The Josephine Baker Story (1991) Movie Script

Man on TV:
News reached Paris this morning
that Josephine baker
is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Adored in Paris
but banned in her native America,
she was once the richest black woman
who ever lived.
Her years of fortune began in the 1920s
with her scandalous banana dance.
But now her chateau in Southern France
is in danger of being taken away from her.
It's been the home
of her 12 adopted children of all races,
her rainbow tribe.
- And?
- Akio from Japan.
Jari from Finland.
- Yes.
- Luis from Colombia.
- Moise from Israel.
- Marianne. Marianne.
Some people in the villages
around les milandes
are turning against their
penniless neighbor.
Oh, I don't care about her philosophy.
All I know is she has not paid
one bill in seven months.
No rock 'n' roll...
Man on TV: Yesterday, Josephine said
goodbye to her children,
sending them to friends in Paris.
Vowing to keep her dream alive,
Josephine is threatening to lock herself in
her medieval castle and take on all comers.
Josephine: My dearest children,
I want you all to know that I love you
and that I have been
forced to send you away.
By now, you are in Paris,
hearing stories about my scandalous past
and crazy ideas,
and I must set the record straight.
I've got slave and Indian blood,
which I always claimed
made me more American
than most people who call themselves that.
So what am I doing here,
so far from where I began?
This here is a castle.
It got walls 10-foot
thick and 100-foot high.
This here is the Princess.
Ain't she beautiful?
She can have her pick
of any prince she wants.
This here is the prince she chooses.
He's just about
the swellest thing there ever been.
You can tell he's a prince.
He's got silver buckles on his shoes.
When I was trying to grow up,
white folks had no heart
and black folks had no power.
All a little black girl
had was a hard way to go.
Any niggers in here?
Any niggers in here?
Open this door, nigger.
St. Louis on a Tuesday morning,
1917, -
39 black people died that day.
I got a knot in my stomach
that never went away.
There and then, I swore that if I grew up,
I'd make sure little children
didn't have to live scared
Dancing must have come from running,
and laughing from crying.
Here, take Chloe.
By the time I was 14, I realized nobody
hates a black girl who's cute and funny.
You like being a dancer, Josie?
- Best way I know how to keep warm.
- You like making people laugh?
Can't hardly stop them with the face I got.
Well, how about I take you
off the end of that line,
give you your own comedy spot?
You mean it?
If little David could use his harp
to make the angels cry,
I meant to make them laugh
till I had enough to eat
and enough clothes for
at least two changes.
Even when I got to Broadway, I was still in
blackface dancing to all white audiences.
So when I got an offer to go to Paris,
huh, I didn't think twice.
I knew mama wasn't going to act glad.
She said, "a colored woman's life
is from can't do to can't don't
and she didn't want her daughters getting
their hopes up and their hearts broken.
She'd been a dancer, too.
Hey, girl, I missed you so much.
I brought you presents.
I'm going to France.
How you like that?
Hey, mama, here.
I am. I'm going to France.
I'm going to be singer and a proper dancer.
I ain't gonna do none of that
old hucklebuck stuff. Uh-uh.
Josie baker is going on an ocean liner
to France with a real contract.
You like this, mama?
What about him? What about Willie baker?
What about your husband?
He going, too?
Shoot, he can't hardly go.
He got a job on the railroad.
Besides, we don't see
too much of each other these days.
No, madam is too busy
dancing alongside half-naked women.
What do you mean by coming here,
shaming us? What do you mean by it?
I sent you money, mama.
I send you money every week.
That don't give you the right
to parade up and down,
all stuck up and hincty,
bring attention to your family.
- Take me, Josie. Can I come, too?
- Follow her? Hmm.
- Mama, don't!
- That's where you can go, missy.
Yeah, I'll send for you.
When I get set, I'll send for all of you.
New York, Paris, the moon.
Go where you like.
- Don't you bother us no more.
- Josie, you promise?
I promise. I'll send for you.
I'll send for all of you.
- I'll miss you.
- I got news for you, girl.
You ain't so much of a dancer anyways.
Y'all, come on. Come see our show.
Josephine: Free in France.
Still black, but free in France.
We could stay in hotels
ahd dance in the streels.
The air made us drunk.
The first ime a white waiter served me
and called me ma'am, I nearly died.
I fell in love with Paris that day.
Sidney bechet with his soprano sax
and his Louisiana smarts
was my daytime friend
and my nighttime company.
See, Josie, this here's a big party town.
It's been that way since the war.
Every week, they gotta have a new
sensation, and this week, baby,
it's black skin, and I like it. Ha, ha.
Back home, we can't give it away.
Now jam with them, Josie.
Come on, Josie, we gotta go. Come on, baby.
Bye. Bye.
I'm home! Yeah.
Josephine: I ain't gonna
wear just feathers.
- Man 1: There are a lot of feathers.
- No.
- Please.
- I'm not gonna put that on.
No, that's not why I got on the boat.
Man 1: It's beautiful.
You old rich dog.
I ain't gonna do it. I
ain't from no jungle.
Look, they don't know the difference,
and they don't care.
All they want is that sweet ass of yours.
Yeah, they want my bare ass.
Bechet, they want my bare black ass.
My primitive, my essential ass.
If my mama found out,
she'd knock me into next week come Monday.
I want respect, bechet.
I came here to be a dancer.
And maybe I could be a singer, too.
I headlined on Broadway.
I do comedy. I'm good at it.
Well, they want something else.
You gonna be out of here on the first
thing smoking if you don't deliver.
Now, I'm your friend.
I'll tell them what you want.
You want to go back to five shows a day
on the chitlin' circuit?
Looking for lodging in places that don't
say, "no dogs, no Jews, no niggers"?
Look, Josie, you and your sweet ass
have got them right here.
And don't it feel good?
