Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Dorothy Dandridge: Life, "Carmen Jones", and a Tragic Death

On September 8, 1965, the nude body of 42-years-old, singer and actress Dorothy Dandridge was found unresponsive on the floor of her apartment by her manager Earl Mills.

Dorothy Jean Dandridge was born on November 9, 1922, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father was a cabinet maker and baptist minister named Cyril Dandridge, her mother was Ruby Jean Butler Dandridge, Dorothy's parents had separated prior to her birth. 

Ruby, seen below in character, would become a minor actress, mainly playing maids in Hollywood movies and on early 1950's television. Probably Ruby's best known role would be portraying "Oriole", below, for 11-episodes of televisions "Beulah", in 1952, when actress Louise Beavers took over the title role from actress Ethel Waters.

Dorothy had an older sister, singer and actress, Vivian Alferetta Dandridge, seen below, and born on April 22, 1921. 

The reason for Ruby and Cyril's divorce in 1922 could be attributed to the fact that the girl's mother was a lesbian and her partner was entertainer and actress Martha Geneva "Neva" Williams. Ruby would make the mistake of trusting her girls to Geneva's care while Ruby toured elsewhere. 

"Neva"was anything but the "Good Woman" Ruby believed her to be. In the following photograph, "A Friend", on the right, is Williams, and according to both sisters, and others, she was overly cruel in her treatment of the girls. However, according to the same people, Ruby seemed unaware of how her partner, "Neva" treated her daughters, or did not want to see the truth that was happening. The photo comes from the website, "Dead Hollywood":

That contains the following, real or not, about "Neva":
She overworks Dorothy and her sister, Vivian, and sexually assaults Dorothy one night after Dorothy returns home from her first date with a boy.

From the above description under the photo:

Young DOROTHY (right), already an actress at 7....

By 1929, "The Wonder Girls", the song and dance duo of Vivian and Dorothy Dandridge, had been performing under the watchful eyes of "Neva", who accompanied them on the piano, at African-American churches and other African-American venues on the "Chitlin' Circuit". Which was the name given to the safe venues in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern States for African-American entertainers of all ages. It has been verified that the sisters made between $400 -$500 ($7,000 - $8,700 as of this writing) per appearance.  During this time, neither girl was getting a formal education, but other entertainers acted as tutors at the different venues and taught the sisters. 

However, the "Great Depression" hit in 1929, and venues for African-American entertainers dried up. We know that in 1930, Ruby purchased four one-way bus tickets to Los Angeles and the "Family" moved there. At this time, apparently Dorothy entered McKinney Junior High, in the eighth-grade. The only school of that name to fit the year was located in Pasadena. 

We know that Ruby was seeking work within the African-American film industry. In 1933, Ruby was given the role of "A Dancer",  "Neva" the role of a "Native", and Vivian the role of a "Native Baby", in producer Merian C. Cooper's, "King Kong".

However, African-American actor Clarence Muse, seen below with Robert Donat, in the classic 1934 version of French author Alexander Dumas', "The Count of Monte Cristo", advised Ruby that the girls are unlikely to get success in "White Hollywood" without more training.

Ruby took Muse's advice to heart and enrolled her daughters in both the "Loretta Butler School of Dance" and the "Nash Dancing Company" of Los Angeles. In 1934, Dorothy and Vivian became a trio with the adding of Etta Jones, not to be confused with the Jazz Singer of that name, born in 1928. This Etta Jones was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on August 27, 1919

However, the story gets a little bit confusing, depending upon the source on the "The Dandridge Sisters", because Etta is mentioned as either joining the girls before the move to Los Angles, or after it. I believe it was after, because, first, it's confirmed that Ruby Dandridge only purchased four-tickets to travel to California. Second, Dorothy and Vivian didn't start professional dancing school until 1934.

Above left,  Vivian Dandridge at the top, Etta Jones on the left, and Dorothy Dandridge on the right.

However, another story states that Etta's father heard Dorothy and Vivian singing at a Los Angeles venue and suggested to Ruby that his daughter join her daughter's in a trio and "The Dandridge Sisters" was born. 

The following year on April 27, 1935, Dorothy Dandridge appeared as the "Cabin Kid", her first on-screen appearance, in producer Hal Roach's, "Little Rascals", short, "Teacher's Beau".

Radio Station KNX in Los Angeles had a singing competition about this time and "The Dandridge Sisters" entered it. They were the only African-American group in the competition, but won it over the other 36-White-Singing-Groups.

On September 20, 1935, the star filled motion picture "The Big Broadcast of 1936" premiered. This was the first time, the uncredited, "Dandridge Sisters", were seen on-screen.

The trio would appear on-screen, uncredited, in five more motion pictures including the Marx Brother's, 1937, "A Day at the Races", and a 1938 musical short, "Snow Gets in Your Eyes", that the following video clip, at the time of this writing, is from:

By this time "The Dandridge Sisters" had appeared several times at both "The Cotton Club", with "Cab Calloway and his Orchestra" and "The Apollo". There even was a European Tour and the trio was being compared to "The Andrew Sisters", LaVerne Sophia Andrews, Maxine Anglyn Andrews, and Patrica "Patty" Marie Andrews.

Top left is Maxine, top right is LaVerne, and sitting is Patty.

In 1940, "The Dandridge Sisters" were disbanded. 

Vivian started a solo singing career and appeared uncredited as "Turkey's Servant", that's Bob Hope's character, in 1942's, "Road to Morocco". Vivian also provided the voice of "So White", in animator Bob Clampett's, controversial, "Merrie Melodies" 1943 cartoon, "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs".

Etta never appeared on-screen after the last appearance of "The Dandridge Sisters", in the 1940 motion picture, "Irene", starring Anne Neagle, Ray Milland, and Roland Young. However, she again appeared and also recorded with "Jimmy Lunceford and His Band" at "The Cotton Club". Below is a picture of the trio with Jimmy Lunceford at the club. Etta also appeared there with "Count Basie and His Orchestra", but eventually left show business to raise a family and become a member of ""The Los Angeles Parks and Recreations".

I have tried to locate more information about "Neva" from 1940 forward. I know between 1933 and 1945, Geneva Williams appeared on-screen only seven times, six are uncredited roles, but she did have her only credited role in the Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore, 1935, "The Little Colonel", portraying the cook, "Maria", below, seen with Shirley Temple, and Bill " Bojangles" Robinson.

