FULLERTON — The Muckenthaler Cultural Center opens its outdoor "Celestial Cinema" series tonight with "Zou Zou," the 1934 French film starring Josephine Baker.
When "Zou Zou" came out, St. Louis-born Baker was already a huge celebrity in France, her adopted country. She was a song-and-dance phenom with an appeal both exotic and common. By making the most of her talents, and through savvy image-making, Baker was the queen of the demimonde.
He handlers wanted a larger arena for Baker besides the Paris nightclubs and theater stages where she regularly performed. The movies made sense, and screenwriter Carlo Rim was asked to come up with a story. French matinee idol Jean Gabin was also brought aboard as Baker's co-star.
In "Zou Zou," Baker plays an orphan who grew up in a circus. She's in love with Gabin, but he's knocked out by her friend. Things get better for Zou Zou, though, once she becomes a sensation after stepping into a Busby Berkeley-like musical review when the star can't go on.