Hollywood Black Agent Josephine

Being there . . . . to read with empathy, then treasure as literary heirlooms for family
generations to come, two unforgettable, elegantly written masterpieces, one (to be read first),
a sweeping chronicle capturing the essence of blackness on the staggering, wonderful stage of
cinema; the other, a wholly demanding biographical study of a rarely acknowledged American
actress’s struggle to remain undetected, and alive, while fulfilling and her espionage duties
amid entertaining, experiencing love, and facing racist adversities in World War II France . . .
TWO POWERFUL, UNFLINCHING MASTERWORKS OF BLACK FILMMAKERS AND PERFORMERS,
ONE A CONTROVERSIAL, BEAUTIFUL ACTRESS FORCED TO FLEE AMERICA FOR HER ADOPTED
FRANCE, THEN UNHESITATINLY PLACED HER LIFE ON THE LINE AS A DAILY OPERATIVE FOR
BRITAIN DURING WORLD WAR II
Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi
“Hollywood Black”, by Donald Bogle seeks to set the historical record straight of black struggles
and triumphs of more than a century of cinema. It charts that long journey, examining cinema
that is often disturbing, but also compelling and spotlights the way that films and film stars
reflect the social and political attitude and perspectives of the eras in which they first appeared

  • – and the way those films and film stars looked both in the past and to later generations.
    “HOLLYWOOD BLACK – The Stars, The Films, The Filmmakers”, by Donald Bogle, Foreword by
    John Singleton. Hachette Book Group, Running Press: 2019, 7 1/2” x 9 ½”, 269 pages, hc; $35.
    Visit, www.runningpress.com, @ Running Press.
    Then, read a recently revealed fact of a little-known American entertainer considered by some
    of her older peers lower in rank or estimation of worth by her actions, escapades, and words.
    Strikingly attractive, Josephine Baker fought convention to make her name in the male-
    dominated field of black cinema. A fearless adventurer who sought opportunities to actualize
    her vast sea of creative, imaginative, near genius level talents, she fled to France and proved
    her loyalty to America, regardless of its unabashed racism. No one knew, certainly not in the
    entertainment industry, that she risked her life as an operative for the Allies, in particular the
    British. Even author Damien Lewis’s decade of relentless research may not uncover the full
    story of Agent Josephine’s self-sacrifice to the Gestapo and SS occupiers of Paris to save
    members of the French resistance, and escaping Allied pilots, among others.
    “AGENT JOSEPHINE – American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy”, by Damien Lewis. Public
    Affairs, Hachette Book Group: 2022, 6 ½” x 9 ½”, 466 pages, hc, $32. Visit,
    www.publicaffairsbooks.com, @Public_Affairs.
    Reading one after the other buffs of American cinema, as well as those interested is espionage
    exploits with new vistas to explore. In his rich, extraordinarily extensive review of the
    remarkable achievements of black performers and producers back to the era of silent films,
    including the advent of sound in the late 1920s, the Depression and World War II years to the
    present, author Bogle knew nothing of Agent Josephine to mention her more than the three

sentences she appears in “HOLLYWOOD BLACK” (pp 15, 19, and 184). Had he, or any one of us,
known that during the 1939-1945 years the Nazis banned her from the stage, along with all
“negroes and Jews”, and instead of returning to America she vowed to stay and fight the Nazi
evil, we all would have relishes writing “Agent Josephine” ourselves. French hero, British spy? In
the 1930s, the world’s most photographed woman spying against the Germans? The American
music-hall diva renowned for her singing, acting, beauty, and sexuality? The highest-paid
female performer in Europe? An American spy?
Riveting reading, especially reading the brilliant presentation of the history of Hollywood’s black
movie stars, including Josephine Baker, their films, and the usual black filmmakers who
contributed so much to our great cinema.

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