How long "Neva's" relationship with Ruby lasted I have no idea. As to Ruby, in the 1950's, she formed her own nightclub act. In 1955, Ruby apparently had a business partner, Dorothy Foster, again I could not locate any information about her, but apparently, they purchased land in Twentynine Palms, California, for a planned subdivision of 250-homes. If it ever came to be made, I do not know.

Dorothy Dandridge had her first credited on-screen role in:

FOUR SHALL DIE aka: CONDEMNED MEN released on October 15, 1940

This is a lost motion picture, but fortunately not all the stills were and there is a summary of the plot on the website "IMDb", https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032351/plotsummary/?ref_=tt_ov_pl

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed heiress "Helen Fielding", whose father is murdered, but who is brought back from the dead in a plot to get "Helen's" inheritance. However, as a dead body is later found in her bedroom, the question becomes did "Helen" murder her father to get that inheritance in the first place?

This motion picture did help Dorothy Dandridge make the decision that she would not appear in any more "All-Black" feature films. Although she was next seen in an all-black musical short, a musical short at the time was called a "Soundie", think today's music videos. This was 1941's, "Swing for Your Supper", with jazz composer and band leader "Cee Pee Johnson and His Band".

The downside for the singer and actress, was she was African-American attempting to find decent roles in "All-White-Hollywood". A city originally built for "White's Only". My article, for those of my readers who might be interested, is "HOLLYWOOD: Segregated Housing, Motion Picture Studios and Movie Palaces", at:

However, Dorothy found herself with sixth-billing in a major production from "Republic Pictures", if not exactly how she imagined the role would be.

LADY FROM LOUISIANA released April 22, 1941

Being six-billed on the official cast list, meant Dorothy Dandridge was in the role of co-star Ona Munson's maid and confidant, "Francine"

"Lady from Louisiana" was followed by another "Soundie" short with "Cee Pee Johnson and his Band", 1941's, "Jungle Jug" aka: "Jig in the Jungle". 

As of this writing, the following link takes my reader to the "Soundie", with dancing and singing by Dorothy Dandridge and Cee Pee Johnson.

The next Hollywood motion picture that showcased the dancing and singing of Dorothy Dandridge was:

SUN VALLEY SERENADE released on August 21, 1941

The motion picture had a seven-minute-and-twenty-five-second version of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren's, "Chattanooga Choo Choo". It starts with "Glenn Miller and His Orchestra", and at four-minutes-and twenty-three-seconds, the Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, whom Dorothy had performed with in 1938 at "The Cotton Club", begin a dance routine accompanied by singer/dancer Dorothy Dandridge. The following link, at the time of this writing, takes my reader to the complete "Chattanooga Choo Choo"sequence to enjoy.

October 16, 1941, in Los Angeles, was the premier of a war drama, "Sundown", directed by Henry Hathaway. The story is set in East Africa and is about the British. Basically, it is actors George Sanders and Bruce Cabot against the Nazi's,  with the aide of a mysterious woman portrayed by Gene Tierney. Dorothy Dandridge was billed thirteenth out of fourteen credited roles as "Kipsang's Wife". 

However, while Dorothy was filming "Sundown", she was also appearing on stage in Downtown Los Angeles, at the "Mayan Theatre", below, in Duke Ellington's, "Jump for Joy", that had opened on July 10, 1941. 

"Jump for Joy" would run for nine-weeks.

Above Dorothy Dandridge with co-star Herb Jeffries.

Dorothy Dandridge starred as the young female lead in Duke Ellington's stage musical Jump for Joy, which he called a "Sun-Tanned Revu-sical." Dorothy also received top billing. Jump for Joy was an, "attempt to correct the race situation in the U.S.A. through a form of theatrical propaganda", said Ellington.
Unlike other African-American revues at the time, it took racism straight on. Duke Ellington described his musical as:
the first 'social significance' show
Members of the cast received death threats and there were outside protests by white supremacy groups. Among those who offered Duke Ellington to buy his show and take it to Broadway, were Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin, but the writers of the revenue and music didn't want the show owned by somebody else.

Dorothy Dandridge ended 1941, portraying "Talia", the eighth and final credited actor in "Bahama Passage", starring actress Madeliene Carroll and the misspelled, Sterling Hayden.

Below, servant "Talia" is speaking to Sterling, not Stirling, Hayden.

Dorothy started 1942 as an uncredited dancer in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's, western comedy, "Ride "Em Cowboy", released in February. The motion picture featured singer and actress Ella Fitzgerald portraying "Ruby". Next she was a maid in the Lyn Bari and Mary Beth Hughes, crime comedy, "The Night Before the Divorce". I could not locate any photo's of Dorothy Dandridge in either of those feature films, but that was different with her next feature film, July 17, 1942's, "Drums of the Congo", from "Universal Pictures", with its "Tag Line":

That jungle woman on the right in the above poster is supposed to be Dorothy Dandridge's character of "Princess Malimi". She was billed eighth behind Turhan Bey, in a credited cast of twelve, with six uncredited actors. Who the others in the "cast of thousands" were, is not listed anywhere on the official cast and crew listings.

Next, in the Preston Foster, Patrica Morison, and Albert Dekker, 1942, "A Night in New Orleans", Dorothy had the uncredited role of "Sal", the girlfriend of pianist Dooley Wilson's, "Sam" in 1942's "Casablanca", "Schadrach Jones". 

Two "Soundie's" followed, and depending upon who is providing the information. The year these two were made varies as either. 1942, or 1943. The second one was recorded by several performers and was written by band leader and radio personality Kay Kyser.

The first is "Blackbird Fantasy", with African-American actor Billy Mitchell, the following link will take my reader, as of this writing, to the "Soundie"":

The second "Soundie" is "A Zoot Suit (For My Sunday Gal)", with Dorothy and Paul White accompanied by "Ted Fio Rito and His Orchestra", as of this writing, at:

During 1942, Dorothy Dandridge and Harold Nicholas had fallen in love and on September 6, 1942, the two were married. 

One-year later on September 2,  1943, Dorothy and Harold's daughter, Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas was born.

Sadly, Harolyn had brain damage that affected her ability to speak, or even to recognize her parents. Their daughter would spend most of her life in a mental institution and Dorothy would blame herself for causing it. Harolyn Suzanne Nicholas would pass away in 2003, at the age of 60.

A short look at her life is found at:

Back on March 26, 1943, Dorothy Dandridge had been seen on-screen as a singer with "Count Basie and His Orchestra"in the John Carroll and Susan Hayward musical, "Hit Parade of 1943". 

The following is a link to a 1943, "Soundie', "Cow Cow Boogie" aka: "Moo Cow Boogie, in color.

