Princesse Tam-Tam (1935)

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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Facing writer’s block, Max (Albert Prejean) has decided to pay a visit to the much more exciting land of Tunisia. He leaves his society-obsessed French wife, Lucie (Germaine Aussey), behind and takes a few weeks to clear his head.

Arriving at his vacation/writing retreat destination, Max finds himself amused by a local girl (Josephine Baker).

Meanwhile, back at home in France, Max’s wife finds herself romanced by a Maharaja (Jean Galland).

Princesse Tam-Tam (stylized in English as Princess Tam Tam) was directed by Edmond T. Greville.

This film aired on TCM during their fantastic “Trailblazing Women” programming. Its inclusion in “Trailblazing Women” highlights Josephine Baker in “a movie that would never have been made in America,” says host Illeana Douglas, due to its code-breaking depiction of interracial relationships.

Princesse Tam-Tam‘s airing marked my first time watching a Josephine Baker film, though of course I was already familiar with her name, story, and image. She certainly does have a natural charisma and dazzling screen presence, giving a very lively performance. She also gets to sing, which is wonderful!

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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Baker’s character doesn’t understand things like why the French sleep in beds, or why they have specific meal times. The film doesn’t seem to look down on her for it, simply showcasing the cultural differences without disrespecting the character or actress in the process. Princesse Tam-Tam does a decent job of exploring her feelings as an “outsider” from Western society.

In addition to the appeal of Baker and her character, the film has a very nicely-staged, big-time dance number with hypnotic, spiraling visuals. A battle of sorts forms between Max and Lucie when he heads back to France, which is entertaining. And there’s a great twist ending which I didn’t see coming at all!

I would certainly recommend Princesse Tam-Tam to those interested in the career of Josephine Baker. Anchored by her performance, however, it’s a fascinating watch for any fan of classic film.

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(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

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