Ain't you a long way from east St. Louis?
A famous painter asked me to pose.
Josephine: His eyes approved of me.
To him, I wasn't just a woman
or a colored woman.
I was all women.
Nobody had ever looked at me
that way before.
Never before.
There she was.
She'd been there all the time.
I'd been too busy making faces
so folks would like me.
I'd never seen her.
There she was.
One dance had made me the most
talked about woman in the world.
I had fame and money and Paris and freedom.
And I bought a zoo full of animals
and a pet leopard.
I was loved by bankers
and danced for royalty.
I didn't miss Willie baker
the least little bit.
I've died and gone to heaven.
Love you.
For you.
Fill it with everything you've ever wanted.
Oh, Victor.
Paris is the dance, and you are the dancer,
and we're going to stay on this boat forever.
And I'm going to learn
to speak French properly.
And chiquita is gonna have lots of babies,
and so are we.
And a big house,
big enough for all the babies.
Chiquita's babies,
- and our babies, all mixed up.
- Our babies? Mmm-hmm.
How's that sound?
From monsieur Victor.
I don't care about you
if you don't care about me.
I thought more and more of mama's words.
"A colored woman's life
is from can't do to can't don't."
You eat because you're sad.
Because of the frenchman.
I eat because I grew up hungry,
like a lot of other people did.
Learn this.
No frenchman will sacrifice his
respectability to make you his wife.
Mistress, yes. Lover, yes. Wife, no.
And not because of your color,
but because you have no family,
no history.
Addio senza rancore.
Give your farewells without bitterness
and enjoy Paris while it lasts for you.
Remember, everything is possible here.
Back home,
I was a stone Mason who liked to dance.
I come here to Paris, give myself a title,
and the next thing I know,
rich women are paying to dance with me,
with count guiseppe pepito abatino,
at your service.
Stateside, we'd call that
being a no-count count.
What are you going to do
when they get tired of you?
When they get used to you,
when they begin to look
for the next spectacle,
the next Josephine?
Read the American papers, count.
I'm the most famous colored woman in the
world, and I plan on being the richest.
As long as you are the latest novelty,
freshest candle.
It won't last. Dancers don't last.
Next week, they'll want
something different.
And if you can't give it to them,
then it's goodbye, Josephine.
Josephine, are you ready to go home?
To America?
Are good things waiting for you there?
I see a young, lonely girl
who would have gone back home
a long time ago, if only to visit,
but something is keeping her here.
She is still looking for something.
Make me your manager.
Make you my manager? Look at you.
Are you crazy?
Well, you're half a century older
than me to start with.
Josephine, please.
Inside of you, what do you want?
To dance and be left alone by people
like you, who just want a piece of me.
That's all I want.
Just to dance and be left alone.
Josephine, you think I am trying
to Rob you? I'm not a thief.
I'm not a thief. I work for my money.
What do you want, inside,
in the secret place?
When I walk down the street
and everybody's staring at me,
I want one day to be able to know,
really know,
that they're doing it 'cause they see me.
They're not staring at my color.
They're staring at me,
at Josephine,
for who I am and what I'm worth.
I'm a black Italian. I'm from sicily.
I'm also from the south.
I know this feeling.
I promise you this.
Dancers don't last,
but pepito and la baker will.
I promise you.
You got paid. Do it.
She's not a child.
Do it.
Here's your child. Do it.
First position.
One, two, three, four.
Five, six, seven, and...
One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, change.
One, two, three, four, five, six.
Abatino: Learn this. You must treat
your audience like a gigolo treats a lover.
They must always want you,
but never, never have you.
You can hold them. You can touch them.
- But leave them.
- Look.
Look at that.
That's my fairy castle.
This is known as the sicilian key.
The abatino method.
Up, up, up. Let's go.
We should marry.
Yes, that's the next thing.
Countess pepito abatino.
Countess Josephine abatino.
I still happen to be Mrs. Josephine baker.
I never got around to filling out the
papers for leaving Willie baker.
We just tell the world that we're married.
Just lie about it?
I do not lie.
I improve on life.
One day I will teach you to do this.
Contessa abatino.
The nursery.
This room's the nursery.
But not yet.
In a few years, yes. You're a dancer.
For dancers, children come later.
Dancer, singer,
you can do anything you want.
But children can wait.
- Okay.
- Let's go and make the money.
Then we can have our castle.
More contracts, baker flicks.
Advertisers, invitations.
Soon, your name and your face
will be on every billboard,
in every magazine in France.
Thank you.
An operation that went wrong.
What could you do?
You send them all the money you can.
I should've been there.
It would have been different.
I always took care of things.
It was up to me. It was up to me.
I'll make the travel arrangements,
so you can go to the funeral.
Back to St. Louis?
No, I'm not ready to go back.
No, I'll go back when I'm ready, understand?
I'll just send them all the money they need.
You are ready to go back.
You have offers to go to Broadway,
to Hollywood.
When I'm ready, I said when I'm ready.
I do not know of a thing so terrible that would
stop me from going to my sister's funeral.
Josephine: What am I most
ashamed of in my life?
Not keeping my word to my sister
and then being too scared of America
to go back for her funeral.
The idea of America
still caused me to wake up trembling.
Europe lay ahead, unconquered.
I packed up my fear and my bananas
and headed out.
Man: The theater royal Stockholm
is proud to present,
at the opening of her European tour,
the magnificent, the untamable,
miss Josephine baker.
Man: Josephine!
Man: Encore. Encore.
Did you see it? Did you see them?
First they want to kill you,
now they adore you.
I love you. I love you
because when I ask you, "learn this,
"try something more," you not only
learn and try, but you become it.
I love you because
when something is put in your way,
you fly over it,
and it does not happen very often.
I love you.
Take everything. I still love you.
My Josephine.
It is time. You are ready.
