In the midst of reading, I took a break to watch a couple of movies. Netflix has weird ideas about what I might find appealing. But it suggested Carmen Jones. I hope it’s not because I watched What Happened Miss Simone? and Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Carmen Jones epitomizes dated brilliance. Here is Bizet’s music from Carmen with Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics in “Negro speak.” Gershwin had license with Porgy and Bess in the 1920s. It doesn’t work with the candy-apple colors and lighting of musical comedy in the 1940s setting.
The performances captivate, and the film offered star turns for an ensemble of black actors who had no chance in Hollywood. Harry Belafonte looks so young, and his voice just encompasses all that is painful and gorgeous and inspired. Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones (with the voice of Marilyn Horne) matches him and multiplies the passion and beauty. I was surprised to see Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters, Carmen de Lavallade, and Max Roach – all supporting a terrific effort.
Despite all this talent and glamour, it’s not worth the hours. Netflix needs to check its algorithm.