Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1954. Otto Preminger Films. Screenplay by Harry Kleiner, based on the libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II, and the novel by Prosper Merimee. Cinematography by Sam Leavitt. Produced by Otto Preminger. Music by Georges Bizet, Herschel Burke Gilbert. Production Design by Edward L. Ilou. Costume Design by Mary Ann Nyberg. Film Editing by Louis R. Loeffler.
Otto Preminger made history when he decided to bring his all-black stage production of the Oscar Hammerstein II adaptation of Bizet’s opera to the big screen. Dorothy Dandridge won the lead role, the sassy vixen of the title who works at an umbrella factory during the second World War and wins the affection of a wayward soldier (Harry Belafonte). She treats him poorly, but as she says in her song, “Dat’s love!” The music sounds great (the two leads had their vocals dubbed by opera singers), the cast is energetic and the colours vibrant, and the film shines with pointed rebellion even after fifty years. Dandridge became the first African American actor to be nominated for an Academy Award in a leading category, though her career never quite reached the same height again. If you like this movie, you absolutely must see the excellent made-for-cable film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring a brilliant Halle Berry in the lead.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress (Dorothy Dandridge); Best Scoring of a Musical Picture
Berlin Film Festival Award: Bronze Bear
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; New Star of the Year (Joe Adams)