American Playhouse: Season 11, Episode 3

Porgy and Bess (6 Oct. 1993)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Drama
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.3/10 from 107 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 4 critic

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 »
0Check in

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb at Comic-Con 2014

Follow our coverage of Comic-Con 2014, direct from San Diego July 23-27 in our Comic-Con section.

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 198 titles
created 7 months ago

Related Items

Search for "Porgy and Bess" on

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: Porgy and Bess (06 Oct 1993)

Porgy and Bess (06 Oct 1993) on IMDb 7.3/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of American Playhouse.
« Previous Episode | 149 of 163 Episodes | Next Episode »
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

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

6 October 1993 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

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 »


Porgy: [singing] If there weren't no Crown, Bess, If there was only just you and Porgy, what then?
Bess: [singing] I loves you, Porgy, Don't let him take me, Don't let him handle me, And drive me mad. If you can keep me, I wants to stay here, With you forever, And I'll be glad.
See more »


Version of Porgy and Bess (1959) See more »


Clara, Clara
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by DuBose Heyward
Sung by Chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Guess I is a Nunn fan now
3 October 2005 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

This keeps happening to me. I re-watch an opera that I had previously found worthless with the intention of writing one of my sarcastic reviews for IMDb: then I find myself totally captivated by its magic. The latest work to have this effect on me is Trevor Nunn's 1993 production of Porgy and Bess with Glyndebourne Opera. What is more amazing is that the singing is dubbed: something that I detest in opera films.

As a 14-year-old, I enjoyed the 1959 film which, essentially, did Porgy as a Hollywood musical. In the ensuing 45 years or so I have become more critical about the idea of two white, Jewish men writing a black opera, although a similar criticism could be levelled at practically the entire 20th century output of American popular song.

That 1959 film had spoken dialogue and big tunes such as "Summertime" and "It ain't necessarily so". I say tunes deliberately: they do not even qualify as songs because their structure is completely strophic. What is so striking about this operatic version is the musical complexity of the recitative and arioso; the Gershwins punctuated this complex music with the simple numbers in order to emphasise its folk and blues roots. So, in dismissing Porgy and Bess as just a collection of big tunes, I was ignoring most of the best music. Trevor Nunn's 1993 film uses the recording of the 1989 Glyndebourne production. In the intervening four years, Bruce Hubbard had died and several other cast members were not available. It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the performers in this film seem to have only a passing acquaintance with the lyrics they are supposed to be singing. This would normally make me chew the carpet with rage but the reason why it does not bother me is that much of the important music in this work is given to the chorus. I particularly enjoyed "Oh Doctor Jesus" and "O dere's somebody knockin' at de do'". The Glyndebourne chorus is superb even though it seems likely that the actors we see on stage mouthing their words are not the people who did the singing four years earlier.

While the black characters have sung recitatives, the white characters only have parlando or spoken parts. If you have seen 'Jerry Springer the Opera' you will know how this works. It emphasizes the point that the black and white characters seem to inhabit a different world, physically and mentally.

Willard White is very impressive vocally as Porgy and gives the character great dignity. Cynthia Haymon is a glamorous Bess and gives a moving rendition of "I loves you Porgy". As Sportin' Life, Damon Evans effectively erases one's memory of Sammy Davis Jr's performance. Harolyn Blackwell singing, but not acting the part of Clara does a haunting 'Summertime' and Cynthia Clarey as Serena does a beautiful 'My man's gone now'. Simon Rattle's account of the score is an exciting roller-coaster ride. The biggest credit must go to Trevor Nunn for the clarity and intelligence of this production. He even manages to stage a realistic crap game. There has always been some doubt over whether this piece works as an opera, Trevor Nunn proves emphatically that it does.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Painting Churches BKeith57
The cutest thing ever... thslindal
Need help finding the name of a play rgustas
The Great Anerican Fourth of July on DVD? Cindyk610
Working mangos47
Hallelujah American playhouse season 11 episode 5 12/22/93 nancymurnane
Discuss Porgy and Bess (1993) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page