I just received another offer
for a movie for you.
No, Hollywood wants me to play maids.
I have maids of my own.
Well, then the only thing that is left
is Broadway.
Have I been wrong before?
Was I wrong about the tour of Europe?
Was I wrong about the world tours?
Was I wrong about the recording contracts?
Trust me.
But I'm not ready to go back. Not yet.
If I can get you the Ziegfeld follies,
star billing, still no?
On your own terms, no mammy songs,
nothing that you would hate yourself
for doing, still no?
And then, when we come back,
successful, then we can open the nursery,
then children, yes. Still no? Still no?
Ziegfeld. Top billing.
Equal billing with Fanny Brice.
We're talking to gershwin and Cole Porter.
Balanchine wants to do the dances.
The first black star of a Ziegfeld show.
You have to tell her someday, pepito.
You have to rest.
You've lost another two kilos.
You cannot go to America.
She needs me.
I'm her manager.
I'm also her husband.
Read it.
I know it's bad.
You do not understand.
They all thought I was a crook.
They all thought I was going to take
her money and run back to sicily.
I'm not a crook.
And now I, pepito abatino,
a man who had only one shirt
when I first met her,
now I am taking her to Broadway.
I did this.
I have to protect her. I have to be there.
I have to be with her.
Man on radio: Arriving in New York today
is our homespun negro star Josephine baker.
A sensation in Europe, she plans
to storm Broadway with her sassy charm.
Reporter: Miss baker, miss baker,
are you happy to be back in the states?
- You rolling?
- Man: How does it feel to be back stateside?
Look, I'm so happy to be back.
I'm just standing on my ears with joy.
Did you bring your banana costume,
miss baker?
Oh! Well, I'm afraid not. I got a
little hungry on the boat and I ate it.
Oh, and, by the way, I want everyone to
know that it's countess abatino now.
Reporter: Congratulations.
It's all...
That's my mama.
Oh, mama, you came.
You came to see... pepito!
Pepito, it's mama.
Mommy, he's a count, you know?
I said one day I'd bring my mama
somewhere like this.
Sit under a big old palm tree,
around a lot of millionaires,
and see if she still says Josie baker
can't earn a living as a dancer.
What, darling?
We have a lot of Southern clients
staying at the hotel.
So if madam would please
not use the lobby or public rooms.
Madam and sir can, of course, have meals
in their suite, but not in the restaurant.
Not together.
Sir can, of course,
use the restaurant by himself.
Have a pleasant stay. I hope to be
in the theater for your first night.
I'm sure madam will triumph.
If I'm not allowed to use your lobby,
how am I supposed to get to my room?
What are you people doing in my kitchen?
Like the man said, "it ain't no disgrace being a
negro, but it sure is inconvenient at times."
Now I know I'm home.
Critic 1: Josephine baker comes back,
half-baked French with a voice of a dwaif
She's got sex appeal,
but didn't a half-naked negro wench
always have a head start with that?
She sings like a cracked bell
with a padded clapper.
Don't get me wrong.
That's swell, if you like Chinese music.
Critic 2: Miss baker is
no great shakes as a dancer,
and her singing beyond the third row
is just a squeak in the dark.
Critic 3: Josephine baker
may stir French pulses,
but in New York,
her talents come a dime a dozen,
and it's not worth your dime to see this
overblown, overstuffed canary.
Critic 4: What I want to know is,
how did a buck-tooth,
St. Louis washer woman's daughter
get in the Ziegfeld follies, anyhow?
Josephine: Oh, thanks for asking us,
but why don't you just go on?
Well, I don't know, maybe
we'll see you later.
You did this to me.
I gave you Broadway. How could I know?
You gave me Broadway to keep me busy
because you know
there's nothing between us anymore.
- No, I love you.
- You don't love me, you worship me.
That's not the same thing. You worship me,
because you think you made me.
How can you say there's nothing in here?
I have nothing but you.
And I can't live with that anymore.
I was right.
I was right. I never should've come
back here, especially with you.
- Especially with you.
- Josephine! Josephine!
- Taxi!
- Josephine.
We met backstage at the lido.
You may not remember me,
- I'm in New York on business.
- Uh-huh.
And I saw your name,
I thought I'd invite myself.
What are you doing? You wanna go?
- Where?
- Harlem, 125th street.
- Yes, ma'am.
- So, remind...
No, I thought she might be there.
No, nothing to worry about.
Everything is fine.
Thank you.
- Sir?
- Is this where Josephine baker is staying?
Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.
- Is Josephine here?
- One moment.
I wanna see every account, every bank book.
I'm gonna open a club here
and let them see what I can do.
Have I stolen from you?
- Have I betrayed you? How?
- My mama always said,
"if you want something done,
don't go trusting no man to do it."
- I gave you everything.
- You gave me what you could.
That's something different.
You take and you take and you take.
I made you. What do I do now?
Go back home, that's what you do.
You go back to Paris.
You couldn't even get me a hotel room.
That's your job.
- My job?
- Yes, your job.
I didn't wanna come back here.
You got everything wrong.
I don't even have a dressing room at the
theater. I don't have a chance up there.
- They hate you because of your color.
- No.
They hate you for being as good
as any white woman.
- For being better than any white woman.
- No.
- That's why they attack you.
- You didn't insist on a microphone.
My voice is too small for that theater.
Why didn't you think of that?
- You should have figured it out.
- I made a mistake.
- Oh, yes.
- But the biggest mistake
was to come to America.
You were right. They are not ready for you.
Here is a black woman doing what they think
only a white woman should do.
They are frightened of you.
I told you that I didn't
wanna come back here.
At least you could have handled
everything properly.
You're in over your head.
You got everything wrong,
and I'm the one who's up there every night.
Every night, I'm suffering up there.
I cannot change what is in their hearts.
I'll see what I can do.
