As made evident by my previous post, pop culture in the 1940’s clearly valued elements of glamour, despite the basic and utilitarian fashions that were popular for real-life working women. Adding to this drama of escapism was the popularity of musical numbers in popular Hollywood films, such as of the above Hazel Scott, a brilliant musician and actress who often made musical cameos in various pictures. Especially for women of color, whose roles were extremely limited by a blatantly racist film industry, the importance of being able to “do it all” was clear: be beautiful, be a gifted actress, sing wonderfully, play an instrument. Often, women of color fell into two categories when it came to Hollywood casting: the well-meaning, unintelligent but caring “maid” or “nanny” character, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the extremely beautiful and unattainable glamour girl, often cast in the role of a musician or so-called diamond in the rough who was too good for her current surroundings and situation, which sometimes included the cringe-worthy but relevant plot-line of “passing” for white. Despite these typecastings, women of color in the entertainment industry still delivered iconic performances, and I’ve collected some of what I find to be the key elements of style for the songstress/chanteuse archetype from throughout the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.
Tag Archives: Josephine Baker