Carmen Jones is a 1943 Broadway musical starring Muriel Smith, later made into a 1954 musical film; the play also ran for a season in 1991 at London's Old Vic and most recently in London's Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre in 2007. It is an updating of the Georges Bizet opera Carmen in an African American setting. (Bizet's opera was, in turn, based on the 1846 novella by Prosper Mérimée.) The Broadway musical was produced by Billy Rose, using an all-black cast, and directed by Hassard Short. Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the book (dialogue) and lyrics, but stuck rather closely to Bizet's original music, which was re-orchestrated for a Broadway orchestra by Robert Russell Bennett.
The original Broadway cast members were nearly all new to the stage; Kennedy and Muir write that on the first day of rehearsal only one member had ever been on a stage before.
The 1954 film was adapted by Hammerstein and Harry Kleiner. It was directed by Otto Preminger and starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte.
Parachute maker Carmen Jones makes a play for a "fly boy" Air Force man, Joe, who is in love with sweet Cindy Lou and about to marry her on a day pass when Carmen gets into a cat fight with another woman.
Joe's pass is cancelled in order for him to drive her to the next town to be handed over to the non-military police. Instead, she charms and seduces him, and he is put in the stockade for not delivering her to the authorities.
While she waits for Joe to be released from military prison, she hangs around Billy Pastor's jive cafe where she encounters boxer Husky Miller, who is instantly besotted with Carmen, calling her "heatwave".
She is initially uninterested. But her friends Frankie and Mert know that their invitation from Husky's manager to see him fight in Chicago depends on Carmen being there, too.
Then Joe turns up at the cafe but gets into a fight with his sergeant, who is making a move on Carmen. The train ticket to Chicago originally given to Carmen offers them a way of avoiding the MPs. After a few days holed up with no money and no future with Joe, Carmen pays a visit to her two friends, now covered in diamonds and furs, at Husky's training camp. She is only looking for a loan, but they try to draw her to give up Joe and "go with the money" by staying with Husky.
Later, at Husky's apartment, Frankie reads Carmen's "cards", and reveals the Nine of Spades - the card of Death. In the belief that her days are numbered, Carmen gives in to Husky's advances, abandoning Joe for the luxurious life Husky can offer her.
Full article ▸