CINEMASCOPE CLASSICS – CARMEN JONES

Rating: PG
Length: 105 mins
Cast:
Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey

Contemporary version of the Bizet opera, with new lyrics and an African-American cast.

CARMEN JONES is a CinemaScope motion picture that had begun shooting within the first 12 months of Twentieth Century Fox’s venture in 1953 to CinemaScope Technicolor as its main production mode. The historical costume drama, the western and the war film had filled Fox’s production schedule and this all-black musical drama based on an established and popular opera would surely be a box-office success, as proved true. CARMEN JONES was released in October 1954, exactly one year and one month after Fox’s first CinemaScope venture,THE ROBE.

Although Dandridge and Belafonte were singers, neither was capable of singing the operatic score, so Marilyn Horne and LeVern Hutcherson were hired to record their vocals, and soundtrack recording began on June 18. Horne later recalled, “Even though I was at that time a very light lyric soprano, I did everything I possibly could to imitate the voice of Dorothy Dandridge. I spent many hours with her. In fact, one of the reasons I was chosen to do this dubbing was that I was able to imitate her voice had she been able to sing in the proper register.”

Following three weeks of rehearsal, filming in CinemaScope began on June 30. Preminger had opted to remain in California for the shoot, with El Monte doubling for the Southern exteriors and the Chicago interiors being filmed at the Culver Studios. Principal photography was completed in early August, and Preminger and the Fox publicity studio began promoting both the film and its star. Dandridge was featured in Ebony and photographed for the cover of Life and appeared on a live television broadcast on October 24, four days prior to the opening, to sing two songs from the film.

The opening title sequence is the first film title sequence created by Saul Bass, and marked the beginning of Bass’s long professional relationship with Preminger.

The film had its world premiere at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City on October 28, 1954. The following February, it opened in London and Berlin, and in both cities it played for more than a year in exclusive first-run engagements. Because of a technicality in French copyright laws, the film was unable to have a theatrical release in France, although it was permitted to open the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, where for the first time Preminger and Dandridge openly flaunted their relationship. Soon after Cannes, Dandridge was offered the role of Tuptim in the screen adaptation of The King and I, but Preminger, acting as both lover and mentor, urged her not to accept a supporting role after proving her worth as a star. Dandridge complied but later regretted her decision, certain it had been instrumental in starting the slow but steady decline of her career.

Official Trailer