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Carmen Jones film image; group at party

Carmen Jones

70th Anniversary

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In the run up to Vancouver Opera’s latest production of Bizet’s perennial favourite Carmen, a chance to hear the music in a radically different setting, in this ground-breaking, controversial film version of the Oscar Hammerstein’s all-Black Broadway musical. An electrifying Carmen, Dorothy Dandridge became the first African-American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and her chemistry with Harry Belafonte in his second film role almost burns a hole in the screen. This carnal melodrama further eroded the power of the Hollywood Production Code.

Austrian-born Otto Preminger was reportedly not a fan of the Broadway show per se, but saw in it the opportunity to fashion “a dramatic film with music rather than a conventional film musical,” going back to Prosper Merimée’s novella, the source for the opera. A disruptor by temperament, Preminger produced the film independently, and was able to shirk off the objections of the Production Code chief, Joseph Breen, who complained about the screenplay’s “over-emphasis on lustfulness” and Carmen’s “complete lack of morals.”

The film has its detractors — James Baldwin notable among them — but for Black film historian Donald Bogle, Carmen Jones is “one of the great black films. For many blacks, the film and Dorothy remain alive, passed on from one generation to another, without the larger white culture acknowledging it. What makes it so compelling – and surely Preminger understood this – is that it is a film in which an African-American woman is not only at the center, but she is making her own choices and is in control…”


Introduced by Ashley Daniel Foot, Director of Engagement and Civic Practice, Vancouver Opera; and Leslie Dala, Head of Music and Associate Conductor, Vancouver Opera


Co-Presented by


Otto Preminger


Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Olga James

Country of Origin






105 min

Book Tickets

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Harry Kleiner


Sam Leavitt

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