Princess Tam Tam

Princess Tam Tam is a 1935 French black-and-white film which stars Josephine Baker as a local Tunisian girl who is educated and then introduced to Parisian high society.[1] Baker sings two songs, "Dream Ship" and "Neath the Tropical Blue Skies", in the film, and dances a number of times.

Princess Tam Tam
Danish film poster
Directed byEdmond T. Greville
Produced byArys Nissotti
Written byPepito Abatino
(also art director)
Screenplay byYves Mirande
StarringJosephine Baker
Albert Préjean
Music byDallin
Grenet_Goehr_Al Romans
CinematographyG. Benoit
Edited byJ. Feyte
Arys Production
Distributed byDI CI MO
Release date
2 November 1935 (France)
Running time
77 minutes


Frustrated writer Max de Mirecourt (Albert Préjean) goes to Tunisia in search of inspiration for his next novel and meets a local girl named Alwina (Josephine Baker) whose personality intrigues him so greatly that he invents a character based on her for his newest (and 'most exciting') novel. His relation with Alwina serves a dual purpose in that it also angers (or at least highly annoys) his wife Lucie (Germaine Aussey) who has been flirting with the Maharaja of Datane (Jean Galland) back in Paris. Max takes Alwina under his wing and teaches her the manners and social graces of a high-society princess. He then whisks her away to Paris and presents her as Princess Tam Tam from faraway Africa.

Lucie is further enraged by all the attention that Alwina receives, and after a friend sees Alwina dance provocatively in the sailors' bar, Lucie calls upon her Maharaja to craft a plan which will destroy her husband's relation with "the princess." The Maharaja throws a grand party, inviting the upper crust of Parisian society. Alwina is unable to resist the exotic music, and promptly joins the large, staged dance number, embarrassing Max until he realizes that the entire audience is on their feet, applauding Alwina. Lucie is furious.

Lucie and Max forgive each other in the end and fall in love again, Alwina returns to Tunisia after the frustrating realization that, as the Maharaja puts it, "Some windows face to the West, and the others to the East." Ultimately, however, the entire European affair is revealed to be little more than an enactment of Max's novel-in-progress. Alwina never does go to Europe, and the primary events of the film are simply a staging of how Max has imagined them. Alwina is given Max's Tunisian estate, and Max's new novel is a success. The title of his new work is "Civilisation." When asked about Alwina while back in Europe, Max states that she is "better where she is."

The film closes with a scene of Alwina and Dar back in Tunisia with their newborn child, with farm animals strewn about Max's mansion. In the final shot, a donkey eats the title page of "Civilisation" off Max's (now Alwina's) floor.


Cast note:

  • The Comedian Harmonists, a sought-after German act which was later disbanded by the government of Nazi Germany, due to three of its members being Jewish, provided backup singing for the production number.[2]


The African scenes in Princess Tam Tam were filmed on location in Tunisia.[2] The Eastman House restored the film in 1989.[2]


Although the film had a premiere in New York City, the Hollywood censors of the Hays Office refused to pass the film, which prevented it from being shown in the most theatres in rest of the country, although it did play independent theatres which catered to African-American audiences.[2]


On 4 February 2010, Swann Galleries set an auction record for Svend Koppel's poster for the film at $9,000. The image, "Josephine Baker / Prinsesse Tam-Tam", from 1935, was later used by the United States Postal Service on a postage stamp.[3]


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