Baker and the 1930s French Musical Film
This chapter examines Zouzou (1933) and Princesse Tam-Tam (1934) as cinematically ambivalent in their portrayal of Baker as both a “primitive” performer and a glamorous chanteuse. The productions play up pseudo-ethnographic fantasies of Black subjects while their narratives subjugate Baker’s characters. And yet their ambitious musical numbers associate her with Eurocentric notions of beauty in an attempt to establish her as a film star. In so doing, they provide Baker with a level of cinematic authorship, visibility, and glamour inaccessible to Black women in 1930s Hollywood. Consequently, Baker should be recognized as the chief author of her musical numbers as she uses these scenes to create a multifaceted and self-referential screen image, negating simplistic readings of a performative Black womanhood.
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