'The French Way'
(Josephine Baker, Micheline Prelle, Aimos, Jean Tissler, Gabrielle Dorziat, et al / Blu ray / NR / (1945) 2018 / Kit Parker Films)
Overview: Born into poverty, Josephine Baker rose from a childhood living in a St. Louis slum to the toast of France - captivating audiences through the stage, recordings and motion pictures, and you'll get to see why in 'The French Way'. It's a farcical romantic-comedy set in contemporary WWII France, about young lovers forbidden to marry by their respective families.
Blu-ray Verdict: This film from 1945 France is a little bit of lighthearted fluff that was made to soothe the souls around that time, me thinks. The quality level of the production is modest at best, the tone feels too light during air-raid alarms (even for a romantic comedy), and the acting feels stagey.
However, it has its moments, and it entertained me. The story of the young Romeo and Juliet couple (Georges Marchal and Micheline Presle) is pretty standard, but the growing attraction between their feuding parents (Saturnin Fabre and Gabrielle Dorziat) is very cute. The battle for dominance in the marriage of two café owners was also amusing.
Most of all, though, I loved seeing Josephine Baker, who is a delight. How fantastic it is to see her in this role, without the least hint of a stereotype. Her musical numbers don't have a wow factor, and her dance routines are toned down, but the joy on her face and her charisma really come through.
The movie was filmed in 1940 and not released for five years because of the war, meaning she was 34 and had been in Paris for 15 years. You see the wisdom in her moving to France, because, as she put it, "One day I realized I was living in a country where I was afraid to be black."
In closing, sure, it's an average film, but I think you will all really enjoy it (now out here on delicious Blu-ray) as a movie that feels good to watch. And, no matter if you were watching back then, or here today (as I suggest you do), we all need more of these little cinematic gem sin our lives, trust me. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.37:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with French dialogue with English subtitles.