Sunday, November 9, 2008

You Otto See It: Carmen Jones (1954)

I do love de movie Carmen Jones. It's de best dat Preminger got!

Carmen Jones (1954 or 55) is by far my favorite Otto Preminger film yet. I just adore this film. What's not to love? It's an opera remake with an all black cast. It's gorgeous and the music, of course, is the best. Dorothy Dandridge is the femme fetale that lures the angelic soldier Harry Belafonte with her charms. They get into trouble along the way. You Otto see it!

Watching this film reminded me of my days in youth orchestra. I played violin to Bizet's Carmen many times and still have my sheet music (I wonder if I can still play it? hmmm). So listening to the music in the movie just brought back good memories. Also, some years ago I watched Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, with Halle Berry as Dandridge. It's quite a moving biopic of an actress who struggled with love, prejudice and her daughter's disabilities. Her story is quite sad but she did so much to show how a black woman could be beautiful, talented and independent. She had an affair with Otto Preminger in real life. I don't blame him. She was drop-dead gorgeous!

I think Carmen Jones is a great example of Preminger's range. Studios could throw anything his way and he could take it on and do it well. Film noir, war drama, Catholic epic, court drama and black opera, he could do it all. If you still need more reasons for why you "Otto" see it, I'll give you three more.

1) The famous "Dat's Love" musical number. It's da best!

2) Harry Belafonte + Sun + Oil - Shirt = All Good!

3) Dorothy Dandridge. She always stood out in every scene. Dandridge was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for this role (the first African-American woman to do so in history).

Extra Bonus Reason: PEARL BAILEY!!!


  1. Raquel,
    I really enjoy your ongoing Otto exposé. Very enlightening! I have clearly not seen all the films of his worth seeing. The Cardinal seems to be next in line. Epic! Swell!

  2. Thanks Jonas! I'm kind of sad that it's almost over. I only have 2 more films before the lecture, which is on Thursday. Then I'm done.

    Let me know when you see The Cardinal!

  3. Lecture... Wow! Wish I was there!

    Some research tells me that it might be really hard for me to get a copy of The Cardinal. There seems to be no European release of it. Sometimes it really feels like I live on Mars. Major bummer!

  4. "I only have 2 more films before the lecture, which is on Thursday."

    Thursday? Then ignore my previous question...

    Looks like Harry Belafonte's made out of plastic. ;)

  5. P.S. I forgot to mention two things...

    1) Interesting new header! Is that from a movie, or a movie poster, perhaps?

    2) I noticed your birthday listed on your Facebook and Dana Andrews have the same birthday! :)

    Lucky duck...I'm stuck with Julie Andrews. ;)

  6. Gosh! Julie Andrews! How cool is that!? :))) I'm sharing the same day as Yoko Ono and John Travolta.

  7. Jonas - Oh no! You need to protest to get The Cardinal distributed in Europe!

    Ginger - The header is from Saul Bass' artwork for Bonjour Tristesse. I loved it so much, I just had to use it.

    On IMDB it says that Dana Andrews was born on January 1st. My b-day is 11/25. I know I share a B-Day with Christina Applegate. Big woop.

  8. Huh, that's strange...I knew Dana's was January First, but I could've swore I read on your Facebook page '1/1/(year I can't remember)'.

    So instead, your birthday's in just a couple of weeks...well that's even better. ;)

  9. Glad to hear that you enjoyed Carmen Jones. It is a favorite of mine also, although the dis and dat gets annoying after a while. But the story is terrific, as is the music. And Dorothy is amazing. Her story is very sad to me, she should have had a long and successful career. Another tragic beauty.

    Some elements of the story intrigue me. Clearly Belafonte's character was heading for the Tuskegee Airmen unit before Carmen derailed him. There is still a need for the definitive story of this courageous group of pilots. And the relationship between Joe and his sergeant reminds me of the movie A Soldier's Story.

    I wonder what you thought of the Cindy Lou character? She seemed like such a doormat at times. Yet I felt sorry for her.


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