On July 29, 1944, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the "Republic Pictures" musical, "Atlantic City", set in 1915, premiered. Singing with "Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra", was Dorothy Dandridge in the production number "Harlem on Parade", performing "Rhythm for Sale".

Looking at the fine print actors names on the following poster for the motion picture. My reader will see  the name of Dorothy Dandridge, her first such credit.

Dorothy Dandridge was back on stage and starring at the "Mayan Theater" for producer Leon Hefflin, Sr's, "Sweet and Hot". Which he called the:


It ran for 11-weeks.

On May 17, 1945, Dorothy Dandridge appeared with "Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra", in the Second World War musical comedy romance, "Pillow to Post". The motion picture starred Ida Lupino, Sydney Greenstreet, and William Prince. 

Dorothy Dandridge and Louie Armstrong perform a duet of the song, "Watcha Say?". 

At the time of this writing, the following link takes my reader to the "Turner Classic Movies (TCM) website and the sequence from the movie that includes the duet. The motion picture is part of the "TCM" Library.

By 1948, her husband's affairs where to much for Dorothy Dandridge and that year he abandoned his family. She filed for divorce against Harold Nicholas in September 1950, and the divorce was granted in October 1951.

TARZAN'S PERIL released on March 13, 1951

Although, Dorothy Dandridge's character of "Melmendi, Queen of the Ashuba" is central to the entire movie's plot. She is not mentioned on the above poster for the 15th sound "Tarzan" movie since 1932's, "Tarzan, the Ape Man". 

However, the censors for the "Motion Picture Production Code" recognized the actress. They had a major problem with Dorothy's clothing, or tightness of them on her body, but in the end they remained on her.

The stated purpose of the "Hays Censorship Office" was to protect the morality of 1950's Americans. My article for those of my readers who may be interested is "CENSORSHIP Protecting (?) America's Morality In Motion Pictures: 1923 To 1971", at:

The plot of "Tarzan's Peril" has a gunrunner, "Radijeck", portrayed by George Macready, selling guns to an African tribe leader, "King Tulum", portrayed by Frederick O'Neil,  of a rival tribe of the Ashuba. "Tulum" wants to kill all of the Ashuba, because Dorothy Dandridge's, "Queen Melmendi", refused his offer of marriage to consulate the two tribes under his leadership. It is up to Lex Barker's, "Tarzan", to stop both the tribal leader and the gunrunner, and aide "Commissioner Peters", portrayed by Alan Napier.

The "Hays Office's" expected public outcry over Dorothy Dandridge's costumes in 1951's, "Tarzan's Peril" didn't happen. Instead, the opposite occurred, especially in the African-American community, as the April, 1951, issue of "Ebony" clearly showed with their cover photo.

May 30, 1951 saw the release of the fictional story of, "The Harlem Globetrotters", in France. The motion picture didn't come to the United States until October 24, 1951. 

The plot revolves around a young man named "Billy Townsend", portrayed by Billy Brown. "Billy Townsend" joins the "Globetrotters" after dropping out of school and the story follows his ups and downs with his life. I could not locate anything about the actor "Billy Brown", and this motion picture appears to be his only on-screen role.

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed "Ann Carpenter", the young woman "Billy Townsend" loves and marries.

In the motion picture, nine actual 1951 "Globetrotters"appeared as themselves, and actual basketball footage of the team is used.

Located at 8588 Sunset Boulevard, on the famed "Sunset Strip", was a popular nightclub, "Mocombo", that had opened on January 3, 1941. In May 1951, Dorothy Dandridge and pianist Phil Moore tamed up at the nightclub and their own opening night was the biggest in the nightclub's ten-year history.

The two moved to New York City and then crossed the pond to London, and the "Cafe de Paris", with even a larger success than in the United States.

In December 1952, Dorothy was back appearing at "Mogambo" and at one of her performances was a talent agent for "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer". The agent recommended her to Isadore "Dore" Schary, head of production and president of "MGM". The agent's suggestion was a club scene production number as herself, to be in the 1953, June Allyson and Van Johnson, motion picture, "Remains to Be Seen". That sequence was filmed, but in addition, Schary had her cast as the lead in "Bright Road", released one month earlier than "Remains to Be Seen", in April of 1953. Originally the film was entitled "See How They Run", the title of the short story by Mary Elizabeth Vroman, that appeared in a 1951 issue of the "Ladies Home Journal".

The motion picture was the first feature film of popular folk singer turned calypso singer, Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. better known as Harry Belafonte.

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed Alabama elementary school teacher, "Jane Richards". "Jane" believes in a troubled boy, "C.T. Young", portrayed by Phillip Hepburn. "C.T." has spent two years in each grade level before the school moves him up and is now only in the fourth grade. "C.T.", is one of nine-children of a semi-employed laborer, and he has no desire to succeed. Harry Belafonte portrayed the school principle, "Mr. Williams". 

According to Dorothy Dandridge's autobiography with Earl Conrad, "Everything and Nothing: The Dorothy Dandridge Tragedy", not publish until five-years after her death. Dorothy wrote the following about being in "Bright Road", saying how:
profoundly fond of ... a theme which showed that beneath any color skin, people were simply people. I had a feeling that themes like this might do more real good than the more hard-hitting protest pictures. I wanted any black girl in the audience to look at me performing in this film and be able to say to herself, 'Why, this schoolteacher could be me."

Next, came the motion picture that led to Dorothy Dandridge becoming the First African-American Woman nominated for the "Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences", "Best Actress Award". 

Previously, actress Hattie McDaniel endured racism from the "Academy" at their "12th Award's Dinner". After becoming the First African-American Woman to win the "Best Supporting Actress Award", but her strong acceptance speech shamed them. 

McDaniel would be followed by Walter Elias Disney's fight with the "Academy". In Disney's attempt to get African-American actor James Baskett nominated for "Best Actor". While being charged by the NAACP as being a racist for making 1946's, "Song of the South" that starred Bassett as "Uncle Remus". 

I tell their stories in my article "HATTIE MCDANIEL and JAMES BASKETT: Racism, the Academy Awards and the First African American Winners", found at:

CARMEN JONES premiered on October 5, 1954

The publicity department had two versions of the billing on the posters for the motion picture. Above, first position belonged to Harry Belafonte, below it went to Dorothy Dandridge. In 1954, neither artist was considered a major audience draw by the studio.

