La Siréne des tropiques

From Josephine Baker's first movie, La Siréne des Tropiques (1927). Josephine played a native girl on a generic tropical island, who falls in love with the young French engineer played by Pierre Batcheff.
Found in an interesting article by Ylva Habel, film historian: To Stockholm, with Love: The Critical Reception of Josephine Baker, 1927-35

"If we adjust our tastes to those of the lower races, it will be the downfall of our culture," thundered an anonymous "letter to the Editor" in Stockholms Dagblad (23 July 1928), when Josephine Baker appeared in person on a Swedish stage for the first time in history. Another preached: "Don't we have enough leg-shows and flirtation in [Ernst] Rolf's and Karl Gerhard's revues [...]? … is there no longer any prohibition in Sweden against showing a woman's entire torso?" They did not stand unchallenged:
Why should our delight over the encounter with this deeply natural human being be interpreted as a sign of the depravation of our times?
[...] those who have the capacity to live in the present and to love its art forms, and in the best cases, its deep sense of decorum, should be glad to have known Josephine Baker, the international stage revue's most loveable child of nature.
(Signed 'Unbiased Theologian' - sounds like Falco, doesn't it!)
The confused but intrigued Stockholmers imagined Josephine as an unspoiled child of nature, although there were years of hard work behind her stage persona and performance. In the 30's, when she developed her look in a more divalike, chansonette-singer direction, some critics accused her of being crafty and manipulative (and indirectly admitted that she was an intelligent adult!). It is sad to note that even her most ardent admirers were affected by exotism that overlaps racism. It is difficult to find articles that gave a "human" image of her as an independent person capable of rational decisions and smart career moves without condemning her for crossing some invisible limit of acceptability.
What I find most interesting is how some reviewers depicted her as a messenger of continental European civilization to a peripheral, puritanical North. For these reviewers, she was not just a charming "primitive" - she was a symbol of Paris, city of lights. And that is exactly what she would become during her long career.

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