Josephine Baker

Bryan Hammond, Author, Patrick O'Connor, With Random House (UK) $35 (0p) ISBN 978-0-224-02441-9
Three hundred photographs from Hammond's cache of Baker memorabilia--ranging from a wire sculpture molded in her image by Alexander Calder to Life photos of the legendary black entertainer--provide the visual anchor for O'Connor's crisply executed portrait of the artist. Born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1906, Baker, already hailed as a vaudeville and jazz dancer, left the country in 1925 to perform in a Parisian revue, where she earned the adoration of the French and, in short order, popularity in Europe, North Africa and South America. By her death in 1975, she was a French citizen, WW II Resistance heroine, crusader for racial equality, adoptive mother of 12--and still a radiant show-stopper whose towering egret-feathered headdresses seemed to seduce each generation in turn. Sympathetic but not sentimental, O'Connor, former editor of Opera News , ably narrates a career of astonishing resilience filled with domestic pain (broken marriages, financial mayhem), paying particular attention to Baker's musical signature (her voice produced ``a breathless, tremulous sound, with a piping quality seeming to race to keep up with the band''). (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-8212-1860-0
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