The Road to the First Day of Shooting:

The story begin in France when Prosper Merimee wrote his 1845 novella, "Carmen". In 1875, French composer, Alexander Cesar Leopold Bizet (George Bizet), turned the novella into a four-act-opera, with the libretto written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy. In 1943, Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote the book and lyrics, with music updating Bizet's opera by composer Robert Russell Bennett. Hammerstein moved the setting to then current Second World War, changed all the characters to African-American's, and added a last name to the title character and his musical drama became "Carmen Jones".

The Broadway production of "Carmen Jones" was produced by showman Billy Rose, opened on December 2, 1943, and ran for 503 performances.

According to Otto Preminger's autobiography, 1977's, "Preminger: An Autobiography".

He had seen the Hammerstein musical, but it was more a series of sketches based upon Bizet's opera, rather than a complete story. He wanted to make a dramatic film and hired screenwriter Harry Kleiner to return to the original Prosper Merimee novella. 

Otto Preminger knew that no current producers, or motion picture studios would touch a major motion picture with an all-African-American cast, so he planned to produce "Carmen Jones", himself. However, he was surprised, after buying out his contract with "20th Century Fox", at the completion of the Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe, 1954 western, "River of No Return", that Darryl F. Zanuck called him. Zanuck, the new head of "20th Century Fox", offered to finance the entire production, but would allow Preminger to operate as an independent producer.

Casting "Carmen Jones":

Harry Belafonte portrayed "Joe". Preminger cast him as the returning soldier, because the folk singer had just introduced calypso music and his few songs were toping some of the charts. Even though he had only one motion picture role, "Bright Road", to his credit. Belafonte had just won both the Tony Award" and "Theatre World Award" for his performance in the Broadway musical, "John Anderson's Almanac: A Musical Harlequinade" that had run at the Shubert Theatre in Boston from November 5 to December 5, 1953, and the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, from December 10, 1953 to June 26, 1954.

Pearl Bailey portrayed "Frankie", one of "Carmen's" best friends. At this time Bailey was known as a big band singer, but only had one film to her credit. That was her eighth-billing in actress Veronica Lake's, 1948, musical comedy, 1948's, "Isn't It Romantic?". However, Pearl Bailey was very familiar to television audiences for her appearances on the variety program "Show of Shows", starring comedian Sid Caesar and his wife Imogene Coca. To Preminger, like Belafonte, she had name recognition with his potential audience.

Joe Adams portrayed "Husky Miller". Adams was a local DJ and had no acting experience, or training. However, Preminger thought he was prefect for the role of the heavy weight boxing contender in love with "Carmen", and was hired.

Initially, Diahann Carroll auditioned for the role of "Carmen", but she was terrified of Otto Preminger and it showed in her audition. However, the producer/director cast her as another of the friends of "Carmen Jones", "Myrt".

Otto Preminger was looking at singers and actresses for the role of "Carmen", but could not find the right one. Next, it was Dorothy Dandridge's turn for an audition, but she had one strike against her, "Bright Road". Preminger had seen her in that motion picture and thought she was just perfect, as a school teacher, but was not sultry and sexy enough to portray his vision of "Carmen Jones". So, when her name came up for an audition, he denied her the chance.

Fate is a strange thing and it appeared for Dorothy Dandridge. Her agents office was in the same building as Otto Preminger's brother Ingo. Who represented "Blacklisted" writers, Dalton Trumbo, and Ring Lardner Jr among others. Later in 1970Ingo would be nominated for the "Academy Award for Best Picture" for producing "M.A.S.H." from a screenplay by "Oscar winner," Ring Lardner Jr.

Ingo was talked into getting Otto to give Dorothy Dandridge an audition. At that meeting, he told her, according to her autobiography, that:
she was "lovely" and looked like a "model" or "a beautiful butterfly," but not Carmen.

Preminger suggested she audition for the role of "Cindy Lou". According to Dorothy Dandridge, she took the script, left the office, and returned looking exactly like and behaving to Otto Preminger as he envisioned "Carmen Jones".

The role of "Cindy Lou" went to Olga James, who had just graduated from the"Juilliard School"

Otto Preminger had cast three recognized singers, Dandridge, Belafonte, and Carroll in singing roles, BUT all three would be dubbed by other singers. Their singing voices were considered wrong for the roles they portrayed, but their acting and audience box-office recognition was required. This was a normal procedure in Hollywood and the actors might sing the lyrics on-screen, but their voices would be professionally dubbed afterwards. A name my reader might not know is Marni Nixon, but among her other work, Nixon was the singing voice for Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Audrey Hepburn on-screen. My article is "Marni Nixon: The Ghost Singer Behind the Actresses" at:


In "Carmen Jones", actor Brock Peters, who portrayed "Sergeant Brown", dubbed the singing voice for actor Roy Glenn, who portrayed "Rum Daniels".

The singing voice for Dorothy Dandridge was American mezzo-soprano opera singer Marilyn Horne. The "Turner Classic Movie" website, quotes Marilyn Horne as saying:

Even though I was at that time a very light lyric soprano, I did everything I possibly could to imitate the voice of Dorothy Dandridge. I spent many hours with her. In fact, one of the reasons I was chosen to do this dubbing was that I was able to imitate her voice had she been able to sing in the proper register.


The singing voice for Harry Belafonte was LeVern Hutcherson. He had portrayed "Joe" in the Broadway revival of "Carmen Jones" in 1945, and again in 1946. In 1953, LeVern Hutcherson portrayed the role of "Porgy", in a 1953 revival of composer George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", but wasn't considered for the role in the motion picture.

The singing voice for Diahann Carroll was Bernice Peterson.

Pearl Bailey was the only main role that was not dubbed by another singer.

The following is a list of the songs from the motion picture and the characters that sing them taken from, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Jones_(film)Also, those songs with a second name in parentheses, indicate the original title and version in the George Bizet opera.

  • "Send Them Along" – Chorus 
  • "Lift 'Em Up an' Put 'Em Down" – Children's Chorus 
  • "Dat Love" ("Habanera") – Carmen
  • "You Talk Jus' Like My Maw" – Joe and Cindy Lou
  • "You Go For Me" – Carmen (Note: This song is the shortest reprise of "Dat's Love" in the soundtrack.)
  • "Carmen Jones is Going to Jail" – Chorus
  • "There's a Cafe on the Corner ("Seguedille") – Carmen
  • "Dis Flower ("Flower Song") – Joe
  • "Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum ("Gypsy Song") – Frankie
  • "Stan' Up an' Fight ("The Toreador Song") – Husky Miller
  • "Whizzin' Away Along de Track ("Quintet") – Carmen, Frankie, Myrt, Dink, and Rum
  • "There's a Man I'm Crazy For" – Carmen, Frankie, Mert, Rum, and Dink
  • "Card Song" – Carmen, Frankie, and Chorus
  • "My Joe ("Micaëla's Prayer") – Cindy Lou
  • "He Got His Self Another Woman" – Cindy Lou
  • "Final Duet" – Carmen and Joe
  • "String Me High on a Tree" – Joe

Note: After the intro of the "Gypsy Song", there is a drum solo played by a drummer named Max and as the crowd hears it, they yell, "Go, Max!" The drummer is jazz percussionist Max Roach.

