Carmen Jones

Carmen Jones

All-black musical based on Oscar Hammerstein’s Broadway version of the Georges Bizet opera Carmen, now set in the American South during wartime. The tempestuous factory worker Carmen Jones (Dorothy Dandridge) sends the young soldier Joe (Harry Belafonte) down the road to ruin as he is swept up in Carmen's carnal anarchy and her all-consuming desire to escape her unhappy life.


“This was really a fantasy, as was Porgy and Bess (1959). The all-black world shown in these films doesn’t exist, at least not in the United States. We used the musical-fantasy quality to convey 'something of the needs and aspirations of colored people.”

Otto Preminger1


“Despite itself, Carmen Jones is one of the most important all-Negro movies Hollywood has yet produced. [...] This is an opera having nothing to do with the present day, hence, nothing, really, to do with Negroes. [...] The script failed to require the services of any white people. This seals the action off, as it were, in a vacuum in which the spectacle of color is divested of its danger. The color itself then becomes a kind of vacuum which each spectator will fill with his own fantasies. [...] The characters could easily have been dreamed up by someone determined to prove that Negroes are as “clean” and as “modern” as white people and, I suppose, in one way or another, that is exactly how they were dreamed up.”

James Baldwin2

  • 1Otto Preminger cited in Gerald Pratley, The Cinema of Otto Preminger (London: Zwemmer, 1969).
  • 2James Baldwin, “Carmen Jones: The Dark Is Light Enough,” Notes of a Native Son (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 47-58./fn]

Cinema ZED, Leuven