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Book Vs. Movie “Musicals in March” 

The 1845 Novella Carmen Vs the 1954 Carmen Jones film

Carmen Jones starring Harry Belafonte & Dorothy Dandridge

We are continuing our month of musicals with the classic tale of Carmen which began as a novella by French writer Prosper Merimee and was first adapted as an opera. The story of a Romani woman who enchants the narrator by reading his fortune and behaving in a mysterious manner has been adapted several times, but for this episode, we focus on a 1954 all-African American cast filmed by director Otto Preminger.

Based on the1943 Broadway musical by Oscar Hammerstein, Carmen Jones stars Harry Bellafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, and Pearl Bailey and it was a true passion project for the director as most studios would never risk a film that would not appeal during the era of massive Jim Crow laws. The character of Carmen was also criticized for being lustful and there were not enough “moral” voices. Preminger went so far as to send the script to Walter Francis White who was Executive Secretary for the NAACP who approved it. 

Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte became stars after the film’s release which was a big hit a the box office. Dandridge became involved with Preminger and though she was the first African Americen woman to be nominated for Best Actress, her career had major ups and downs and she died under mysterious circumstances in 1965. Belafonte recently celebrated his 95th birthday. 

So, between the original novella and the 1954 musical adaptation–which did we prefer? 

In this ep the Margos discuss:

  • The original novella by Prosper Merimee
  • How the main character is presented 
  • The differences between the novella and 1954 musical
  • The cast includes Harry Belafonte (Joe,) Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones,) Pearl Bailey (Frankie,) Olga James (Cindy Lou,) Joe Adams (Husky Miller,) Brock Peters (Sargeant Brown,) and Diahann Carroll as Myrt. 

Clips used:

  • Carmen Jones and Joe in the Jeep
  • Carmen Jones  (the original  trailer)
  • Carmen Jones sings
  • Pearl Bailey sings
  • Joe Kills Carmen Jones
  • Music by Georges Bizet 

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Margo D. @BrooklynFitChik [email protected]

Margo P. @ShesNachoMama 

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