In May 1954, according to her autobiography, Dorothy Dandridge started to doubt her ability to portray "Carmen" and Dorothy's fears rose to asking her agent to tell Otto Preminger she was backing out of the role. Preminger drove to Dorothy's apartment and besides convincing her to keep the role, Otto Preminger and Dorothy Dandridge started what she described as a passionate affair. That affair would last four-years. 

During that time, she became pregnant, but the studio forced her to have an abortion, if she still wanted to work and Preminger wouldn't divorce his wife to marry Dorothy as promised.

Six-weeks prior to the scheduled shooting start date of June 30, 1954, Joseph Breen, near retirement, but still the head of the old "Hayes Censorship Office", contacted Otto Preminger over the content of the screenplay for "Carmen Jones". 

Preminger had a flashback to June 26, 1951, when "Paramount Pictures" received a letter from Breen about the screenplay for his motion picture version of the Broadway play, "The Moon Is Blue". According to Joseph Breen's letter, that screenplay was "unacceptable", because like the Broadway play, that ran for 926-performances, Preminger's movie "The Moon Is Blue" was based upon. The screenplay made:
light and gay treatment of the subject of illicit sex and seduction.

The studio agreed with Otto Preminger and "The Moon Is Blue" was released without any cutting recommended by Breen. Over the year the picture has developed a reputation around the first use of the word "Virgin" on-screen for American audiences to hear. The complete story is in my article linked above, about "Censorship".

Now, Breen was back, still extremely mad over Preminger from 1951, and stating that the screenplay for "Carmen Jones" had placed:

over-emphasis on lustfulness

Breen zeroed in on what he called the lack of:

any voice of morality properly condemning Carmen's complete lack of morals.

Otto Preminger agreed to make some minor changes to the screenplay and actually filmed two versions of each change, but in the end, used the more controversial to hit at Joseph Breen.

The first day of shooting was June 30, 1954!

Overview of the Screenplay:

As mentioned, the story takes place during the Second World War and starts with a bus arriving at a parachute factory on an Army base in North Carolina. This is wartime America and the factory is turning out needed war material for the Army Air Corps and air born fighting units. The workers start getting off of the bus, but one of the passengers is not a worker. She is "Cindy Lou", who is going to be married shortly to an Army Corporal named "Joe", one of the guards at the factory. They meet and go into the lunchroom to eat with the soldiers in their drab army fatigues and uniforms, and the workers in clothing that almost resembles that drab look of fatigues with not one worker standing out from the others. 

Into the lunch room enters "Carmen" wearing anything but drab clothing and "Cindy Lou" and "Carmen" size each other up.

However, "Carmen Jones" is late for her shift and gets into a fist fight with the person who reported her.  As a result of reporting late and fighting, she is arrested and needs to be transported to the civilian authorities. 

The head of the military guards is "Army Sergeant Brown", who is jealous of "Joe", because he is awaiting his orders to pilot flight school. "Sgt. Brown" orders "Fly Boy Joe" to take "Carmen Jones" to the civil authorities located 50-miles away. 

After "Joe" and "Carmen" leave, "Sgt. Brown" lies, telling "Cindy Lou", that "Joe" volunteered to take "Carmen" to the jail, rather than that he was ordered by "Brown".

"Joe" realizes there is a shortcut that will make the drive only 25-miles and get "Carmen" off his hands sooner, so he can return to "Cindy Lou". The road, however, is indicated unsuitable for motor vehicles, but "Joe" takes it anyway.

"Carmen" now suggests that the two stop somewhere to eat and a little of what she refers too as romance. "Joe", refuses her offer, and now "Carmen" is more determined to seduce him. Shortly, the army jeep gets stuck in the mud of a river and can't move. The timing is perfect for "Carmen's" plans and she mentions that her grandmother's house is nearby, and the two start walking.

"Carmen" suggests that the two take the train in the morning to the town with the jail. That night, "Joe" is seduced by "Carmen", but when he awakes the following morning she is gone. 

A note left by "Carmen" tells "Joe" she could not stand being in jail and has run away. "Joe" is courtmartialed, reduced to a private, and placed in the stockade. "Cindy Lou" arrives to see him, but leaves angry, when "Joe" is given a rose sent to him by "Carmen". "Carmen" is now working at a Louisiana night club and awaits "Joe's" release from the stockade.

Things get a little hectic:

One night at the club, prize fighting champion "Husky Miller" and his entourage enters the club and introduces himself to "Carmen". She has no interest in him, but he invites "Carmen" and her two friends, "Frankie" and "Myrt" to accompany him to Chicago. "Husky" instructs his manager "Rum Daniels" to get "Carmen", jewelry, a fur coat, and an expensive hotel suite in Chicago, if she and her two friends will go with him. Just then "Joe", freed from the stockade, arrives and informs "Carmen" that he's leaving for pilot school and doesn't want to go with her to Chicago. Next, "Sergeant Brown" walks into the club, and "Carmen" angered because "Joe" won't go with her, decides to leave with "Brown". Infuriated, "Joe" attacks and severely beats up the army sergeant. Knowing that he now faces a long prison term for beating up a superior office, "Joe" flees to Chicago with "Carmen" by hoping a train.

In Chicago, the two are living in a shabby rented room with "Joe" afraid to go out, because he could be arrested on sight.

"Carmen" leaves the room supposedly to get groceries, but goes to "Husky Miller's" gym and asks "Frankie" for a loan. 

"Frankie" tells her to sit in "Husky's" corner at the next fight and all will be well for her, but she is actually in love with "Joe" and wouldn't do that to him. "Husky" believes she has finally came back to him, but before leaving, "Carmen" refuses his advances. As a result, "Husky" tells the others they are financially cut off until "HEATWAVE", his nickname for "Carmen" returns to him.

