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Josephine Baker and Katherine DunhamDances in Literature and Cinema$
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Hannah Durkin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042621

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042621.001.0001

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Cinematic Segregation

Cinematic Segregation

Dunham in World War II Hollywood

(p.135) Chapter Five Cinematic Segregation
Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham

Hannah Durkin

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines Dunham’s interventions in World War II-era U.S. cinema. Focusing on three of Dunham’s Hollywood films, Carnival of Rhythm (1941), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), and Stormy Weather (1943), the chapter recovers Dunham’s groundbreaking contribution as a Black woman choreographer to midcentury U.S. cinema. Establishing that Dunham was the first Black choreographer to gain onscreen credit for her work in Hollywood, it shows how her performances represented a negotiation of studio-era racial codes but also how she mediated such codes and was able to assert her authorship by presenting a vision of Black dancing womanhood in Hollywood that was pioneering its open engagement with sensuality, cultural diversity, and choreographic allusions to ballet and modern dance.

Keywords:   Katherine Dunham, Stormy Weather, Carnival of Rhythm, Star Spangled Rhythm, World War II Hollywood, film musical, African American film, Hays Code, dance, performance

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