Praise for Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism
In promoting Baker's stature as an American star, Francis has crafted an impressive and pressingly important book. . . . Refreshingly contemporary in its orientation, the light that Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism opens onto its eponymous star brings its author's crucial perspective to an essential history of transnational cinema and performance.
― Colleen Kennedy-Karpat, History
The ability of a figure to be discovered and rediscovered with new fascination and excitement time and again is the mark of a true legend. The life and career of the international sensation and multitalented performer Josephine Baker has thus been solidified. . . . Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism follows through with exactly what it announces as its goal in its first few pages: to "treat Baker with care and seriousness as a producer of knowledge" (4). . . . Baker's cinematic prism engenders a way of knowing, thinking, and seeing that transcends the limits of space-time and productively reconsiders how Black women's labor can be assessed and valued. The method through which Francis conducts this thoughtful, yet rigorous, analysis will hopefully inspire those who evoke Baker in the future to do so in the same collaborative spirit.
― Philana Payton, Film Quarterly
Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism explores Baker's celebrity and ability to have such a hold in the Black film industry even while working almost exclusively with white directors, actors and crew in white―specifically European―spaces. Francis examines the dialogue between Baker and the characters she portrayed, particularly those whose narratives seemed to undermine the stardom they offered. Expertly crafted, Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism illustrates the most prominent links between Black cinema, conflicting opinions of Baker in the popular press and the broader aspirations for progress towards racial equality.
― The Root
New Josephine Baker biography chronicles her 'labor on screen' as the first 'global' black woman film star. . . . Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism is available now and details the early days of Baker's stunning career.
-- Rae Williams ― Atlanta Black Star
Expertly crafted, Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism illustrates the most prominent links between Black cinema, conflicting opinions of Baker in the popular press and the broader aspirations for progress towards racial equality.
-- Bella Morais ― The Root
An insightfully informative work of meticulous research and painstaking scholarship, Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Cinematic History, African-American Studies, and American Biography collections in general, and Josephine Baker supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular.
-- James A. Cox ― Midwest Book Review
This academic, but accessible deep dive into her film career and the impact of her image in the movies is thorough in considering what influenced her, how she reflected the current culture, and how she continues to be an influence today. Francis explores how Baker's performance style was inspired by African dance and blues singers like Ethel Waters, Ma Rainey, and Clara Smith (with whom she performed in the US). She put her own comic lens on these varied influences and presented her take with a boldness that would later show in the style of top stars like Diana Ross and Beyoncé. . . . This is an impressively thorough examination of a relatively short period of Baker's career that nevertheless had a significant impact on her image and legacy.
-- Kendahl Cruver ― A Classic Movie Blog
Francis does a masterful job reconciling all the threads of Josephine Baker's public role as we've known it thus far―the amusing, the carnal, the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture―and takes us deeper into a lush exploration of how race, gender, and entertainment play out in the African diaspora. A hugely important contribution to the world of Film and Performance Studies, as well as World Black History and Gender Studies.
-- Nina Collins, Founder of The Woolfer and author of What Would Virginia Woolf Do