"Carmen" pawns a piece of jewelry to purchase groceries, but also shows up at the rented room wearing a new dress and shoes. "Joe" immediately questions her as to how she got the new clothes? Offended that "Joe" would question her instead of trusting her. "Carmen" goes to the hotel the girls are at and finds "Frankie" telling fortunes with cards. "Carmen" considers it all a joke, but when she draws the nine-of-spades from the deck. "Carmen" believes it a warning of her impending death and decides to live life to its fullest, no matter how long she may really have,

"Cindy Lou" shows up at "Husky's" gym looking for "Carmen" to find out where "Joe" is? "Frankie" tells her to forget him, that "Joe's" nothing but trouble, just as an angry "Joe" arrives looking for "Carmen". 

"Joe" ignores "Cindy Lou" and orders "Camen" to come with him. "Husky" intervenes and "Joe" pulls out a hidden knife he brought with him while evading being caught. "Husky's" men try to stop "Joe", but "Husky" finally hits him a few times and "Carmen" helps him to get away from the gym. "Joe" asks "Carmen" why if she doesn't love him anymore, she helped him? Her reply is that she can't stand to see anyone "cooped up". "Carmen" turns to "Cindy Lou", who was following, and tells her that "Joe" isn't worth it and go home and find a good man. After the two leave her, "Cindy Lou" tells herself how silly it is to try and save a man who doesn't love her and is in love with another woman.

Next, the military police are after "Joe", but he is able to escape them and goes to see "Husky's" big fight. "Carmen" and the other girls are there "dressed to the nines" and sit with the others of "Husky's" entourage.

It takes a couple of rounds, but "Husky Miller" once again wins and he goes to "Carmen's" loving arms after the win. However, the men of this entourage lift him onto their shoulders, "Carmen" starts to follow, but "Joe" grabs her and pulls "Carmen" into a storage room. There he asked her why she doesn't love him anymore and "Joe" begs "Carmen" to come back to him.

"Joe" tells "Carmen" he should have killed her before now. Matter-of-factly, "Carmen" tells "Joe" it was time to move on from him. His anger overcomes "Joe" and he strangles "Carmen" to death. 

A janitor walks in and witnesses the murder and leaves to tell the military police. While, "Joe" realizes his life is over and he's going to die.

On November 1, 1954, Dorothy Dandridge made history by becoming the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of "Life Magazine".

On February 15, 1955, Dorothy Dandridge signed a three-picture contract with "20th Century Fox".

March 30, 1955, was the "27th Annual Academy Awards", the nominations for "Best Actress" were:

Grace Kelly for "The Country Girl"
Dorothy Dandridge for "Carmen"
Judy Garland for "A Star Is Born"
Audrey Hepburn for Sabrina"
Jane Wyman for "Magnificent Obsession"

The winner was Grace Kelly, but again history was made by Dorothy Dandridge. Becoming the first "African-American" woman nominated for the "Best Actress Oscar".

On April 11, 1955, Dorothy Dandridge broke another race barrier and become the first African-American of either sex to open in the "Empire Room", of New York City's, "Waldorf-Astoria Hotel".

In October 1956, Dorothy Dandridge was in the West Indies starting the filming of a controversial motion picture for the year, or decade by a major American  film studio. The screenplay was based upon a controversial novel that contained interracial love and was the first of her three picture contract with "20th Century Fox". If Joseph Breen had problems over "Carmen", that feature film was like an episode of the popular 1950's television series, "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet", in comparison to how the American censors reacted to Dorothy's next feature film. 

However, on Wednesday, May 15, 1957, a Los Angeles grand jury indicated eleven individuals connected to scandal tabloid, "Confidential". That since its first issue, cover below, from December 1952, had been printing lies about famous people and especially those in the motion picture industry.

"Confidential" claimed their information came from the very respectable, "Hollywood Research, Inc.". What they were avoiding stating to the news media and the court, is that "Hollywood Research, Inc." was actually run by the daughter of "Confidential's" founder, Robert Harrison and owned by him

Initially Dorothy Dandridge had sued the tabloid over a false story they had printed and received an out-of-court settlement of $10,000, ( $109,552 as of this writing).

However, along with Maureen O'Hara, actor Errol Flynn declined to testify at the trial, the two actresses told their stories to the jury. 

According to the tabloid, in 1950, Dorothy Dandridge had "fornicated in the woods" with a white band leader while appearing in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 

In September 1957, on the witness stand, Dorothy Dandridge told the jury that because of segregation laws in Nevada, when not performing on stage at the hotel, she was confined to her hotel room and received meals there.

As for Maureen O'Hara having sex with different partners in balcony "Row 35", of Hollywood's, "Grauman's Chinese Theater". The jury was taken to that row and shown it was physically impossible for the acts claimed in "Confidential" to have taken place.

The trial ended in a mistrial, but the judge ordered "Hollywood Research, Inc." to stop claiming stories based upon "Paid Tips" from maids, bellboys, and other hotel employees.

That first motion picture for "20th Century Fox" was:

ISLAND IN THE SUN released on June 12, 1957

The following about "Island in the Sun" is taken from my article "James Mason: A Spotlight On His 1950's Roles" at:

The 1955 best-selling novel was written by London, England, born Alec Waugh. The book was very controversial dealing with race relations on a British held island and interracial love.

The British screenplay writer was Alfred Hayes. His latest motion picture was 1955's, "The Left Hand of God", that starred Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney, and Lee J. Cobb. He followed this motion picture by co-writing the screenplay for 1957's, "A Hateful of Rain", with blacklisted and uncredited Carl Foreman.

The motion picture was directed by Robert Rosen, he had just produced, written, and directed the excellent 1955, "Alexander the Great", starring Richard Burton, Fredric March, and Claire Bloom. He followed this feature by writing and directing, 1959's, "They Came to Cordura", starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, and Tab Hunter.

James Mason portrayed "Maxwell Fleury". 

Joan Fontaine portrayed "Mavis Norman". Fontaine was appearing on television just prior to this motion picture, but followed it with 1957's, "Until They Sail", co-starring with Jean Simmons and Paul Newman and directed by Robert Wise.

According to "Variety", June 19, 1957, because of her interracial scenes with Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine received "poison pen mail", that included threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The actress turned all of this mail over to the FBI.

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed "Margot Seaton". Singer and entertainer Dandridge last on-screen appearance was in 1954's, "Carmen Jones". The "Academy Award" nominated motion picture version of the African-American Broadway musical co-starred Harry Belafonte. Dorothy Dandridge was nominated for the "Best Actress Oscar" for he role. She followed this movie with the French and Italian, 1958, "Tamango".

