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This biography of Dorothy Dandridge follows her career through early days on the club circuit with her sister to her turn in movies, including becoming the first black actress to win a Best Actress Nomination in 1954 for "Carmen Jones", to her final demise to prescription drugs, which was debated whether it was suicide or accidental. Brent Spiner plays her faithful manager who stood beside her through all of the roller coaster of her career. The film also examines her love affair with director Otto Preminger, which is shown to have probably initially helped her career, but later probably led her to some wrong decisions. The film also examines 50's racism as the black star is not permitted to use white bathrooms or the Vegas pool. In the first situation, she was given a bathroom cup to pee in. In the second situation, the hotel drained the pool and scrubbed it after she dared put her foot in the water. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
Otto Preminger tells Dorothy that Carmen Jones is the first major studio movie to feature an all-black cast but at least one (MGM's Cabin in the Sky) was released more than 10 years earlier. See more »
Have you seen my man? That Carmen Jones snatched him from me and I'm all lost over what to do about it. Can't decide. If it's better I follow him up to the Windy City, or should I wait? Wait for him to come back to his happy-hearted home? Tell me what to do... I'm Cindy Lou.
The hell you are.
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Admittedly, it's probably unfair to call Dorothy Dandridge unknown, as I've just done in the title. She was, after all nominated for an Academy Award and had a fairly long resume of parts, even if the majority of them were small ones. Many probably know her. I, however, aside from this movie, have no knowledge of her whatsoever. I've never seen any of her movies and was not familiar with the name until I came across this bio-pic. The title of this movie would seem to suggest that I'm not alone - she has to be introduced to us, after all. And - what an introduction!
Halle Berry was absolutely perfect in this role. To me, she became the character with all the right moves and all the right emotions and presented a fascinating portrait of her subject. I find it hard to believe that so much was introduced in a little under two hours. Dandridge's problematic relationships (especially her relationship with the great director Otto Preminger) were interesting; her troubled upbringing being abused by whoever "Auntie" was supposed to be to the family was sad; her devotion to her mentally retarded daughter; the subtle look at the reality of racism in the era (she dips her toes in a hotel swimming pool, and the pool has to be drained and scrubbed as a result); her growing drug and alcohol dependence; her ultimate tragic death. In some respects she's portrayed as a black Marilyn Monroe, who does pop up from time to time in this movie. You would think that trying to show so much in so little time would lead to a shallow presentation, but it didn't. The movie leaves you wanting more, but not because it hasn't given you a lot.
The secondary characters were also interesting: from Dandridge's first husband (Obba Babatunde) - who is captivated by her beauty but can't agree with her on what they want out of life, to her manager Earl Mills (Brent Spiner) - who quietly falls in love with her, to Preminger (Klaus Maria Brandauer) - who also seems to love her, but who finally turns away from her, possibly because she wanted more of a commitment than he wanted to give or perhaps because he felt that creating personal distance between them would help him to further her career.
I'm shocked that this movie doesn't have a higher rating here. I think this was absolutely marvellous. 10/10
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