Mike Pryce on how one man's search for a 1920s photograph has led to Worcestershire

A SEARCH has been launched to track down a photograph of French entertainer Josephine Baker, one of the icons of the 1920s Jazz Age, which was last heard of in Worcestershire.

In 1927, American-born Miss Baker became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the silent movie Siren of the Tropics, and was a renowned dancer, headlining revues at the Folies Bergère in Paris wearing only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace.

During the Second World War she helped the French Resistance and in the 1960s became a prominent supporter of Civil Rights in America.

Ms Baker also raised and adopted 12 children from a wide variety of nationalities, calling them “The Rainbow Tribe”.

German Martin Brockmann, who is now 58 and lives in Mülheim in the Ruhr district, has been a big fan of Miss Baker since he was seven.

He explained: “My admiration for Josephine Baker began when I was a child. I got her book ‘The Rainbow Children’ and on the cover there was a picture of her with her many adopted children.

Worcester News:

Martin as he was when he first heard of Josephine Baker

“I especially loved the stories about ‘Kott-Kott’, the one-eyed black hen.” (Generally believed to be a thinly disguised portrait of Baker herself).

“Years later, by accident, I remembered it and began to rediscover the story of Josephine Baker, right from her days as a dancer wearing the banana skirt on to her development as a singer, entertainer and mother of all those adopted children, up to the civil rights activist Josephine Baker.

“In the course of this research, I discovered the picture of her, which was printed on a very old theatre programme from 1926.

“I instantly fell in love with this picture, which she had signed with a dedication and I began looking for it.

“My search led me to Paris, among other places, to a company that produces print products. They were a very friendly team and tried to help me.

“They told me the picture was last in the hands of a former customer, a lady from Worcester in England.

“They tried to contact her for me by e-mail, but because their contact was in 2012 , the e-mail address had unfortunately become invalid.

“So I scanned the internet for the local papers in Worcester and that’s how I found the Berrow’s Journal and Worcester News.

“This must be my last chance and if any of your readers can help me I would be overjoyed. They can contact me on Brockmann-Martin@gmx.net”

Although born in New Orleans, Josephine Baker was always more successful in Europe than America and later took French citizenship.

Her last performance was in April, 1975 when she starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris to celebrate her 50 years in show business. The show received rave reviews and was attended by celebrities like Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Shirley Bassey and Diana Ross.

Four days later, Baker was found lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with the glowing reviews of her performance.

She was in a coma after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage and was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where she died shortly after, aged 68.