August 17, 2017

Josephine Baker, American Dancer, Singer & Actress

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Josephine Baker was born on the 3rd of June 1906 and died on the 12th of April 1975. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, she was physically abused as a child of just 8 years old when she was working for a white woman.

Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived on the streets of St. Louis, scavenging for food and taking shelter in cardboard boxes.

While dancing on the corner of streets to raise cash, she was discovered and recruited to the St. Louis Vaudeville show at the age of 15. She later moved to New York City, performing in the Plantation Club, as well as in the chorus of popular Broadway revues “Shuffle Along” in 1921 and in “The Chocolate Dandies” in 1924. She was eventually billed as the highest paid chorus girl in vaudeville.

She went on to open in Paris in 1925 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. She was an instant hit as an erotic dancer, appearing almost nude, on stage. She toured Europe and went on to star in the Folies Bergeres.

Ernest Hemingway once called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” She went on to star in three movies, but they were only ever popular in Europe. Her three movies were “Siren of the Tropics” in 1927, “ZouZou” in 1934 and her final appearance in a movie was in 1935, when she starred in “Princesse Tam Tam”.

Despite her popularity in France, she never obtained the same reputation in America when she visited in 1935-1936. She returned to Paris in 1937 and married the Frenchman Jean Lion and became a French citizen. She went on to show great loyalty to France, during the Nazi occupation in World War 2, where she volunteered as a spy.

She went on to tour Africa in the 1940′s, entertaining allied soldiers. during the 1960′s she was invited to perform at the Teatro Musical de La Habana in Havana, Cuba, by Fidel Castro.

Her final performance was in 1975, where she starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris — Josephine a Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business. The show got tremendous revies and was packed out with extra seating provided. She was found dead four days later, lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with glowing reviews of her performance.

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