Carmen Jones

In Preminger's all-black-cast feature, Dorothy Dandridge is a “hot bundle,” a first-class floozie with a fiery frame. The object of her amorous activation is Joe, played forthrightly by Harry Belafonte, a G.I. heading for flight school. A black man who has succeeded within the white confines of a military at war, Joe is all control. But Dandridge's infectious pleasure seeker Carmen Jones has enough hormonal heft to undo legions. This darkly jubilant musical is based on an Oscar Hammerstein adaptation of Bizet's famed opera, transported to a Florida army base and then Chicago in the forties. Except for irrepressible Pearl Bailey, the principal singers are dubbed-Dandridge by Marilyn Horne and Belafonte by Le Vern Hutcherson. But the vernacular lyrics sit surprisingly well inside Bizet's melodies, especially Bailey's jumpin' “Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum” and Joe Adams's “Stan' Up and Fight.” A hip-swirling hedonist, Carmen Jones has a flammable lust for life. And her pilot project? Joe burns, then crashes.

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