It will be better, I promise.
Let me try it. Let me stay here.
Please don't send me away.
If you want a lover, if that is over
between us, I'll close my eyes.
You know I close my eyes, but let me stay.
- I made you.
- Yeah, you made me.
But maybe I don't like what you made
so much. You go back to Paris.
I have something to prove here,
me on my own, out of the mess you made.
It's over.
Addio senza rancore.
Say your goodbyes without bitterness.
Josephine: Truth was,
I was my mother's daughter.
When you're hurt, you reach out
and hurt the person closest to you.
Is Harlem hot? All: Yeah!
Man: In her first appearance
at Chez Josephine, Mary Ann Gibson.
- Hey, there. Thank you.
- Hi, Sidney, baby.
Josephine, I guess we're a long way
from Paris, girl. I'm sorry.
- He's dead.
- I know. Come on, sit down here.
I sent him back and he died.
He didn't tell me how ill he was.
I sent him back and he died by himself.
And someday maybe you'll get a chance
to pay him back.
Someday maybe you come
to this bend in the road,
and you can turn around and
make it all right. Maybe.
I'm tired.
I'm through. I'm all used up.
I can't do it anymore.
And now you're just gonna turn your back
on the music, Josie?
You're just gonna hand in your crown?
- He made me.
- And you took.
And now it's time for you to give back.
What I know is,
ain't no one ever been punished
for giving back.
Go on, wear your crown, Josie.
Josephine: It seemed no sooner
had I got back from America
than Hitler was marching across Europe.
I had my two loves.
My country, when it let me love it,
and Paris all the time.
I stayed to lend my strength to France.
I joined the resistance and carried
secrets for the underground.
Who would think of questioning
the pretty colored woman
who had danced naked and worn bananas?
My children, you can read about the medals
I received and the honors I was given.
I dearly loved la belle France.
And then the war came to this very house.
The resistance ordered me to north Africa,
the only place where the French army
was still fighting back.
I wanted to stay a part of that fight.
But for the first time in her life,
your mother's body let her down.
- Woman: It's Josephine baker.
- Look, it's Josephine baker.
She's here, yes. But in addition to her
exhaustion, her tiredness from the war,
she has secondary infections. But the
real problem is not entirely physical.
Not entirely.
She's suffering from a deep malaise,
a deep regret.
I saw you once.
New York City, 1936.
Someone said, "there goes Josephine baker."
And I stood there on the sidewalk,
and I saw this big car,
longer than a city block, go by.
And I said to myself,
"damn, there goes the richest
black woman in the world.
"Richest black woman there ever was."
Sidney Williams,
United States army. Lieutenant.
You just here to SWAT flies with your jaws,
Mr. Williams?
You don't have a war to fight?
Actually, I'm kind of on
a recruiting mission.
You see, the United States army
got some problem.
It seems there's a us private
who's supposed to be getting ready
to fight the Germans and Italians,
instead of which,
a white soldier's fighting a black soldier and
the black soldier, well, he's fighting back,
and I'm supposed to do something about it.
Well, you got a big old rock to push up
a mighty steep hill.
Well, I was hoping that I'd
recruit somebody like yourself.
See, I've got permission
to open these Liberty clubs,
where soldiers can meet off-duty,
get to know each other.
And I need a name to pull them in.
I can't do that.
For one thing, I'm not an American anymore.
I'm a French citizen. That's my country.
I gave up my American passport after the
way they treated me before the war.
From what you tell me now,
this is no better for our people.
That big old toad is still sitting
on that Lily pad.
I'm sorry, lieutenant Williams, no.
Now then, miss baker.
I regret, madam, that you had a much more
serious infection than we thought.
We had to do a radical operation, madam.
We found out why you have been so ill
since living in France. I had no choice.
You will not be able to have any children.
I'm sorry.
But I'm Josephine.
You took my babies.
- You took it away.
- Please, madam.
- There's nothing I can do.
- You took my babies away.
Please, calm yourself.
Get out of here, you old devil man.
You better leave me alone.
My mama's gonna catch you,
you son of... my babies.
I'm Josephine.
Nurse, there was an officer here last week.
Lieutenant Williams, a black man.
I'd like to see him.
Well, lieutenant Williams,
you gave me a lot to think about.
Do you think people still wanna see me?
See Josephine baker?
- The notorious Josephine baker?
- Oh, please.
The scandalous Josephine baker?
Yes. Yes, yes.
I am not just a decoration,
lieutenant Williams.
I know.
And I know now
that god didn't give me this voice
just to help people forget the wrongs
that's been done them.
I also know that he wouldn't want you
to kill yourself trying.
My dear, I know exactly how I'm gonna die.
Out of breath,
exhausted at the end of a dance.
And that won't be for a long, long time.
You all right?
- Miss baker.
- Oh, monsieur bouillon, and it's Josephine.
- Josephine.
- Do you think this dress will do?
Well, if not, it's the only one I've got.
And what about my hair?
- What do you think?
- Josephine.
There's something I must say to you.
I do not know if you will feel
I belong on the same stage as you.
I stayed on in France until two months ago.
Unlike you, I did not join the resistance.
I did not get involved. I've been
working, all during the occupation.
Well, that's true of a lot of people,
a lot of entertainers,
Chevalier, and they're still there.
Yeah, but you must know this about me.
I'm no collaborator.
I just continued to work
while the Germans were there.
There are a lot of things in my life
that I regret.
I guess we just wake up at different times.
But the important thing
is that we do wake up.
Josephine wants you out there because Jo
bouillon is the best band leader in France.
And Josephine only works with the best.
Thank you.
Most of you boys were drafted,
but there's somebody here who volunteered,
who was in France when Hitler invaded,
but she didn't cut and run, she stayed.
She was one of the first
to join the resistance.
She helped smuggle people and information
across the border to safety.
