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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>
It's incredible that it took an Austrian director, Otto Preminger, the courage to bring this wonderful screen adaptation of the Bizet's immortal opera Carmen to the American public. As a musical, "Carmen Jones" had been seen, successfully, on Broadway, because of the many talented black performers that weren't allowed to be seen in Hollywood movies. Preminger had a knack for tackling issues that other, better known directors, stayed away from.
"Carmen Jones", as seen today, shows us a film that is somehow dated, but when it made its debut, it surprised a lot of people because it was a revolutionary work, something the American movie goers weren't used to seeing. The strength of the film lies in the performances Mr. Preminger got from his multi-talented cast.
The adaptation of the opera sets the film in the South. We are taken to a military base during the war. The local people work in the factory, attached to the base, making parachutes and other war related equipment. Carmen Jones, is the sultry young woman who sticks out from the rest of her co-workers, not only by her beauty, which was obvious, but by the way she can reduce men to servitude, which is what happens to Joe, the man who is being promoted until fate intervenes and Carmen renders him useless.
The gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge made a magnificent Carmen Jones. In fact, this was Ms. Dandridge's best screen work because she smolders the screen every time she is seen in the film. Harry Belafonte is Joe, the man whose passion for the lovely Carmen will consume him and will not let him see straight. Pearl Bailey is a delight in her take of Frankie. Olga James is seen as the sweet Cindy Lou, the girl in love with Joe. Joe Adams, Brock Peters and a young Diahann Carroll are also seen in minor roles.
Some comments to the IMDb forum express their displeasure at the way the voices are heard. This seems to have been the only thing that Preminger should have worked with his collaborators Oscar Hammerstein II and Harry Kleiner into having the opera melodies sung naturally, the way one would expect Ms. Dandridge, who could sing, and of course, Harry Belafonte, a wonderful singer, to deliver them in a way that would have pleased those audiences not accustomed to hearing classical opera.
Regardless of what we think today, this was one of the breakthroughs that proved to America they could enjoy black performers on their merits and talent. Otto Preminger must be praised for being a pioneer in this field and for daring to be a man ahead of his time.
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