American Playhouse: Season 11, Episode 3

Porgy and Bess (6 Oct. 1993)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Drama
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The story of a disabled beggar in Charleston,S.C. who falls in love with a prostitute, this is the first filmed version of Gershwin's opera which uses Gershwin's own orchestrations and ... See full summary »



(libretto), (based on the play by), 3 more credits »
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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »


Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Willard White ...
Cynthia Haymon ...
Gregg Baker ...
Cynthia Clarey ...
Marietta Simpson ...
Paula Ingram ...
Harolyn Blackwell ...
Clara (singing voice)
Gordon Hawkins ...
Bruce Hubbard ...
Jake (singing voice)
Barrington Coleman ...
D. Alonzo Washington ...
Johnny Worthy ...
Robbins (singing voice)
Curtis Watson ...
Mervin Wallace ...


The story of a disabled beggar in Charleston,S.C. who falls in love with a prostitute, this is the first filmed version of Gershwin's opera which uses Gershwin's own orchestrations and practically all of the music, with only one major cut. Written by Albert Sanchez Moreno

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama

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Release Date:

6 October 1993 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Contrary to what some reviews say, this production was videotaped, not filmed, and taped not on location but entirely on studio soundstages. See more »


Crown: [singing to Bess] You're telling me that you'd rather have that cripple than Crown?
See more »


Version of Live from Lincoln Center: Porgy and Bess (2002) See more »


Clara, Clara
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward
Sung by Chorus
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User Reviews

Gershwin's best?
16 May 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Gershwin's fully-fledged opera, 'Porgy and Bess', had of course been filmed in the 1950s (in a version my generation, born later, has never seen due to restrictions in making it available for re-release or home video), but this TV version goes some way to putting a definitive record in images as well as music on the screen.

The performances of the two leads are top-class - Willard White, a singer/actor so versatile that he has also played the lead in Shakepeare's 'Othello' (brilliantly) for the Royal Shakespeare Company; and Cynthia Harmon, a beautifully-voiced soprano. Also in fantastic form are Gregg Baker as Crown (he can also be seen in a version of 'Carmen' taped a year or so later), and Damon Evans as Sportin' Life. As as been noted elsewhere, the late Bruce Hubbard can be heard as Jake but was replaced for this film by Gordon Hawkins (who plays the role well); while Harolyn Blackwell sings while Paula Ingram plays the doomed and delicate Clara.

The strength of this production is Trevor Nunn's sympathetic direction from his original Glyndebourne staging some years before. All the songs are done with class (my favourites, 'Bess You Is My Woman Now', 'Summertime', 'I Got Plenty Of Nuttin', and 'It Ain't Necessarily So' coming off particularly well). A valuable record of a ground-breaking crossover between grand opera and the modern musical.

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