Her house was searched by the gestapo.
When things got too hot for her,
she was ordered to north Africa.
She's here for the same reason
she stayed in France.
She wants to give something back.
She's Josephine baker.
So, do you like my dress?
Yeah! Yeah!
It's the only one I brought with me
when Hitler chased me out of France.
This is a song that was written for me
my first years in Paris.
It's a song about someone
like you out there,
far away from home, a little lonely
and a whole lot confused.
"J'al deux amours, mon pays et Paris,
means that she had two loves,
her country and Paris,
the part of her that was black,
and the part of her that was white,
the old country and the new country.
So, it's going to be kind of hard for me
to sing this song to you
with all of you white soldiers
sitting down there in the front,
and all of you black soldiers in the back,
and along the sides.
Hold the music, Jo.
It ain't gonna hurt as much as you think.
Just take a look at my band up here.
Soldier, you've got room beside you.
Now, you need a helping hand in a fight.
When you hit those beaches,
are you gonna stop to ask what color it is?
And you, you, soldier, do you want
to be in the back all your life,
where you can't see nothing
and you can't hear nothing?
- No, ma'am.
- Well, then you better get down here,
or Josephine's gonna whip your hide.
Josephine: There, something got
born that day.
I hadn't just made people forget
their troubles.
For a little while,
I had presided over brotherhood.
One day, America was going to hear
from Josephine baker again.
Man: No, you must catch it. If it falls
on the ground, then it's no good.
Children, if you're going to get married,
get married in France
and get married in may,
like your father and I did.
I have to make a speech about
the Josephine baker I already know.
I could make a dozen. There's a Josephine
that I shared a foxhole with, more than once,
when we were playing for the troops
in north Africa.
I don't know who I was more scared of,
the enemy,
or Josephine's temper if I didn't get
the music just right.
Stop, don't believe him.
There's also the Josephine
who went by herself to buchenwald
and sang for the survivors.
To the Josephine you are,
the Josephine you will become,
I love you.
Oh, soo ling, behave yourself.
Soo ling, stop! Soo ling!
S00 ling, would you... I can't believe...
I saw her once.
I was in St. Louis,
and I was running from something terrible.
Josephine: In the midst of all the smoke
and noises and hate and hurts,
she told me it would be all right.
I was going to be okay.
And something else, she had work for me.
I had a job to do.
- So you are a believer, madame?
- Oh, yes.
I am a believer,
but I don't think he's in one place.
I... I think he's as likely to be in a
synagogue, or a mosque, or in a warehouse.
Josephine, Josephine.
- Josephine.
- Here.
- Miami, St. Louis, New York.
- Oh, that's wonderful.
A nine-month tour of America.
Not a black person in the house.
It's the worst night yet.
I don't understand. What do they want?
What else can I do?
Yes, thank you so much for coming.
Good night.
- Now look who's pushing a rock up a hill.
- Uh-huh.
Where are my people, Sidney?
We sell out every night,
and every night it's like
gaps in the mouth of bad teeth.
A couple of black faces, that's all.
- What am I doing wrong?
- Nothing.
They just found another way
of keeping us down, that's all.
I bet you thought that things are going
to be easier, fairer when the war ended.
Yes, didn't we earn the right?
Man: Good night.
Woman: Good night, miss baker.
Good night.
Speak up now and they call you a red.
You know, they open up your mail.
They bug your phone. Look at Paul robeson.
- Oh, Paul.
- He's branded a commie.
Took away his passport.
Since the war ended, 54 black men
have been lynched in the south.
A lot of them still wearing
their goddamn uniforms. Fifty-four.
- But isn't anybody fighting back?
- Our colored leaders?
- They split.
- And you?
What do you think, college boy?
Josie, you've come back
to see the big old toad
still sitting, honking on his Lily pad,
honking louder than ever.
We need all the help we can get.
Tell her it's not
that I don't sell tickets to negros,
coloreds, whatever she wants to call them,
the fact of the matter is,
they never show up to buy any.
- Well, tell her, you tell her this.
- Look, you tell her, you're her husband.
It's out of my hands, for Christ's sake.
There's a city ordinance says
no negros are allowed this side
of the bridge after 9:00 P.M.
Tell her, tell her this,
but be prepared to cancel the show.
Okay, so what about this,
let me have a word with the police chief
and get the ordinance lifted
while she's playing here.
I guarantee open seating. The negros
don't have to sit in the balcony.
It'll be just like it was when she was
singing for the gls in the war.
That's what she wants. You got it.
This is good. This is good.
Oh, yes, there was one thing more.
She wants to know
how many black stagehands you have.
And if you don't have any, in this city that
is at least one-quarter colored, why not?
Are you mad at me, too, Jo?
You told me this was the real reason
you came back to America.
So, what can I say?
That I only want to make a million dollars?
That it is the only way we can pay
for the chateau and the way we live?
No, I've learned my lesson.
Don't stand in front of a moving train,
and don't argue with Josephine.
Jo, how can I come back here and not fight?
- I did not think it would be this hard.
- But there are laws now.
We've only got to use them.
Keep pushing against that big old door.
Oh, my...
This is awful.
Yes, yes, to everything. Integrated
audience, stage crew, everything.
Now can we please rehearse?
Can we all get to see that dress?
That's the other thing, not good enough.
Send to Paris.
Ooh, there's a brand new song I learned down
in Havana, Cuba, called esto es felicidad.
- Would you like to hear it?
Audience: Yes!
Jo, my dress, my zipper.
Man 1: We love you.
Man 2: Josephine, show us a bit more!
Man 3: Take it off!
Josephine: Everybody loved me.
The bombastic, all-powerful Walter winchell
said as only he could say,
"America should welcome home
its prodigal daughter with open arms.
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America,
and all the ships at sea.
Walter winchell of New York reporting.