Joan Collins portrayed "Jocelyn Fleury". Collins had just co-starred with Jane Mansfield, and Dan Dailey, in the 1957, motion picture version of American novelist John Steinbeck's, "The Wayward Bus". She followed this film by co-starring with Robert Wagner and Edmond O'Brien in 1957's, "Stopover Tokyo".

Michael Rennie portrayed "Hilary Carson". Rennie had just appeared in "Circle of the Day", May 30, 1957, on the television anthology series, "Playhouse 90". He followed this motion picture with 1957's, "Omar Khayyam", co-starring with Cornel Wilde and Debra Paget.

Harry Belafonte portrayed "David Boyeur". After 1954's, "Carmen Jones", Belafonte appeared in two television shows and then made this motion picture. After this picture, he stayed with a racially charged theme. This time a science fiction end of the world story, 1959's, "The World, the Flesh, and the Devil", with the only other two survivors of an atomic holocaust, portrayed by Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer. 

The movie's title song, "Island in the Sun", was written by Harry Belafonte and Irving Burgie. The major hit has over 40 cover artists and was parodied in 1992's, "The Muppet Christmas Carol".

Diana Wynard portrayed "Mrs. Betty Fleury". She starred in the original British version of "Gaslight" in 1940, which is considered superior to the 1944 remake that starred Ingrid Bergman. At this time the British actress was appearing on American television.

John Williams portrayed "Colonel Whittingham". Williams is known to American audiences for two classic portrayals in two Alfred Hitchcock movies, 1954's, 3-D, "Dial M for Murder", and 1955's, "To Catch a Thief". At this time, John Williams was appearing on American television.

Above, John Williams with James Mason

Stephen Boyd portrayed "Euan Templeton". Boyd had 4th-billing in 1957's, "Away All Boats", aka: "Seven Waves Away", starring Tyrone Power, Mai Zetterling, and Lloyd Nolan. He followed this movie with "Seven Thunders" aka: "The Beasts of Marseilles", co-starring James Robertson Justice.

Patricia Owens portrayed "Sylvia Fleury". Patricia Owens would achieve science fiction/horror immortality four movies later, co-starring with Al Hedison, before he became David Hedison, in the 1958, original, "The Fly". That cult classic is part of my article, "THE FLY: The 1958, 1959, 1965, Original Trilogy of Science Fiction/Horror", at:

Basil Sydney portrayed "Julian Fleury". He started on-screen acting in 1920. He had just co-starred with Joan Collins and Richard Burton, in 1957's, "Sea Wife". Among his other roles were "Captain Smollett", in Walt Disney's, 1950, "Treasure Island", "Pontius Pilate", in the Rita Hayworth, Stewart Granger and Charles Laughton's, 1953, "Salome", and "Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris", in the 1955, true Second World War story, "The Dam Busters".

You've met the cast of characters, keep your program handy, this motion picture beat the filmed version of authoress Grace Metalious's scandalous novel, "Peyton Place" to movie theaters by six-months. 

The setting is a fictious British West Indian Island, named Santa Marta.

The screenplay based upon the novel is a look at the complex relationships of four couples, of black, white and mixed race. 

Couple #1: "Maxwell Fleury" is the son of a wealthy plantation owner, has an inferiority complex, and is very jealous of his wife, "Sylvia".

Couple #2: "Maxwell" is envious of his younger sister, "Jocelyn", who is being courted by Oxford-bound "Euan Templeton", newly arrived to the island on a visit to his father the island's governor, "Lord Templeton", portrayed by Ronald Squire.

Couple #3: "David Boyer" is an ambitious black union leader and emerging power that might be dangerous for the white ruling class. "Lord Templeton" is courting him diplomatically, to be on his side. "Mavis Norman", the widow of the deceased elder scion of the Fleury plantation, "Arthur", has developed a romantic interest in "David Boyer".

Couple #4: "Denis Archer", portrayed by John Justin, the aide-de-camp to Governor "Templeton". He wants to be a novelist and has become "smitten" with the mixed-race "Margot Seaton". Who wants to better herself through hard work and not her beauty.

The British Soap Opera:

Things get going when the very insecure and childish, "Maxwell Fleury", finds the butt of an exotic Egyptian cigarette left in an ashtray and imagines his wife, "Sylvia" is having an affair.

The "Fleury's, "Maxwell", his wife "Sylvia," and younger sister, "Jocelyn", attend a garden party at the governor's house in honor of his son "Euan Templeton", who is visiting the island on his way to Oxford. At the party is American investigative reporter, "Bradshaw", portrayed by Hartley Power.

Also invited to the party is "David Boyeur, a black activist that is barely tolerated by the white ruling class. "David" has insisted that "Margo Seaton", even though she protests to him that she will feel out of place, accompany him to the party. 

At the party, "Euan" is immediately attracted to "Jocelyn Fleury", while "Margo" attracts the attention of "Dennis Archer", the white aide-de-camp to the governor. 

"Maxwell" is called over to a group of men who want him to run against "David Boyeur" to protect the white majority rule of their island.

Later, "Maxwell" finds "Sylvia" with "Harry Carson" and notices that he smokes the same brand of Egyptian cigarettes he found the butt in the ashtray from and he becomes somewhat aggressive toward the other. 

At another part of the garden party, "Sylvia Fleury's" sister, "Mavis Norman", whose husband has passed away, is closely watching "David Boyuer", who she remembers as a childhood playmate. 

Meanwhile, the agitated "Maxwell" now clashes with "David", whose father was once a slave on the "Fleury" plantation. On his drive home with "Sylvia", "Maxwell" accuses "Sylvia" of infidelity and rapes her. 

The following day, on the beach, "Jocelyn" is with "Euan" and voices her desire to leave the island, while "Euan" speaks of assuming a seat in the "House of Lords".

At another part of the island, "Dennis" goes to the pharmacy where "Margo" works and asks her to the governor's dance.

Still suspicious of his wife and "Carson", "Maxwell" drives into town and finds them together, further fueling his rage. At the dance, "Mavis" finds "David" and asks him to join her in a glass of champagne and confides she would rather be useful than privileged. 

"Dennis", now in love with "Margo", takes her to his home, and reveals he wants to be a writer. 

The next day, after making his decision, "Maxwell" informs his parents that he wants to run for the legislature. "Maxwell's" father expresses skepticism over his running, and his son explodes, and accuses his parent of favoring their late son, "Arthur", who died a war hero, and whines that he'd been better off born black.

"David" escorts "Mavis" to the poor, but proud fishing village he was born in.


