portray Baker.In the end, for me, this amounted to a very fine performance by Whitfield. But how accurate a depiction of Baker it provided, at least for her early years as a successful performer, I don't know.


  • Reviewed by kenneth7520 grade 9 / 10

    The Josephine Baker Story---Riveting!

    I had the distinct pleasure of watching a full-fledged documentary film about Josephine Baker directly before viewing the HBO made-for-television movie featuring Lynn Whitfield as the beloved late entertainer.I can now compare the HBO movie to the documentary"Chasing A Rainbow;The Life Of Josephine Baker".Here is my verdict;Lynn was excellent in her portrayal of Josephine Baker.She played the role with emotionally driven conviction,energy,and grace.There had to be clever maneuvers creating Josephine's character-nobody can become Josephine Baker,being uniquely who she was,but who could convincingly pull-off her character?Now Lynn Whitfield could not transform to Josephine-incarnate,but what she did do was put her own flair on the role,and did so effectively.Lynn sold herself in every respect.The acting,dancing,comical renditions,and convincing-lip sync of Josephine's real songs were challenges Lynn took head-on.Her portrayal resulted in winning the"Outstanding Lead Actress"Emmy award for 1991,so it worked!Not only was Lynn Whitfield great literally owning the role,but I loved everything else about this movie.All of Lynn's costars are splendid in their respective roles.Now I must bring to attention the character of Sidney Bechet,played stylishly well by Kene Holliday as Josephine's band member best friend.Sidney Bechet may have been an actual person in Josephine's entourage,but his significance in the HBO movie may be questionable.He is clearly what I think intended by the producer to be a phantom-role.By this I mean that the documentary does not refer to a best friend aiding Josephine in major plans and decisions,like the HBO movie does.Josephine was an impetus force all her own in reality.However,the Sidney character in the HBO film was not a bad idea for 2 reasons:it gives the movie viewer an opportunity as to what went on in Josephine's mind and also allowed Lynn Whitfield a chance to express how Josephine felt emotionally about principal decisions-all due to interactive dialogue with Sidney Bechet.The only drawback is that it also makes Josephine appear weak and dependent in her planning,while she was nothing like that.Josephine alone made all of the important decisions and plans throughout her illustrious,colorful and sometimes controversial career.The movie appreciably stayed on track to events and landmarks that took place involving Josephine's life.However,the HBO movie leads you to think she married twice,while the documentary reveals that she married 4 times.Even if the HBO movie producers did not want to put 4 weddings in the script,a brief reference statement perhaps by a cast member would have been appropriate.The HBO movie as the documentary does point out her numerous love affairs with men associated with her in the entertainment business.From portrait painters to Counts,and playboys to producers,she managed to keep a love affair brewing.Although she finalized the divorce of her first husband(Willie Baker)in 1923,she kept the last name throughout the rest of her life.Other than the"best friend"(Sidney Bechet)phantom-role character and the twice married lead-off,the HBO movie was truthful.Basically,the movie is about the little black girl who grew up poor in the then fierce 1920's era St.Louis slum region to become a local sensation of the musical dance theater circuit.Josephine and her entourage,known as"The Dixie Steppers"eventually toured the country,wowing club audiences at full throttle.Once confident enough,the ambitiously motivated group took their sprightly talents to the prestigious Harlem,New York night club scene.This place in the 1920's was true testing ground where again they prevailed with rave reviews.Josephine relished the spotlight and also managed to steal-the-show with her jaunty comical antics.Her colleagues called her Monkey due to her vivacious stage presence and skill in the profound art of improvisation.Meanwhile,a rich American-Carolyne Dudley(the wife of a diplomat)decided to bring a group of musicians to Paris.She wanted to show the French what the "Jazz Age" was all about.Carolyne enlisted Josephine Baker as a member of the entourage that was headed for Paris.Paris instantly fell in love with Josephine's stage performances,and she fell in love with Paris.Although stolen by Paris and missed by New York,France became the launching pad for which Josephine had manifested her talents.The best of her prowess emerged when she met a Count-Giuseppe Pepito Abatino,eloquently portrayed by Ruben Blades.He became her manager.The Count(albeit a murky past)succeeded in making Josephine a very rich and famous international superstar.Josephine found herself in the position of celebrity and was admired while exploited both at the same time.While Josephine flourished the benefits of fame,the French audiences generally regarded her acts as substandard since she did much of her dance performances semi-nude.The French basically place the partially nude,and nude theater performances in a class of their own.She consequently garnered labels such as notorious,scandalous,and dark star.Although aware of this,she saw it as part of the show and did not consider herself a lewd person.The Paris press was quoted with saying;Josephine Baker is right for adventure,never respectability/She may be the toast of the town,but never someone to take home to introduce to Mom.Josephine,nonetheless blossomed in France.She then succeeded on to tour all of Europe to become even more popular,while being shunned by some of the more-conservative types of people.Her life and career,were shaped by the fame,money,lovers,and travel as she danced,sang,and starred in movies.Her brimming talents subsequently led her to patriotic real life roles of war hero(Itelligence for the French Resistance against 1940's Nazi occupation),Political/Civil Rights Activist,and mishap orphan savior(her adopted multi-race"Rainbow Tribe"of 12 children).The HBO movie does enact Josephine Baker for all the major events,trials,triumphs and achievements that constituted her interesting life.I can safely say that the movie does give the viewing audience the big-picture.The movie informs, expresses,enchants as well as entertains,while letting you effectively understand how all that occurred in Josephine Baker's life helped make her an entertainment legend in her day.


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