Carmen Jones (1955)

105 or 107 mins | Musical | January 1955

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HISTORY

The film's opening title card reads: "Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones ." On 26 Jun 1952, HR announced that theatrical producer Billy Rose had acquired the screen rights to Hammerstein’s work and intended to make the film with an all-black cast. The news items also stated that Rose intended to “handle his own financing and release, with the premiere engagement of the film to take place at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where he will make his headquarters.” According to a 9 Jul 1952 HR news item, Rose signed Elia Kazan to direct the picture. Rose apparently abandoned his plans and sold the rights, as a 23 Dec 1953 HR news item announced that Otto Preminger and Twentieth Century-Fox would be filming the project.
       Although an 11 Mar 1954 HR news item stated that Hammerstein would be collaborating on the film’s screenplay with an as-yet unnamed writer, only Harry Kleiner is credited onscreen as the screenwriter. According to Preminger's autobiography, he and Kleiner, who had been Preminger's student at Yale University, decided not to use the text of Hammerstein's musical, or the libretto of Bizet's opera as a basis for the script, but to go back to Prosper Mérimée's short story, while retaining Bizet's music and Hammerstein's lyrics. Preminger states that he first took the project to friends at United Artists, but they turned him down because they felt they could not risk backing an all-black film.
       According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Fox entered into a distribution deal with Preminger's Carlyle Productions in which Fox ... More Less

