Saturday, December 17, 2011

Josephine Baker: The Black Pearl

Full name:                                      Freda Josephine McDonald
Birth:                                             June 3, 1906
Place of Birth:                                St. Louis, Missouri
Death:                                           April 12, 1975

Place of Death:                              Paris, France
She was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess".
Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture and to integrate an American concert hall.
Josephine Baker's mother was Carrie McDonald and her father was Eddie Carson. Arthur Martin was her stepfather. Her siblings were Richard, Margaret and Willie Mae. Surviving the 1917 riots in East St. Louis, Illinois, where the family was living, Josephine Baker ran away a few years later at age thirteen and began dancing in vaudeville and on Broadway.
Josephine's first husband was Willie Wells; her second husband was Willie Baker; she later took the name Baker from her second husband, whom she married at age 15. In 1925, Josephine Baker went to Paris where, after the jazz revue La Revue Nègre failed, her comic ability and jazz dancing drew attention of the director of the Folies Bergère.
Overcoming the limitations imposed by the color of her skin, she became one of the world's most versatile entertainers, performing on stage, screeen and recordings. Virtually an instant hit, Josephine Baker became one of the best-known entertainers in both France and much of Europe. Her exotic, sensual act reinforced the creative images coming out of the Harlem Renaissance in America.
During World War II Josephine Baker worked with the Red Cross, gathered intelligence for the French Resistance and entertained troops in Africa and the Middle East.
After the war, Josephine Baker adopted, with her second husband, twelve children from around the world, making her home a World Village, a "showplace for brotherhood”, whom she called her "Rainbow Tribe." Her twelve adopted children were: Akio (male), Janot (male), Luis (male), Jari (male), Jean-Claude (male), Moise (male), Brahim (male), Marianne (female), Koffi (male), Mara (male), Noel (male), Stellina (female). She returned to the stage in the 1950s to finance this project.
In 1951 in the United States, Josephine Baker was refused service at the famous Stork Club in New York City. Yelling at columnist Walter Winchell, another patron of the club, for not coming to her assistance, she was accused by Winchell of communist and fascist sympathies. Never as popular in the US as in Europe, she found herself fighting the rumors begun by Winchell as well.
Josephine Baker responded by crusading for racial equality, refusing to entertain in any club or theater that was not integrated, and thereby breaking the color bar at many establishments. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Josephine Baker's World Village fell apart in the 1950s and in 1969 she was evicted from her chateau which was then auctioned off to pay debts. Princess Grace of Monaco gave her a villa. In 1973 Baker married an American, Robert Brady, and began her stage comeback.
In 1975, Josephine Baker's Carnegie Hall comeback performance was a success, as was her subsequent Paris performance. But two days after her last Paris performance, she died of a stroke.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Lady Most Likely By Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway

Synopsis: Three of the brightest stars of historical romance invite you to a party at the country home of the Honorable Marquess of Finchley
Hugh Dunne, the Earl of Briarly, needs a wife, so his sister hands him a list of delectable damsels and promises to invite them— and a few other gentlemen—to her country house for what is sure to be the event of the season.
Hugh will have time to woo whichever lady he most desires . . . Unless someone else snatches her first.
The invitation list includes:
          The horse-mad but irresistibly handsome Earl of Briarly
·         The always outspoken Miss Katherine Peyton
·         The dashing war hero Captain Neill Oakes
·         The impossibly beautiful (and painfully shy) Miss Gwendolyn Passmore
·         The terribly eligible new Earl of Charters
·         The widowed Lady Georgina Sorrell (who has no plans to marry, ever)
And your hostess, Lady Carolyn Finchley, an irrepressible matchmaker who plans to find the lady most likely . . . to capture her brother’s untamed heart.
My thoughts: the romance is divided in three parts and it shows different couples, but mostly, the story is about a list of selected lady who would be presented to the handsome Earl of Briarly, Hugh Dunne, even though he is horse-mad about horses, and not women.
The first part is about the shy Miss Gwendolyn and the Earl of Charters, who fells for her as soon as he sees her at the ball arranged by the hostess. I didn’t like this part very much: I thought it too vague. Despite the fact that I LOVE Julia Quinn’s works, I think she could have worked more in the romance, attraction and chemistry between the characters. The love happened too fast and without any explanation.
The second part is about Miss Katherine Peyton and the Captain Neill Oakes, who reencounter each other after years. I liked this one more especially because of the past they share and the strength and deepness of their love. So romantic and cute at the same time, not to say funny too.
The last part was, by far, my favorite, because it wasn’t expected. It’s about – finally – the hot, gorgeous Hugh Dunne and the widowed Lady Georgina Sorell. It was not their past that surprised me, but the time that took for them to get together and how beautiful Hugh’s love for Georgina is.
Anyway, I laughed at the turns of most of the romances, but It would have been perfect if Quinn had explored her part a little more.