Siren of the Tropics
Available only as a fragment for decades, Siren of the Tropics is Josephine Baker’s feature film debut. Made in 1927, around the time Josephine was making a Paris splash as a Folies Bergère star, Siren establishes the rags to riches, fairy tale template from which her subsequent films would be cut.
Josephine plays Papitou, a free-spirited, animal-loving girl from the Caribbean who falls in love with Andre, a sophisticated young man who has been sent to the Parisian Antilles as a prospector. She is unaware that he is betrothed to another, or that his work assignment is actually a perilous ruse concocted by his scheming boss. As the truth becomes known, Papitou finds herself pursuing Andre back to Paris, where fate intervenes. Will Papitou's new job as a music hall performer (a natural role for La Baker) bring the romantic resolution she so desperately desires?
Though silent, Siren of the Tropics abounds with musical energy, aided in no small part by Josephine Baker's innate screen magnetism. The film contains perhaps her greatest dance work on celluloid, the frenetic "Charleston."