Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Josephine Baker was an American born French actress, singer, dancer and comedianne, but most importantly the first African American female to star in a motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer.

Living in the slums of St. Louis. Starting from the age of eight Josephine was put to work cleaning houses.

She first danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels & dimes. Later, she became a chorus girl on the St. Louis stage. At 15 she married a Pullman porter named Baker, but left him when she ran away at age 17, because of racial discrimination.

She made her way to Paris, France. She first captured Paris audiences in La Revue Négre captivating audiences with Danse Sauvage which was exotic and had her performing in nothing but a feathered skirt.

When La Revue Nègre closed, Josephine starred in La Folie du Jour at the Follies-Bergère Theater. Her jaw-dropping performance, including a costume of 16 bananas strung into a skirt, cemented her celebrity status. Her Banana Dance is probably one of the most famous dances during the era. She was given such nicknames as the “Bronze Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, and the “Créole Goddess”.

Her first major motion picture was Zouzou from 1934.

She also is noted for her contributions to the civil rights movement in the US for assisting the French resistence during World War II in which she received the French military honor the Croix de guerre. To show that people from different cultures could live together, Baker took on 12 multinational children and called them her Rainbow Tribe.

One qoute about her reads as follows: “She kissed babies in foundling homes, gave dolls to the young and soup to the aged, presided at the opening of the Tour de France, celebrated holidays, went to fairs, joked with workers and did charity benefits galore. She was all over Paris, always good-natured and exquisitely dressed.” (source)

Josephine Baker, 1928-1930

Josephine Baker, 1920s

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Josephine Baker

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Portrait of Josephine Baker, 1920’s

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Portrait of Josephine Baker for the Follies Bergère by Walery, 1926

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Portrait of Josephine Baker in Paris qui remue at the Casino de Paris by Walery, 1930

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Josephine Baker’s Banana Dance

Footage of Josephine Baker performing her infamous Banana Dance.

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Vintage Photos of Danish Silent Era Movie Queen Asta Nielsen

Asta Nielsen (1881 – 1972), was a Danish silent film actress who was one of the most popular leading ladies of the 1910s and one of the first international movie stars. Seventy of Nielsen’s 74 films were made in Germany where she was known simply as Die Asta (The Asta).

In 1911 she was contracted to German producer Paul Davidson for $80,000 a year, then the highest salary for a film star. In 1924 she was famously co-starred with that other great Scandinavian diva, Greta Garbo, months before Garbo left for Hollywood and MGM.

Noted for her large dark eyes, mask-like face and boyish figure, Nielsen most often portrayed strong-willed passionate women trapped by tragic consequences. Due to the erotic nature of her performances, Nielsen’s films were heavily censored in the United States and her work remained relatively obscure to American audiences.

She is credited with transforming movie acting from overt theatricality to a more subtle naturalistic style. Nielsen founded her own film studio in Berlin during the 1920s, but returned to Denmark in 1937 after the rise of Nazism in Germany. A private figure in her later years, Nielsen became a collage artist and an author.

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Asta Nielsen, -Foto:dpa

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Asta Nielsen, 1920

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Asta Nielsen while filming the freaudlose Gasse in 1925

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Asta Nielsen by Bain News Service, ca. 1914

Asta Nielsen, 1914
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Asta Nielsen

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