Let's go to press.
The walls keep tumbling down
for Josephine baker,
the best thing France has sent us
since Lafayette.
Not only is she one of the few entertainers
who can fill the big rooms,
she's taking on city hall,
from tuskegee to Tribeca,
refusing to play any dates
where the audience is segregated.
Hat's off, folks.
I could go on like this all night long.
This music, this music just does things to
me. Now, I don't know what it does to you.
- Man 1: What does it do to you, Josephine?
- Now, don't you think he's curious?
He is just too curious.
Well, if you really want to know,
it makes me nervous.
Thank you, darling.
You look so handsome this evening.
- Thank you.
- Now, I'd love you to sing this with me.
When I say, tu me quieres,
which means, "do you like me?"
- Yes, I do.
- You say, "yo te quiero,
which means you do like me,
and I'll be happy, happy, happy.
- Then when I say, tu me quieres..."
- We love you.
When I was a bitty thing,
I saw people killed because of their color.
And I got scared.
I got so scared, I ran and I ran,
and I kept running, and I ran to France,
where I found me a real live count
and a castle, like in the picture books,
and I knew kings and lords.
But when I came back here to New York,
I wasn't allowed to stay in a hotel.
Things are changing,
but I say they're not changing fast enough.
I say, some things have changed
for the worse.
Crowd: Yes!
You've got to fight every day.
You've got to fight for the little things
so that they don't take the big things
away from you.
When I see a roach,
I squash it.
Stop that man! You stop.
You called me a nigger.
You said you didn't want to sit alongside a
nigger. Well, I don't know if you know it,
but there are laws against those things.
Excuse me.
Listen, call the police and tell them that
I am making a citizen's arrest, now.
Reporter: A very special day in Harlem,
where the 21st of may has been declared
Josephine baker day by the naacp.
Tens of thousands crowd the sidewalks
to cheer the little girl from St. Louis,
who has become a legend
and example to millions.
A social force, too, she has taken on
the case of Willie McGee,
the black man accused of rape
and awaiting execution in Florida.
Meantime, new yorkers go Josephine
baker crazy, her concerts sold out.
Welcome home
ahd bienvenue fo the dark star.
- Did he?
- Man: Good evening, miss baker.
- Hello.
- Woman: Hello, how are you?
- Man 1: Right this way, please.
- Thank you.
Woman: Hi, there, Josephine.
Man 2: Hi, Josephine, nice to see you.
- Hi, Jo!
- Hi.
- You have to greet them.
- Isn't it lovely?
- Did you see Walter winchell?
- Not a bad table.
Isn't that grace Kelly over there?
Elegant party in the cub room,
sanctum sanctorum of the famed stork club,
includes Josephine baker, one of the best
acts to hit this town in many years.
The bonny fighter for people's rights
entered to begin the beguine.
Cole Porter must have had her moves in mind
when he penned that smoocher.
Read it back. Yeah.
It's one hour.
Everybody else...
- Excuse me. Excuse me.
- Josephine, Josephine.
- I just want to ask him...
- Josephine, please. Let me handle it.
My english is at least as good
as that one waiter's French.
Last time I went quietly around back
to a freight elevator.
I've worked to be who I am.
I deserve better.
Excuse me. We ordered a crab meat salad
and three steaks.
The kitchen is out of crab meat.
Steak, too.
- May I? Thank you.
Woman: I don't believe it.
Somebody forgot to tell the chef.
We have been waiting for an hour.
Now, are we being served?
I had to wait an hour for mine.
You have your drinks.
Listen, I just work here.
I don't make the rules.
What rules?
What rules do you have
about serving colored people?
Well, Walter, it's up to you now.
Oh, I changed, Jo.
I did it, why can't they?
Woman: End discrimination!
Josephine: You betcha. What hurts worse
is knowing that if you stand up,
if you open your mouth,
you turn around
and you have no friends, suddenly.
- Nobody wants to know you.
- Hello, Josephine.
- Hello, how are you?
- Fine.
Even Walter winchell
doesn't want to know you.
You're attacking Walter winchell?
Why doesn't he just stand up and say
what he saw. I don't understand!
You're saying Walter winchell saw it
and did nothing?
- Hi, Josephine.
- Hello.
Print this in your paper.
"You know that blacks aren't welcomed
at the stork club, Walter.
"Why don't you stand up
and say what you saw?"
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America,
and all the ships at sea.
Walter winchell in New York reporting.
Let's go to press.
I want all of America to hear me tonight,
white America, colored America,
an America that knows how many times
Walter winchell
has gone to bat for better treatment
of minorities of every kind.
Now let's get a few facts straight.
I am appalled at the
agony and embarrassment
caused Josephine baker and her friends
at the stork club,
but I'm equally appalled
at her attempts to involve me
in an incident in which I had no part.
Now I am going to read to you a statement
from the national association
for the advancement of colored people
acquitting me of all charges
la baker has been making against me.
It's here again.
That feeling.
Come here.
Let's go back.
It's time to go back.
Miss baker, have you got any reply
for Mr. winchell?
The naacp just came out for him.
Excuse me. The naacp agreed to a statement.
And Mr. winchell read out the first half
stating that he had been a fighter
for minority rights since before the war.
However, he conveniently
forgot about the second half,
which stated that he was supposed
to break with the stork club
and defend my right to
eat anywhere I choose.
You think he double-crossed you,
is that what you're saying?
Are you calling winchell a liar?
Mr. bouillon, do you agree
with what your wife is doing?
Isn't this just a storm
in a cocktail glass?
Woman reporter: Is this all
just a publicity stunt, Mr. bouillon?
My wife
did as much as anyone to help your army
in north Africa and Europe during the war.
She traveled thousands of miles
against her doctor's orders.
But when we came to New York, we were
turned away from 63 different hotels.
