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CARMEN JONES
September 13, 2020  | By David Bianculli

TCM, 8:00 p.m. ET

 
Bizet’s opera Carmen comes to the big screen in this 1954 adaptation, which updates the setting to the lead-up to the Korean War – and adapts the sultry story by filling it with an all-Black cast. The offstage collaborators include an unlikely duo: director Otto Preminger and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote new lyrics to some of Bizet’s music. But on screen, wow: Dorothy Dandridge stars in the title role, as the siren who ensnares most of the men around her, including pilot-in-training Joe, played by Harry Belafonte. Both of the leading roles had their singing voices dubbed by others: LeVern Hutcherson subbed for Belafonte, who had an amazing singing voice but was dubbed anyway. And Dandridge, an accomplished singer and stage entretainer also, had her singing voice dubbed by someone whose own voice soon would become very famous in its own right: Marilyn Horne. On-screen co-stars in Carmen Jones include Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, and Brock Peters. One weird final note: In 2001, MTV presented its own updated version of Bizet’s opera, keeping the all-Black cast approach, but adapting it to rap music instead. Directed by Robert Townsend, it was called Carmen: A Hip Hopera, and starred, in the title role, Beyoncé. And her voice, for that production, was not dubbed.
 
 
 
 
 
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