Siren of the Tropics


also known as: La sirène des tropiques

directed by Henri Étiévant and Mario Nalpas, 87 minutes

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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 native girl 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 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." Among the crew, as Assistant Director, was a very young Luis Buñuel.

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Top reviewer
3 members found this review helpful Created almost 2 years ago.

Not to be missed! Silence notwithstanding, Josephine Baker shouts out and sings the song of her wild heart. She is mesmerizing...a feast for the eyes...truly dancing to the heartbeat of her own drum!

1 member found this review helpful Created almost 2 years ago.

She is so adorable and she is unique--an original who has never been equalled in the years since.

You have to see her to understand.

1 member found this review helpful Created 10 months ago.

A slice of history I'd never seen. I did a paper in college about the actresses like Josephine and Lena and Dorothy, so this is wonderful to see the actual film. Technology has been great for making these lost treasures accessible. Interesting commentary on the social mores or lack of them at the time...

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