Turning to someone
right at the top of my drop dead list,
josephony baker,
self-proclaimed Joan of arc of the
colored races and communist sympathizer.
Don't you think that she's just about had
all the free chicken that she's due here?
She carries a French passport,
since she chose to renounce
her American one
when she married husband six,
seven or eight a few years back.
Don't we have any say
in who can get into the states
to stir up trouble between the races?
You know what would do us all a favor?
For somebody to send this French citizen
a list of the ss normandie sailing times
back to France.
And maybe they could stamp her passport,
no admittance.
Man on radio: Reports that Josephine
baker helped the allies in war time
are probably true, but not until
the vichy Nazi bunch started losing.
Then she turned her old friends in.
And how come she hasn't patronized
one negro spot...
Six weeks ago, he said I was the best thing to
ever happen to race relations in the states.
Listen, they have taken
away the movie offer.
Our three-year touring deal
is now officially dead.
All the bookers have pulled out.
And today, your publicist left.
If she represents you,
no one else will work with her.
She's fired.
I cannot work with people
who don't believe in what I'm trying to do.
They're all fired.
What's happening, Jo?
This is worse than before the war.
This is a war.
Josephine, you must hurry.
Maid: I don't make nothing of it.
That's what I make of it.
I can't even afford a taxi fare
to the stork club, never mind a $50 dinner.
Well, for her, it's all right.
She's got a big house in France,
- a foreign passport...
- That's right.
We the one's that got to do the living
here. What gives her the right?
Let's go home.
Careful, watch your step.
Reporter 1: Why didn't anybody
come forward to help you, miss baker?
It's simple. They've beaten up the people
who stood up for me.
Reporter 2: Do you have any statement
for the negros in America?
Is it true that you're leaving
because of the McCarthy hearings?
Have you ever espoused communism?
When it wasn't enough to call me a nigger,
they called me a communist,
a fascist and someone who hates Jews,
Josephine, who has medals for the war.
Six weeks ago,
I could have played any date I want.
And now people move away from me
in restaurants
because they're afraid to be seen
near Josephine baker.
Reporter 3: Are you a loyal American?
Now they say that when I go back to France,
I shouldn't be allowed in America again.
- Excuse me.
- Reporter 1: One more question, please.
So is it true, miss baker, that immigration
are thinking of revoking your visa?
You got any further comments on that?
And I want you to put this in your paper.
Reporter 2: We're listening, miss baker.
Now that I know what happens to people
who ask to be treated
with simple human dignity, it'd be an honor
to be barred from America.
One thing we're gonna get straight
right from the get-go,
I ain't learning no French.
Josephine: Had I really changed anything?
Were black people's lives any better?
And mostly, had I helped the children?
"Hear the winds of heaven quiet at our door
"here we rest, untroubled, voyagers no more
"Blaze forest wood in hearth fire,
sound vesper bells"
a poem.
Lord, bless our lives with children.
Make this house a home.
Josephine: Akio.
Akio from Japan.
Jo: To begin with, we agreed on four.
But then, you could not tour America
because they will not give you a us visa.
But even then, I agreed to five children,
even though we cannot begin to afford,
but another child?
Joe, we have to have a Jewish child.
We need moise. How can we show people
that children learn to hate,
that it doesn't come as easily as playing
with a doll or a ball,
unless we have moise?
Bless you.
Now, we need him. Now, please, just sign.
Oh, come on, Jo, you'll love him.
Please, please.
Cows give more milk, I suppose, because
they see their name in neon lights.
Oh. Jo, this is les milandes.
Now, don't you believe in les milandes?
- But neon lights in a cowshed?
- All right.
- Who thought of strawberries?
- Josephine.
I said we should grow strawberries
at Christmas time.
- Nobody else grows them then.
- No.
You see, we can charge whatever we like.
Gardening lesson.
Not even for Josephine baker
will strawberries grow at Christmas.
This is very annoying, I know.
But it is fact, these will all be dead.
Jo, why are you being like that?
Don't you believe in our family?
We are a family who live in a castle,
who own so much
of the surrounding countryside,
we issue our own postage stamps.
Well, don't you think that's a nice idea?
A family, a village, a
castle we can have, yes,
but we cannot have a world
to take the place of the real world.
It's a big house, yes.
But there will always be enough money.
If we live sensibly.
And this moise is the last.
Boy 1: Attack.
- And?
- Akio from Japan.
Jari from Finland.
- Yes.
- Luis from Colombia.
- Moise from Israel.
- Marianne. Marianne.
This is koffi from the Ivory Coast. Wave.
This is our rainbow tribe.
Jo and I adopted each one of them.
- Good, good.
- She's back.
All right, go down, but
carefully, carefully.
Josephine: Yes, yes.
Children: Mama, mama!
From Venezuela.
He's such a little prince.
Yes. Presents for everyone. In, in, in, in.
That's your daddy.
Say, "hello, daddy."
Josephine: Hello, daddy.
I kept my part of the bargain.
I gave up my band, my life.
I sold the house my parents left me.
Put all the money into the chateau.
Every penny I ever had.
Nobody's never been able to tell
her nothing, least of all me.
Josephine: Poor baby.
Do not do this, Josephine.
Please, do not do this.
He was mistaken for a bundle of rags.
Akio, we are wrapping presents.
He was found lying frozen
in the show, sweetheart.
But why should it be us who take him in?
You cannot save the
entire world, Josephine.
You cannot adopt every abandoned child.
Who will do it? Who will
do it, if we don't?
Josephine: Marianne, you're not to be
around that tree until tomorrow morning.
Upstairs now.
You gave me your word. You promised.
You have your family now.
I want to give a home to every child
whose parents don't want it.
Why is Josephine wrong for that?
Why is she bad?
Don't I love the ones I have?
