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Episode #137: The Josephine Baker Story

Listen to Episode 137 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - The Josephine Baker Story chronicles the life of the legendary performer (played by Lynn Whitfield). In the 1920s, Baker fled the racist violence she was witnessing in the United States and landed in Paris where she eventually found great success as a dancer and singer. She also utilized her platform to campaign for civil rights equality which led to a tumultuous return in the U.S.

Teleplay by Ron Hutchinson; Directed by Brian Gibson; and premiered on HBO on March 16,1991.


The movie is told through the perspective of Baker telling her life story to her kids in a letter.

There is a lot of life covered very quickly, such as her witnessing a racist massacre in St. Louis as a child.

The familial relationship is really only hinted at as well before she's off to Paris

We know why she likes to perform and the freedom from post-slavery, segregated America.

But it doesn't get into delving into some of her compulsions like the zoo's worth of animals she kept.

There are several performance scenes that are all well done. Granted, we don't have a point of reference to know how it compares to the real Baker's shows.

The movie has to cram so much into a tight space and it's missing a lot, like combining the medical issues she had with being recruited to sing for the troops (which was only a portion of what she did for the military)

It also touches on her activism but most of the movie's events center around things that happened to her, rather than the equality she fought for broadly.

It does show some of her family life as well.

One of our biggest wishes was that the movie would have found a way to incorporate more actual footage of the real Josephine, possibly along side the credits at least.

Awards Talk: It earned Emmy wins for Best Actress, Directing, Costume Design, Art Direction, and Hairstyling. It was also nominated for Choreography, Music Direction, Sound Mixing, Makeup, Supporting Actor (for both Dukes & Blades), and Best Drama/Comedy Special & Mini Series. At the Golden Globes, it won Best Supporting Actor (Gossett Jr), and was nominated for Best Actress, and Best Made for TV. Image Awards win for Best Actress. Cable Ace win for Best Score, nominated for Best Actress and Best Movie


This week we don't have any true crime but there was an important event that happened on this day.

A large portion of Reba McEntire's band was involved in a fatal plane crash

Moving on to TV, we have a TV Guide that had some ads

On one side of the paper, there was a full page ad for this movie

On the other was an ad for a series we really want to watch: Yearbook

We were able to watch that night's SNL, hosted by Michael J. Fox (although on Peacock, it's missing most of the content, sadly.


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 3 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 out of 4

Would you watch it again? - While this is a good movie, both of us are saying no. This is essentially the Cliff's Notes version of her life and it got us interested in learning more that this film cannot provide. So instead, we'd rather watch other movies, documentaries, mini-series that might be created about her instead. What we need now is something that can take the time to dive deep into Josephine Baker's fascinating life.

If you want to watch The Josephine Baker Story, as of this recording in October 2023, it’s available on VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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