Directed by Marc Allégret • 1934 • France
Starring Josephine Baker, Jean Gabin, Pierre Larquey
Josephine Baker’s debut talkie—a huge success in France upon its original release—casts her opposite Jean Gabin, who was himself on the brink of international stardom. In the tradition of 42ND STREET and other backstage musicals of the period, ZOU ZOU concerns a star who walks out on her sugar-daddy producer for true love and a talented Cinderella (Baker) who takes her place, saves the show, and is hailed as a new sensation. Though the film places Baker in several lavish production numbers, it is her poignant rendition of “Haiti” that remains indelible. Clad in feathers and perched on a swing in an oversized birdcage, she sings nostalgically for her Caribbean home and leaves a permanent record on film of her unique style and powerful charisma.
Please be advised: this film contains offensive racial stereotypes.