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Princess Tam Tam

(French 1935 b 77')

En: 5 Ed: 5

A writer fights with his wife, teaches an African, and tries to pass her off as a princess to make his wife jealous; but she is playing the same game.

Novelist Max de Mirecourt (Albert Préjean) fights with his wife Lucie (Germaine Aussey) and goes with his collaborator Coton (Robert Arnoux) to Africa. Alwina (Josephine Baker) is seen stealing oranges, but Max pays. Max and Coton try to write and visit Roman ruins. Alwina dances for children. She guides tourists who imply she smells like a musky animal; so she puts sand in their salt shaker. She begs, runs from the police, and gets on Max's car, which takes her to his villa. She is caught snooping; but Max and Coton decide to teach her while she lives with them. Meanwhile Lucie is flirting with a Maharajah (Jean Galland) and says she is using him to make Max jealous. Max tells Alwina that Coton, who is writing everything down, is his slave. Alwina goes out on a sailing boat with Dar (Georges Péclet) and sings of the ocean. Max gets mail with clippings of Lucie and the Maharajah. He works to finish his novel so that he can go home. Alwina is dressed up and studies piano, dance, and arithmetic.

Max and Coton take Alwina back to France. Coton calls on Lucie and asks about the Maharajah. Coton tells Lucie that Max is seeing a black princess. Coton shows Alwina to reporters, and Lucie sees a news photo. Max asks Alwina to be a princess and takes her to the opera. People look at Max and Alwina and then at Lucie and the Maharajah. Max talks with Lucie during intermission. At the horse races Max tells Alwina to calm down. Alwina is depicted in various forms of art. She tells Max she is staying home to rest but goes out for wild fun. At a bar she sings "Under the African Sky" and dances. Lucie's friend (Viviane Romance) tells Lucie how Alwina danced. Lucie has the Maharajah invite Max to a sophisticated party. Chorus girls dance in lavish production numbers. African drums and Lucie's friend urge Alwina to strip off some clothes and dance in African style. Max is ashamed, but people applaud. Max chases Lucie in a car. The Maharajah tells Alwina to return to her country. Lucie stops her car. She and Max exchange jealous words, but then he kisses her. Alwina sees them kissing and calls Dar. Max and Coton complete the novel. Max lets Alwina stay at his villa in Africa. Alwina watches animals in the house, and an ass eats the cover off Max's novel, Civilization.

This variation of the Pygmalion theme contrasts French civilization with a "primitive" African. The added plot is both husband and wife using foreigners to make the other jealous, implying that they are being exploited by those who really consider their own culture superior.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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