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At an all-black army camp, civilian parachute maker and "hot bundle" Carmen Jones is desired by many of the men. Naturally, she wants Joe, who's engaged to sweet Cindy Lou and about to go into pilot training for the Korean War. Going after him, she succeeds only in getting him into the stockade. While she awaits his release, trouble approaches for both of them. Songs from the Bizet opera with modernized lyrics. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Eartha Kitt was offered the role of Carmen but they wanted her to be dubbed so she would have an operatic voice in the role, same offer they made to Harry Belafonte and Diahann Carroll. Kitt refused, wanted to use her natural chest voice. It didn't matter for Pearl Bailey, whose own voice suited her comedy songs. See more »
Some greatness here. Dandridge's performance is riveting, and Pearl Bailey is a wonderful addition. Bizet's music is as appealing as always. The singers are excellent. The dancers at Billy Pastor's are another high point.
Too many slips for me to rate it a 10. It's lip-synced -- like every other movie musical, and (despite what one other reviewer said), one of the best lip-sync jobs I've seen. Only My Fair Lady does better (of those I've seen). Dandridge, Belafonte, and Bailey are particularly good; Olga James much less so. But I always find lip-syncing painfully obvious and distracting and will probably never have a chance to top-rate a movie musical as a result. It's also quite distracting when Joe breaks into song, because LeVern Hutcherson's voice is so different from Harry Belafonte's. It's a real shame that experienced singers like Dandridge and Belafonte weren't allowed to sing. Marilyn Horne, wow -- but I like the voice to match the face.
The acting is uneven. Some is excellent, led by Dandridge, and others do well too. But some of the acting is stiff.
Then there's the re-setting. Oh, moving the place is fine. It's funny that a couple of reviewers have referred to "how the Spaniards do it" and "Spanish opera". Hey, Carmen is set in Seville and Bizet attempted to use some Spanish musical idioms, but Carmen is a French opera through and through. Bizet was French, Prosper Merimee was French, the libretto is in French. But Carmen Jones only uses the top arias from Carmen, and ends up adding a lot of dialog to fill in the time. The story is true to the original, but Bizet told more in music and Hammerstein tells more in words. Oscar should have trusted Georges more.
I notice that Alvin Ailey is uncredited as a dancer. I found a couple of photos of him on the web -- it's hard, because his dance company has been so much more famous than the man, but I found a couple. I *think* I figured out which one he is -- some slo-mo work there -- but most of the dancers' faces don't come into focus for long enough to know for sure. It would be mostly a curiosity to know, since the movie doesn't show enough of the dance to see any personal style.
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