No, nobody could love them more than you,
but that's why you have to listen
when I tell you we cannot
afford to live here.
You do this, and we will lose this house.
And everything.
Believe me.
I shall call him Noel.
Josephine, you do this, and I will leave.
I'm Josephine.
I can't stop at four.
Four in some boring little house
with no fields or trees to play in,
no farm, no animals, no rivers to swim in.
I don't want any child to hurt anywhere.
Because I am Josephine, I cannot
stop at four or six or eight or 10.
I won't do it, I can't.
Don't ask me, Jo, I won't.
Then you will lose me.
I will not divorce you.
I will give the children what help I can.
But I cannot stay.
The first week I was in Paris,
I saw a box of candy
this big.
It cost two weeks' wages and all the other
girls thought I was crazy to buy it,
but, Jo, I know.
I know. I was born knowing that
you have to want that big box.
I have heard this too many times,
about wanting so much.
This time,
- No, Josephine. Let someone else.
- Uh...
But Jo, you won't leave.
You won't leave. What about the children?
Do you think it's good for them to see
their father destroyed?
'Cause anyone who gets too close to you,
you burn.
- No.
- Oh, yes.
Up there in the stage, this is fine,
but down here, you burn anyone
who gets too close to you.
Love me here.
That's all I'm asking, Jo, just love me.
Do what I say, that's all.
Do you hear? You're not asking for love.
Just for everything to be done your way.
You just said it.
Just one more.
- How could you say no? Jo, please.
- Something happened to that little girl
in St. Louis. You cannot trust anyone.
You never listen to me. Never, never,
never have you listened to me.
You respect me now.
Let someone else.
You'll stay.
You don't have the strength to leave me.
I learned it from you.
You need me.
That I shall find out.
Child 1: Daddy, daddy, daddy.
No, no, get inside. It's too cold.
Come inside.
He's leaving me now,
just when I need him the most.
Just when the children need him the most,
he's leaving now.
Listen to me. That's a good man.
He's walking out.
And you didn't have a share in it?
Listen close, Josie baker.
That's a good man who has taken
as much as he can take.
He's going, but I don't wanna hear a word
of divorce from you.
Why shouldn't I?
Because you have 12 children, him and you.
They need to know
they have a father some place.
You always did.
You sent him away.
You sent my daddy away.
You wouldn't even let him back in the
boxcar to see me come Christmas.
Now why did you do that?
He left me, girl.
Huh. Yeah.
And you blame me for it,
because he didn't want any children around.
My daddy didn't want me around.
And you blame me for I,
and you're still blaming me for it.
Are you ever going
to stop blaming me for that, mama?
I can't change.
I'm too old to change.
Well, I can't, either.
I couldn't do what he wanted me to do
to keep him.
I couldn't. I have to do it my way, mama.
I have to.
There's no other way.
If I wasn't like that, we'd still
be hauling those wet sheets
back in that boxcar in St. Louis.
But no divorcing.
You promise me.
And no bad-mouthing.
They love him, Josie, and he went as far
as any man's ever gonna go with you.
I'm going back on the road.
I'm gonna keep this place.
The next song I'll sing for you
is about my beautiful home in the dordogne,
my castle, my dream of brotherhood,
les milandes.
And it's about
my beautiful, beautiful children.
You know, we're old friends, you and me.
So I feel very comfortable
to say to you that right now,
we need your help.
I know you want to support Josephine.
I have to say, darlings,
it was easier in bananas.
I don't care what papers
you have from a judge.
You're gonna run me away from here after
30 years and all this place means to me?
No, you cannot do this. The people of
France will not allow you to do this. No.
I stay, and that's my final word.
Josephine: With mama gone,
another wall had fallen.
I worked on, but the money got smaller
and the bills got bigger.
We've decided to stay and help you
fight, mama. All of us. Together.
No, this is something I
have to do by myself.
I want you
to think about whatever
means the most to you about les milandes
and take that with you.
No matter what happens, you will always
have a little piece of it in your heart.
Well, the train leaves
for souillac at 10:00.
Let's go.
I love you, mama.
Stop fighting, and no
rock 'n' roll after 9:00.
- Bye.
- Take care, maman.
Now you know why I have to stay here,
why I can't leave our house.
It took Hitler to get me out of here
before, and you see what happened to him.
This isn't a St. Louis boxcar
with newspaper stuffed in the cracks.
These walls are 10-foot thick,
and they'd keep an army out.
I've done it wrong.
But I've done it.
I've made bad decisions,
but I've made decisions.
I lived the life of Josephine baker.
Nobody could've lived that life but me.
I love you.
Your mother.
Excuse me.
Excuse me, what are you doing?
These things are mine.
The house has been sold already, madam.
You're no longer the owner.
But I was supposed to keep everything.
Down. Put that... go... go...
You have to go.
My things. Stop this.
- You animal. Animal.
- Hey!
- No.
- Get her out of here!
- Man 1: Come on.
- The two of you are worse than...
Josephine baker.
I was in the resistance, too, madame.
Josephine baker, this is for your children.
- Oh, you look wonderful, madame.
- Thank you.
Good luck.
You're wonderful.
And now, in her return to the Paris stage
in a review of her life,
the bobino theater is proud to present
Josephine baker!
I just wanted to tell you that
you're wonderful children,
every one of you, and I'm so
proud and happy
that you let me be your mother.
- And perhaps... perhaps your mother isn't
- Madame...
As old-fashioned and... thank you.
And out of touch as you may think, no?
Especially you, Jean-Claude.
Mick Jagger is in the audience
this evening, so there.
Thank you so much. It has been
such a marvelous, marvelous evening.
You know, it's not often that an old girl
like me gets to look back over her life.
Over all the bends in the road and be here
with such a giving audience like you.
I have learned.
I have learned
that the one thing
you never, ever get punished for
is giving.
Man: Josephine!