Cover image for The Josephine Baker story
The Josephine Baker story
Wood, Ean.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Sanctuary, [2000]

Physical Description:
327 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
GV1785.B3 W66 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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An in-depth portrait of the legendary entertainer describes Baker's early life, her rise to success in the world of French theater, her work for the Red Cross, her battle against racism, and her difficult final years.

Author Notes

Ean Wood was born and raised on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea. After a spell as a grill cook for the CID in London, he wrote his first screenplay -- for an Anglo-Portuguese feature film about white slavery and sardine fishing. He later joined the National Coal Board Film Unit as a documentary writer and director, winning awards as far afield as Zagreb. Work followed as a sound editor on a succession of horror films starring various combinations of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, and later as soundtrack editor for directors such as Derek Jarman.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Josephine Baker is a fascinating, complicated Jazz Age figure, an icon of African American power and talent and an example of how white culture projected wildness and sexuality onto African American performers. One of the most liberated performers, she had to move to Paris to achieve any social equality, and to play the bare-breasted native to win applause. Wood's biography exhaustively recounts her rise from impoverished childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, to initial success in the segregated world of American vaudeville to international fame as a star of the Folies-Bergere. Wood clearly loves Baker and has spared no pains to gather as much about her as he can for this readable book. Still, he does gush, and it is hard not to wish he had spent a little more time delving into the cultural implications of Baker's success in a very overtly racist world. After all, none of her Caucasian cabaret contemporaries--Colette and Dietrich, among them--had to strip, don bananas, and pretend to be a "wild and free jungle nudist" to attract crowds. --Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

After she had been the toast of Europe for 15 years, Baker met with the following assessment of her heralded American tour from Time magazine: "Josephine Baker is a St. Louis washer-woman's daughter who stepped out of a Negro burlesque show into a life of adulation and luxury in Paris [but] in sex appeal to jaded Europeans, a Negro wench always has a head start." Clearly, the racism Baker thought she had left behind when she went to Europe with an all-black musical revue was still alive, yet one more barrier against a woman who consistently faced and overcame adversity. In this chatty and informed biographyÄculled mostly from existing biographies and general books on the eraÄWood (George Gershwin) charts the amazing life and times of "La Baker." Her life story reads like a novel coauthored by Toni Morrison and Danielle SteelÄshe rose from poverty in the U.S., became famous for dancing almost nude in the Folies BergŠre (she wore only a skirt made of bananas), worked for the French Resistance, spoke out vehemently against Nazism and all forms of racism, married numerous times and became a glamorous international star who performed until her death in 1975. While Wood's biography contains no surprises, its workmanlike diligence is an improvement over Lyn Haney's 1981 Naked at the Feast, which glossed over the complications of Baker's life, and Phyllis Rose's 1989 Jazz Cleopatra, which took an oddly hostile tone to the performer. Wood is not at his best explaining the deep contradictions of Baker's life and politics (such as her support of Mussolini's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia), but he offers a good introduction to her life and times. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 8
1 Meet Me In St Louisp. 11
2 "Just Look At That Child Shuffle!"p. 29
3 Shuffle Alongp. 46
4 La Revue Negrep. 63
5 From Paris To Berlinp. 84
6 La Folie Du Jourp. 103
7 Un Vent De Foliep. 124
8 On The Roadp. 140
9 Le Beau-Chenep. 161
10 Citoyennep. 188
11 The Honourable Correspondentp. 212
12 Civil Rightsp. 241
13 Les Milandesp. 270
14 Here I Go Againp. 297
Bibliographyp. 319
Indexp. 321