Vintage Black Cinema
Issue Date: July 16, 2008
City: Newark, NJ
Directed by Edmond T. Gréville, “Princess Tam-Tam” is a French musical comedy released in 1935. The film tells the story of Max de Mirecourt (played by Albert Préjean), a struggling Parisian writer who travels to Tunisia for inspiration. He finds it in the hypnotizing Alwina (played by Josephine Baker) and creates a character based on her for his new novel. Max teaches Alwina manners and how to behave in high society. He then brings her back to Paris, calling her Princess Tam-Tam, greatly upsetting his wife Lucie (played by Germaine Aussey). Lucie, in turn, conspires with the Maharajah of Datane to destroy the Princess. Ultimately, Max and Lucie forgive each other. Faced with the harsh reality from the Maharajah that “Some windows face to the West, and the others to the East,” Alwina realizes Paris is not the place for her, and she returns to Tunisia.
Based on the film’s success, Josephine Baker has been described as “la grande diva magnifique” or “the big magnificent diva.” She was a celebrated dancer, singer, and actress. She was also the first woman of African descent to have a starring role in a major motion picture and integrate an American concert hall. “Princess Tam-Tam,” starring Josephine Baker, was honored on a 2008 U.S. commemorative stamp in a set of five stamps celebrating Vintage Black Cinema.