American Playhouse: Season 11, Episode 3

Porgy and Bess (6 Oct. 1993)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Drama
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 107 users  
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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

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Comedy | Drama

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Release Date:

6 October 1993 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Bass-baritone Bruce Hubbard appeared as Jake in the Glyndebourne stage production on which this television production is based, but he died suddenly in 1991, so he was not able to appear in this version. Because the original recording of the Glyndebourne production was used, however (instead of having the cast make an all-new recording for the telecast), Hubbard's singing voice is still heard as Jake, while Gordon Hawkins plays the role onscreen and lip-synchs to Hubbard's voice. See more »


Sportin' Life: [singing to Bess] Picnics is all right for these small town suckers, but we is used to the high life, you know. You an' me, we understands each other. I can't see for the life of me what you is hangin' round this place for. Why, with your looks Bess, and your way with the boys, there's big money for you and me in New York.
Bess: [singing] I can't remember meetin' nuttin' that I likes less than I does you!
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Version of Porgy and Bess (1959) See more »


Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward
Sung by Harolyn Blackwell (dubbing Paula Ingram), and Women's 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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