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Paris BluesAfrican American Music and French Popular Culture, 1920-1960$
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Andy Fry

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226138787

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226138954.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 15 October 2019

Rethinking The Revue Nègre

Rethinking The Revue Nègre

Black Musical Theatre after Josephine Baker

Chapter:
(p.29) 1. Rethinking The Revue Nègre
Source:
Paris Blues
Author(s):

Adny Fry

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226138954.003.0002

In 1925, Josephine Baker was famously launched to Parisian stardom by La Revue nègre. This show has come to be seen as an end rather than a beginning: the “Call to Order” supposedly reined in taste for “primitive” art nègre and marked a return to French tradition. This chapter challenges that theory, identifying a practice that extends almost the length of the interwar period: far from a single event, the imported “revue nègre” became a genre, embracing such groups as Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds (1926, 1929) and Louis Douglas’ Black Flowers (1930); they continued, albeit less frequently, into the late 1930s. Yet reception of these shows was frequently entangled in racial theories. Of particular concern to critics were the troupes’ apparent hybridity. In “savage” Josephine Baker’s wake, other female performers, Florence Mills, Adelaide Hall, Aida Ward, and Valaida Snow, were believed to embody different kinds of black woman, even varying degrees of civilization. Still, subtle differences can be found between (black) Douglas’ presentations of his performers and that of his white counterpart, “Papa Plantation” Leslie. This reveals a complex negotiation with white expectation – a process that continues today, as explored in a reading of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled which frames the chapter.

Keywords:   Josephine Baker, French tradition, revue nègre, Blackbirds (shows), reception, racial theory, hybridity, Bamboozled (film)

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