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Baker, Josephine (1906–1975)

paris zou tam french

BAKER, JOSEPHINE (1906–1975). Singer, dancer, actress. Josephine Baker became a legend for her bold and risqué stage performances in 1920s Paris. After running away from home at age 13 to join a traveling road show, she ended up in Philadelphia. There, she was hired as a dresser for Noble Sissle’s musical comedy review Shuffle Along . She learned all of the songs and dances, and later, she stole the show one night when a performer dropped out and she filled in. In 1923, at age 17, she was in “Chocolate Dandies,” Sissle’s all-black Broadway show, and performed material written especially for her. Soon after, she was introduced to Paris in the 1925 production of La Revue Négre . Miss Baker’s most sensational role may have been as the “Dark Star” of the Folies-Bergére , in which she appeared topless in a skirt of bananas. This dance made her the toast of Paris, and she reveled in her success by catering to her cadre of fans, and flamboyantly walking her pet leopard down the Champs Elysées. After a successful around the world tour, Miss Baker branched out as a singer and comedienne at the Casino de Paris. She later starred in the French films La Creole , with Jean Gabin, and also Zou Zou , 1934, and Princess Tam Tam , 1935. She was quite active during World War II as a Red Cross volunteer and as an Italian Embassy attaché. At the end of the war, she was decorated with the Legion of Honor by the French government. By the early 1950s, Baker retired and used her fortune and notoriety to adopt and care for an interracial mix of orphaned children. After only three years, the lack of income, her lavish lifestyle, and her “rainbow family” had depleted her savings. She was forced to return to her career and starred in Paris, Mes Amours , a musical based on her own amazing life.

Filmography: Zou Zou , 1934; Princess Tam Tam , 1935; The French Way , 1949.

Baker, Lavern (Dolores Williams) [next] [back] Baker, Houston A., Jr.(1943–) - Literary critic, editor, poet, educator, Chronology, Distinguished Career as Educator

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