The film's opening title card reads: "Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones ." On 26 Jun 1952, HR announced that theatrical producer Billy Rose had acquired the screen rights to Hammerstein’s work and intended to make the film with an all-black cast. The news items also stated that Rose intended to “handle his own financing and release, with the premiere engagement of the film to take place at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where he will make his headquarters.” According to a 9 Jul 1952 HR news item, Rose signed Elia Kazan to direct the picture. Rose apparently abandoned his plans and sold the rights, as a 23 Dec 1953 HR news item announced that Otto Preminger and Twentieth Century-Fox would be filming the project.
       Although an 11 Mar 1954 HR news item stated that Hammerstein would be collaborating on the film’s screenplay with an as-yet unnamed writer, only Harry Kleiner is credited onscreen as the screenwriter. According to Preminger's autobiography, he and Kleiner, who had been Preminger's student at Yale University, decided not to use the text of Hammerstein's musical, or the libretto of Bizet's opera as a basis for the script, but to go back to Prosper Mérimée's short story, while retaining Bizet's music and Hammerstein's lyrics. Preminger states that he first took the project to friends at United Artists, but they turned him down because they felt they could not risk backing an all-black film.
       According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Fox entered into a distribution deal with Preminger's Carlyle Productions in which Fox agreed to advance the film's negative costs, up to $825,000. Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck was to have final script and cut approval. Legal records also state that Hammerstein, at the behest of Zanuck, submitted the script to Walter White, the executive secretary of the N.A.A.C.P., for comment. White praised the screenplay, but added that he was opposed to an "all-Negro" show in principle, because of his organization's ongoing fight for integration. Although a 23 Dec 1953 DV news item stated that Preminger planned to shoot the film in Hollywood, Chicago and South Carolina, studio records indicate that the picture was shot entirely on the RKO lot.
       According to legal records, Katherine Hilgenberg was originally hired as the singing voice of "Carmen." Marilyn Horne, whose first name was misspelled in the onscreen credits, sang the part, however. Brock Peters (1927--2005), whose first name was misspelled "Broc" in the onscreen credits, was initially considered for the role of "Husky Miller," according to legal records. The film marked the motion picture debut of the actor, who is perhaps best known for his role as the falsely accused "Tom Robinson" in To Kill a Mockingbird (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ).
       On 29 May 1953 HR noted that Dorothy Dandridge, Joyce Bryant and Elizabeth Foster were being considered for the title role. According to a 24 Oct 1954 NYT article, Preminger was reluctant to cast Dandridge because she seemed "too sweet, too regal." Dandridge convinced Preminger to hire her by dressing in flashy clothing and visiting the director, arguing, "Look, I know I can do it. I understand this type of woman. She's primitive, honest, independent, and real--that's why other women envy her." In the same article, Harry Belafonte, when asked if Carmen Jones would lead to a greater utilization of black talent in films, replied, "Not really...but I think it will provide some help symbolically. It proves there's no corner of human drama that Negroes cannot play. However, I don't think Hollywood, as a whole, is geared to pioneering of this sort."
       HR production charts and news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, althought their appearance in the final picture has not been confirmed: Mme. Sul-te-Wan, Archie Savage, Carmen De Lavallade, June Eckstine, Max Roach, Sam McDaniels , Don Derricks, James Green, Don Blackman, Lonny Malone, Reuben Wilson, Jane Hanibal, Ramona Bruce, Vera Frances, Madie Comfort, Lawrence La Marr, Charles Fleming, Ruby Berkeley Goodwin, James Craig, Otis Greene, Orchid Oliver, Michael Wallace, Donna Rae Brown, Pat Taylor, Christyne Lawson, Ercelle Anderson, Gloria Jones, Pat Sides, Pola Dukes, James Truitte, Alvin Ailey, Clyde Webb, Archie Allison, Graham Johnson, Daniel Lloyd and Charles Carter. Modern sources credit John De Cuir as co-art director and Dimitri Tiomkin as co-music director.
       A 1 Dec 1957 NYT article commented that the film titles designed by Saul Bass, which featured a sinuous animated flame flickering around a rose, introduced design, color and animation to the display of film credits. According to HR news items, Bass was awarded a special citation from the Los Angeles Art Directors Club and a gold medal from the New York Art Directors Guild for his work on Carmen Jones . Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress and was also nominated by BAFTA for Best Foreign Actress. Herschel Burke Gilbert was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and the film won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Musical/Comedy. In 1992, Carmen Jones was selected for the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
       According to HR news items, the film at first had problems being exhibited in Europe because Preminger had not cleared the European rights to Bizet’s music before production on the picture began. On 15 Nov 1954, HR noted that the rights to Bizet’s score were in the public domain in the United States but were still privately owned in Europe. When Preminger received an invitation to screen the picture at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, he planned to show it aboard an American aircraft carrier, which would constitute “extra-territorial grounds” so that he would not be “breaching technicalities” prohibiting showings on the Continent, according to a 20 Apr 1955 HR news item. By 26 Apr 1955, however, a special, out-of-competition screening was arranged so that it could be held on the main festival grounds.
       Many films have been based on or inspired by the story and opera of Carmen , including two 1913 three-reel versions, one with Marion Leonard made by the Monopol Film Co., the other with Marguerite Snow, made by the Thanhouser Corp.; two 1915 versions, a Fox Film Corp. production, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Theda Bara, and a Jesse L. Lasky production, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Geraldine Farrar (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ); Gypsy Blood , directed in 1918 by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Pola Negri; Loves of Carmen , produced by Fox Film Corp. in 1927, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Dolores del Rio (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ); the 1948 Columbia film The Loves of Carmen , directed by Charles Vidor and starring Rita Hayworth (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ); a 1983 film produced in Spain entitled Carmen , directed by Carlos Saura; a 1983 France/Switzerland production entitled Prenom Carmen , directed by Jean-Luc Godard; Bizet's Carmen , a 1984 France/Italy production, directed by Francesco Rosi; and a 2001 MTV television production entitled MTV's Hip Hopera: Carmen , starring Mekhi Phifer and Beyoncé Knowles and directed by Robert Townsend. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Dec 54
pp. 610-11, 625-29.
Box Office
16 Oct 1954.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
28 Sep 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Oct 54
p. 10.
Harrison's Reports
9 Oct 54
p. 163.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1952
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1954
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1954
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1954
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 54
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1954
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 54
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 54
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1955
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
2 Nov 1954.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1954.
---
Motion Picture Daily
29 Sep 1954
p. 1, 11.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Oct 54
p. 179.
New York Times
24 Oct 1954.
---
New York Times
29 Oct 54
p. 27.
New York Times
1 Dec 1957.
---
New Yorker
6 Nov 1954.
---
Newsweek
25 Oct 1954.
---
The Exhibitor
20 Oct 54
p. 3856.
Time
1 Nov 1954
p. 98.
Variety
6 Oct 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Otto Preminger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Assoc
Mus ed
Mus ed
Choral dir and voc coach
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
DANCE
Dance dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod asst
General prod asst
Casting consultant
Fights staged by
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Carmen Jones , music by Georges Bizet, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, as produced on the stage by Billy Rose (New York, 2 Dec 1943), which was based on the opera Carmen , music by Georges Bizet, libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halvy (Paris, 1875), which was based on the short story "Carmen" by Prosper Mérimée in La Revue des deux mondes (Paris, 15 Oct 1845).
SONGS
"Dat's Love," "You Talk Just Like My Maw," "Dere's a Cafe on de Corner," "Dis Flower," "Beat Out dat Rhythm on a Drum," "Stan' Up and Fight," "Lift 'Em Up and Put 'Em Down," "Card Song," "Whizzin' Away Along de' Track," "Send Them Along" and "My Joe," music by Georges Bizet, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones
Release Date:
January 1955
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 28 October 1954
Los Angeles opening: 1 November 1954
Production Date:
30 June--late July 1954 at RKO-Radio Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Carlyle Productions
Copyright Date:
29 October 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4592
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
105 or 107
Length(in feet):
9,666
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17140
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Cindy Lou travels to a wartime parachute manufacturing plant to say goodbye to her sweetheart Joe. Scheduled to depart for military flying school the next day, Joe is overjoyed to see Cindy Lou and suggests they use his twenty-four-hour pass to get married. Cindy Lou accepts his proposal, even though her concern is aroused when Carmen Jones, a lively and beautiful factory worker who is desired by practically every man at the plant, asks Joe to pick her up that night for a private farewell party. When Carmen fights with another worker for reporting her late arrival to the foreman, Sgt. Brown, whose attentions Carmen has spurned, cancels Joe's leave and orders him to deliver her to the authorities in Masonville. As Cindy Lou watches Joe and Carmen drive away, Sgt. Brown announces that Joe volunteered for the assignment. Riding in the jeep, Carmen suggests that she and Joe stop off for a meal and a little romance. Joe pushes her away, but this only intensifies her attraction to him. Anxious to return to Cindy Lou, Joe opts to take a shorter but more treacherous road to Masonville. The jeep ends up in the river, and Carmen, highly amused, suggests that they catch the Masonville train when it passes through her home town that evening. In her grandmother's house, Carmen gives Joe a peach and begins to brush the mud off his pants. Finally submitting to her charms, Joe kisses her passionately. The next morning, as he dons his shirt, Joe finds Carmen's farewell note, in which she explains that, although she loves him, she cannot tolerate being locked up in jail. ... +


