The characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 16, Josephine Baker)

Sonia Rolland
Sonia Rolland plays Josephine Baker in the new Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris”

I have been going through the characters in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris,” and now I am posting about Josephine Baker. By the way, I know that some of you are wondering how many posts I will have before I am finished. Right now I have plans to look at Van Gogh, Picasso, Man Ray, T.S. Elliot and several more.

NAME: Freda McDonald aka Josephine Baker

BIRTH DATE: 1906

BIRTH PLACE: St. Louis, Missouri

EDUCATION: Dropped out of school at the age of 12.

FAMILY BACKGROUND: Josephine Baker’s mother was Carrie McDonald and her father was Eddie Carson. Arthur Martin was her stepfather. Her siblings were Richard, Margaret and Willie Mae. Josephine’s first husband was Willie Wells; her second husband was Willie Baker; her third husband was Jean Lion; and, her fourth husband was orchestra leader Jo Bouillon. Her twelve adopted children were: Akio (male), Janot (male), Luis (male), Jari (male), Jean-Claude (male), Moise (male), Brahim (male), Marianne (female), Koffi (male), Mara (male), Noel (male), Stellina (female). Josephine’s last marriage was to American Artist Robert Brady.

DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Overcoming the limitations imposed by the color of her skin, she became one of the world’s most versatile entertainers, performing on stage, screeen and recordings. Josephine was decorated for her undercover work for the French Resistance during World War II. She was a civil rights activist. She refused to perform for segregated audiences and integrated the Las Vegas nightclubs. She adopted twelve children from around the world whom she called her “Rainbow Tribe.”

DATE OF DEATH: Josephine died in 1975, in her sleep, after a large party given in her honor.

PLACE OF DEATH: She died in Paris and was buried in Monaco. She became the first American woman to receive French military honors at her funeral.

josephine baker 300x219 Josephine Baker   Schwarze Diva in einer wei§en Welt

WDR Cologne JOSEPHINE BAKER – Black Diva in a White Man’s World.
A film by Annette von Wangenheim, 3sat: June 2nd, 2006 : 20:15h @ 21:00h
She took Paris by storm in 1925—In 1975. She celebrated her 50th stage anniversary: Joséphine Baker, the first internationally successful black superstar of the 20th century (photographed in1954)

josephine-baker-top-hat
 

Midnight in Paris

As exciting as a visit to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Midnight in Paris is a parade of colorful characters from 1920′s France, including Impressionists, Surrealists, writers and American expatriates of the era who congregated there for inspiration and artistic freedom. I enjoyed spotting famous people among the assemblage (was THAT Josephine Baker?) and experiencing the common yearning of every aspiring writer who believes he gave up his great novel to make a living. This is not the first Woody Allen film born out of wishful thinking.The film opens with a montage of every recognizable tourist attraction in Paris (pronounced “PAH-ree”for you aspiring Francophiles) from the Moulin Rouge to the Eiffel Tower before we are introduced to Gil, played by Owen Wilson, a successful Hollywood screenwriter engaged to attractive but superficial Inez, played by Rachel McAdams. They have been invited along on a business trip with Inez’s parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), portrayed as the most tiresome, materialistic, stuffy couple ever to make it on the backs of the populace. We know very soon that Gil and Inez are not right for each other, and when the self-important Paul (Michael Sheen) shows up coincidentally to present a paper at the Sorbonne, the point is further made as Rachel openly compares him with Gil. Finally, Gil goes his separate way one evening and finds himself lost in Paris. As the clock chimes midnight, what looks to be a simply gorgeous cream-colored 1920-something Peugot Type 183 arrives, and he is beckoned to join its occupants who happen to be Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.Now this is where the fun finally begins as Gil travels back in time and meets other such personages as Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Talouse Latrec, Gertrude Stein, played by some well known actors and celebrities including Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni and others, the best of which was Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali. Marion Cotillard portrays a fictional character who is Picasso’s lover and a potential romantic interest for Gil in 1920′s Paris. It is during these fantastical forays into the past that Gil feels encouraged to give up his screenwriting, stay in Paris and pursue his novel.A fellow dilettante opines that the cinematography of Midnight in Paris is over-saturated and too yellow, in desperate need of color correction and decent lighting. I do agree the cinematography and the editing are remarkably undistinguished. It is said that Allen and his cinematographer (Darius Khondji) differed on the film look, so it appears the blame belongs to Allen who apparently pulled rank.
This is a fun, fluffy flick that pulls out every Parisian cliche imaginable, and for those who itch to see Corporate America get what’s coming to it, Allen also uses Wilson’s character to deliver a tirade about the Tea Party, Republicans and conservatives (apparently a cohesive group — don’t expect Allen to get too deep). With a predictable plot, unimaginative dialogue, average performances and undistinguished technical production, the film relies too heavily on its Parisian ambiance and the depiction of artists and writers who congregated in1920′s France. But…Midnight in Parisis a nostalgic little escape for those who may share Gil’s wistful “if only” regrets or just enjoy romanticizing 1920′s Paris.  I do confess…I craved a French pastry from La Madeleine immediately following this film, so I will rate Midnight in Paris one cappuccino and a warm-up to go with it.

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