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BABY FACE: ST. LOUIS BLUES

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Baby Face may star the amazing and seductive Barbara Stanwyck as Lily, wearing diamonds and furs like it’s her job. But it’s Lily’s loyal maid and friend Chico played by Theresa Harris, in her few onscreen moments, who steals the show. She’s funny, chill, down to earth and very pretty. Theresa Harris acted in more than 80 films in a career that spanned 30 years. Despite often being the best part of the film, most of the time she was playing a maid – something she refuses to let phase her in this article from Jet in 1952.

She also has a tendency to sing to herself while doing her work. The song in her head is the apt St. Louis Blues (“St. Louis woman with her diamond rings / pulls my man around by her apron strings”). In Baby Face, her rendition is loose and soulful and eventually strikes a chord for Lily, instigating a major moment in the film. But Chico’s mindless humming isn’t the only time she would sing the St. Louis Blues on screen. Director John Cromwell must have been a fan of her performance in the 1933 melodrama, because she reprises the performance (more spirited and with more orchestration) in this uncredited interlude, once again opposite Barbara Stanwyck, in the musical comedy Banjo on My Knee (1936):

Although I am a big fan of Bessie Smith, I must say Harris’ version(s) are truly definitive.