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  • Josephine Baker Story [VHS]
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Josephine Baker Story [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lynn Whitfield, Rubén Blades, David Dukes, Louis Gossett Jr., Craig T. Nelson
  • Directors: Brian Gibson
  • Writers: Michael Zagor, Ron Hutchinson
  • Producers: Alisa Taylor, David Puttnam, John Kemeny, Madeleine Henrié, Robert Halmi Jr.
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Hbo Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: December 12, 1994
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6302555337
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,795 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


You know how it goes. You hear about what a sensation someone like Josephine Baker was in her prime (in her case, the 1920s and '30s), how she pushed boundaries in such delicate areas as race and sex, how she both thrilled and scandalized Paris with her exotic dancing and personal behavior. You have all these loose strands of legend and random fact, your curiosity is running high, and then you hear that a feature film is being made about the very subject. You watch, and then wonder: what was the big deal about Josephine Baker? The problem with this 1991 TV movie is the same as with a number of HBO films from the 1980s and early '90s: it isn't particularly well written, the production looks rushed, and the entire point is obscured in a whirl of biographical material that doesn't sufficiently develop into insightful, organic unity. What The Josephine Baker Story does do, however, is provide a reference point from which to begin an appreciation of Baker's life. A poor, African American girl from St. Louis, Baker found fame and wealth in Europe as a dancer whose partially nude, unbridled performances invoked wit, sexual liberation, and passion--without, somehow, seeming vulgar or obscene. As Baker, Lynn Whitfield gets into the uninhibited spirit of things, free with her body and enthusiastic about re-creating many of her character's performances (yes, the famed Banana Dance is a highlight). The film superficially suggests that Baker was celebrated as an expressive artist, a healthy force of nature rather than a lewd exhibitionist, but it doesn't go far enough down that road to tell us why she matters. Somewhat better is the script's contrasting emphasis on Baker's celebrity overseas and her second-class status as a black woman in America. In the end, the film's real accomplishment is underscoring how racism truly determines the course of an individual's life, and the way Baker understood that both from the vantage point of a refugee and a victim. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 67 customer reviews
It is well acted, directed and a compelling story.
Jason A. Wilson
This movie portrayed a very interesting tale of the intersting life of this often unknown talent.
DVD quality was excellent and I have no complaints.
Adrienne King

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 1, 2003
Format: DVD
THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY is a fast-forward, 2-hour plus life synopsis of the celebrated black entertainer from 1917, when she was eleven and running from murderous racial violence in St. Louis, to her death in 1975 in Paris. Lynn Whitfield stars in this HBO production.
The film manages to catch the key points of her life: early vaudeville gigs in the U.S. as a very young girl, notoriety as an exotic dancer in 1920's Paris, rise to major world stardom in the late 20's/early 30's, disastrous return to the U.S. entertainment circuit in the late 30's, French Resistance war hero, a near-fatality from peritonitis, entertainer of U.S. troops in North Africa, post-war civil rights champion back in the U.S., loving mother of a dozen, adopted, multi-racial children on her French estate, financial destitution in the late 60's, and resurrection in the 70's with the help of Prince and Princess Rainier of Monaco.
Since TJBS covers so many decades and events in such short a time, much is lost: the marriage to her first and third husbands (Willie Wells and Jean Lion respectively), her brief film career, her stint as a Red Cross nurse after the Nazi occupation of Belgium, her many legal imbroglios, her late-life relationship with American artist Robert Brady, and her presence in the 1963 Washington D.C. civil rights march led by Martin Luther King. Sometimes the viewer feels shortchanged, as when the scene shifts from late 30's New York to wartime France to 1942 North Africa in the blink of an eye. (Don't go to the kitchen for that pastrami sandwich and beer - you may miss something.
Read more ›
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ahlaiah Toney on April 13, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
There are very few times that a movie can hold a flame to the life of the actual person that is intended to be portrayed but this movie does just that. It gives the ultimate respect and dignity that an artist of this calibur truly deserves. Her life is artfully displayed through from her turbulant rise to fame to her rocky downfall. It is a movie that can be enjoyed on all too many levels and should be marked as an ethereal masterpiece.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Tim on September 24, 2004
Format: DVD
I had ignored this movie on the rental shelf many times, thinking that it would be a very boreing bio about a forgotten old actress. Then one day I examined the pictures on the box and notices the star wearing the sexy "banana suit". So of-course, I rented it immediately !

It turned out to be a beautiful movie about the life of a fallen angel/fallen hero. It shows you how she became one of the richest black women in showbusiness, a member of the resistance in World War 2, and a fighter for civil rights.

I noticed a lot of symbolism in this movie. Like during the first 5 minutes of the movie, she does her provacative topless night dance. If you look really deep, you won't just focus on her body....what you will begin to focus on is HER EYES, her wild untameable eyes. During her life she was untameable, always fighting, not willing to giveup.

The star Lynn Whitfield is very entoxicating. If you're a guy, she'll make you forget all about Hally Berry.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Bellum on August 18, 2006
Format: DVD
Buoyed by a strong performance from Lynn Whitfield, this HBO film touches on the highlights of La Baker's career and life. Since I didn't know much about her life, most everything in the film was new to me. Even though it doesn't delve too deeply into any one area, we experience her childhood motivations, marriage tribulations, career successes and love of children. We also get some distinct impressions that she left the United States for France because the racism and oppression in the US were unbearable. Apparently being African-American qualified her to entertain folks, but not to enter by the same door or eat at the same tables as them. She married a Caucasian, "no `count Count" from Italy and adopted a "rainbow" of children from around the world. Throughout her life, she sought to break down racial barriers and fight racism in her own, not insignificant way. While she will be remembered as an exotic dancer, it is her struggle with racism on which this film justifiably focuses. HBO seems to have a knack for making above-average biopics that probably would not stand a chance in theaters. This stands alongside "Gia," "Norma Jean and Marilyn," and others as a well-made chronicle of a life well worth remembering.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andre S. Grindle TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 1, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ever since I was 9 years old and watched the French documentary 'Chasing A Rainbow' I was emmediatly fascinated by Josephine Baker. It was like The Beatles in a way-she has one of the greatest celebrity stories in know history!And it wasn't until several years later did I realize that this movie had been made but it was an HBO exclusive and I didn't have cable.It came out on VHS and was hard to find for awhile but when it came out on DVD,I waited awhile and at the strong recommendation of a friend went for this.Considering how much I enjoyed Introducing Dorothy Dandridge I naturally assumed this would be at least just as good.Well 'The Josephine Baker Story' is BETTER then just as good.As noted in other reviews this film takes a look at Josephine Baker the women rather then the performer.That is covered too but Josephine (portrayed by the lovely and dynamic Lynn Whitfiend)is given a real humanity outside her larger then life persona.One thing I learned about Josephine from this was that I COULD SEE why she'd want to get out of her area of St.Louis.From the point of view of her it looked to be a terrible violent place that should've never been bestowed on anyone of any color. She dreamed of a fairy tale life and after playing the baffoon long enough in America she blissfully went to Paris along with her fellow artist and buddy Sidney Bechet.And so La Baker's assault on France begins-her and other members of Le Revue Negre' dancing in the streets of the city,her being painted and adored by many. But as her pseudo count "husband" Pepito pointed out,she needed to truly break out.Read more ›
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