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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 <email@example.com>
Although the original Broadway production had used a standard pit orchestra with Georges Bizet's orchestrations for the opera "Carmen" slightly altered by orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett, the film score was created by Herschel Burke Gilbert, the Music Director (a term he always insisted was the correct one, not "Musical Director), using a full symphony orchestra (ranging from about 90 to over 105 pieces), which enabled him to present the music with the sensibility of most of Bizet's original 1875 orchestrations as they were meant to be heard, although modified to fit the story line and transitions of the film. Because of Marilyn Horne's coming into the singing cast quite late in the production, and because of a number of unrelated delays, Gilbert had to leave the production shortly before it was completed, as he had a commitment for an original score of another film. Dimitri Tiomkin, a Fox Studio senior, as it were, stepped in to put together the last bits of recording and supervising the last music editing. Technically, especially given his seniority at Fox and his stature in the industry, he could have insisted his name be added to the credits. Graciously, he acknowledged Gilbert's responsibility for over 95% of the work and chose to not have himself officially credited. Given his much larger fame, his name in the credits would have overshadowed the younger, less known Gilbert's, and would have left the impression that Gilbert was more of an assistant, which was far from the case. See more »
Reflected in a window as Carmen is walking through town. 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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