Cindy Lou travels to a wartime parachute manufacturing plant to say goodbye to her sweetheart Joe. Scheduled to depart for military flying school the next day, Joe is overjoyed to see Cindy Lou and suggests they use his twenty-four-hour pass to get married. Cindy Lou accepts his proposal, even though her concern is aroused when Carmen Jones, a lively and beautiful factory worker who is desired by practically every man at the plant, asks Joe to pick her up that night for a private farewell party. When Carmen fights with another worker for reporting her late arrival to the foreman, Sgt. Brown, whose attentions Carmen has spurned, cancels Joe's leave and orders him to deliver her to the authorities in Masonville. As Cindy Lou watches Joe and Carmen drive away, Sgt. Brown announces that Joe volunteered for the assignment. Riding in the jeep, Carmen suggests that she and Joe stop off for a meal and a little romance. Joe pushes her away, but this only intensifies her attraction to him. Anxious to return to Cindy Lou, Joe opts to take a shorter but more treacherous road to Masonville. The jeep ends up in the river, and Carmen, highly amused, suggests that they catch the Masonville train when it passes through her home town that evening. In her grandmother's house, Carmen gives Joe a peach and begins to brush the mud off his pants. Finally submitting to her charms, Joe kisses her passionately. The next morning, as he dons his shirt, Joe finds Carmen's farewell note, in which she explains that, although she loves him, she cannot tolerate being locked up in jail. Joe is put in the stockade for allowing his prisoner to escape, and Cindy Lou visits him just as a package from Carmen arrives. When Cindy Lou sees a rose inside, she leaves without a word. For weeks, Joe carries the rose with him, dreaming of Carmen as he works in the hot sun. Meanwhile, Carmen, having found work in a Louisiana night spot, waits impatiently for Joe's release. The club stirs with excitement as Husky Miller, a winning prizefighter, arrives with his entourage in an expensive car. Husky sings for the admiring crowd and then introduces himself to Carmen, who rebuffs him. Flustered, Husky orders his manager Rum to persuade Carmen to accompany him to Chicago. Rum and his cohort Dink, promising her diamonds, furs and an expensive hotel suite in exchange for her company, hand Carmen, along with her friends, Frankie and Myrt, train tickets to Chicago. Carmen is tempted but finally decides to remain at the club and wait for Joe's release. Just then, Joe arrives. Overjoyed, Carmen kisses and embraces him, but when he announces that he must depart immediately for flying school, she becomes enraged. Sgt. Brown appears, insults Joe, and starts to leave with Carmen, whereupon Joe gives him a severe beating. Realizing he will go to prison for striking a superior officer, Joe flees with Carmen to Chicago. Because the military police are after him for desertion, Joe remains hidden in a shabby, rented room, while Carmen secretly visits Husky's gym in the hope of obtaining a loan from Frankie. Dressed in satin and diamonds, Frankie claims she has no money of her own, but her efforts to persuade Carmen to leave Joe are fruitless. Carmen, still penniless, arrives at the boardinghouse with a full bag of groceries, leading Joe to wonder aloud how she could have obtained the necessary cash. Following their argument, Carmen visits Husky's hotel suite, where she joins her friends at cards. Drawing the nine of spades, Carmen assumes the card is an omen of impending death and abandons herself to a few final days of drinking and debauchery. Cindy Lou, still in love with Joe, reads about Husky's new girl friend in the newspaper and arrives at Husky's gym just before Joe appears. Brushing Cindy Lou aside, Joe orders Carmen to leave with him, and when she refuses, he threatens Husky with a knife. Carmen helps Joe to escape the military police, but later, during Husky's big fight, Joe finds Carmen in the crowd and pulls her into a storage room. Joe begs Carmen to return to him, but she maintains that their affair is over. Completely broken down, Joe strangles Carmen to death just before the police arrive. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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