"Jocelyn" and "Euan" drive to his country home and observe a sinister figure wearing a mask. Later, as they prepare to leave, the two discover someone has taken part of the car's engine and cut the phone wirers, forcing the two to spend the night together. The next morning "Euan" takes "Jocelyn" home and he proposes to her. "Jocelyn's" mother encourages her daughter to accept to stop any gossip against the family. 

However, "Jocelyn" isn't certain about the marriage and knows that "Euan" will be assuming a very important position in white society.

The reporter "Bradshaw" publishes an article stating that "Julian Fleury's" grandmother was black, making "Maxwell" and his younger sister, "Jocelyn" both part black. This has two effects on the current "Fleury" family. 

The first is to "Jocelyn", who fears her baby, she's now pregnant from "Euan", will be born black.

Her mother confesses she had an affair and that "Julian" is not "Jocelyn's" true father. and she has nothing to fear as she is racially pure.

That night, "Maxwell" confronts a drunken "Carlson" on the streets, and forces his way into the other's house. "Maxwell" demands that "Carlson" leave "Sylvia" alone, but the drunken "Carlson" replies with a racial slur about "Maxwell" being black. In a rage, "Maxwell Fleury" attacks "Hilary Carlson" and strangles him to death. He next makes the death appear to be from a robbery gone wrong.

Above, Ronald Squire portraying "Governor Lord Templeton", and John Williams portraying "Colonel Whittington".

However, "Colonel Whittington", the chief of police, confides to his friend "Maxwell Fleury", and his main suspect, that he believes that "Carlson's" death was murder and the murderer won't be able to bear his guilt. A game of cat-and-mouse begins. Apparently "Whittington" is a reader of classic mysteries and starts dropping hints to "Fleury" drawn from Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky's, 1866 novel, "Crime and Punishment".

The second effect of the newspaper article is to "Maxwell". He holds a political rally and acknowledges the fact that his great-grandmother was black, and states how proud he is to be bi-racial. However, a group of black islanders claim that "Maxwell" is attempting to get their votes with his words and "David" steps forward and quiets them down. However, "Maxwell's" mouth gets in his way, and he blurts out:
I never wanted to be one of you

Back at the plantation, "Maxwell Fleury" is in his locked bathroom with two objects. One is a pistol, the other a copy of "Crime and Punishment" sent to him by "Colonel Whittington". He cannot pull the trigger on the gun, smashes his hand against the mirror, leaves the bathroom to find the chief of police and turns himself in.

"Dennis", whose love for "Margo" has displeased the governor, resigns his post, and asks her to accompany him to London. There he plans to write his exposé of the island of Santa Marta. 

The newly married "Jocelyn" and "Euan" board an airplane for England. They are followed by "Dennis" and "Margo". 

On the ground watching the airplane take off are "Mavis" and "David". She suggests that the two also take an airplane to another country and get married. He replies that his skin is his country, and that his people would never understand a relationship with a white woman.

The movie ends with "Mavis" walking away, alone.

Next, Dorothy Dandage accepted an offer to appear in a French and Italian co-production starring German actor Curd "Curt" Jurgens, but upon seeing the screenplay. She was ready to walk away. In it, she was to have a nude swimming sequence and wear a two piece swim suit made of rags, both were dropped.

TAMANGO released in France on January 24, 1958

The motion picture didn't come to the United States until September 16, 1959, and only in New York City, because the American censors were concerned about the depiction of miscegenation. Although, they could not object to a "racial" kiss between the two stars, because the United States Motion Picture Production Code does not hold sway over movies made by a foreign country. However, the motion picture was held from general United States release until 1962.

Dorothy Dandrage took the role, because the story focused upon a slave revolt onboard a slaver on the way to Cuba from Africa. She portrayed the ship's captain's mistress, "Aiche".

Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jurgens aka: Curd Jurgens aka: Curt Jurgens portrayed the ship's captain, "John Reiker" aka: "John Reinker". Curt Jurgens had just co-starred with Robert Mitchum in the still excellent Second World War submarine vs destroyer, "The Enemy Below", released in 1957. He followed this drama with the romantic comedy, 1958's, "This Happy Feeling", co-starring with Debbie Reynolds and John Saxon.

The screenplay was based upon another story by Prosper Merimee from 1829.  

Although, the picture was shot in Nice, France banned the picture from being seen in their West Indies colonies out of fear of native reaction. Other countries also had negative reactions to a story and banned, or edited the motion picture.

The Basic Plot:

With the help of an African chief, Dutch slaver "Reinker" acquires a large group of men and women, including the beautiful "Aiche", that he makes his mistress for the voyage. The slave revolt is led by, "Tamango", portrayed by Alex Cretan, who takes "Aiche" as a bargaining chip to force the captain to free the Africians. This backfires, "Reinker" takes a canon and aims it down into the hold and prepares to fire, asking "Aiche" to come up and join him. She instead, stays with the slaves and the canon is fired into the hold killing her and "Tamango". 

For Dorothy Dandridge, her next film was very loosely based upon a real incident in 1905 on the schooner "S.S. Harry A. Berwind". 

An actual headline from the "New York Times", dated, October 12, 1905:


Three Negroes Captured in Control of the Harry A. Berwind. BODIES THROWN INTO THE SEA Quarrel Over Quality of Coffee Led to Murder of Captain, Mate, Engineer, Cook, and Sailor.

The Dorothy Dandridge movie was:

THE DECKS RAN RED released on October 10, 1958

All the posters state:

However, there were two "BERWIND'S" and Andrew Stone and his first wife, Virginia, got it wrong. 

The story they should have based the screenplay upon was from 1905, and about a four-masted-schooner. not a freighter.


The other "Berwind", the freighter, was described as a:

2589 gross ton freighter, was built at Sunderland, England, in 1893. Prior to World War I she was employed carrying sugar between Puerto Rico and New York. The ship was requisitioned by the U.S. Shipping Board in September 1917 and subsequently sent to European waters to support the American Army in France. On 7 August 1918 Berwind was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine while en route from Rochfort to Brest, France.


The motion picture was written and directed by Andrew L. Stone. He had been directing and writing motion pictures since 1927, and started producing ten-years later. In 1956, Stone did the triple-play, produced, wrote, and directed the excellent Doris Day suspense film, "Julie", co-starring Louis Jourdan, and Barry Sullivan. His next motion picture was the 1958, film-noir, "Cry Terror", starring James Mason, Rod Steiger, and Inter Stevens. Which was followed by this motion picture and the forgotten, excellent, 1960, "The Last Voyage", starring Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, and George Sanders. In which Andrew L. Stone had purchased the aged French luxury liner the "SS lle de France" and told his story about the passengers on an aged transatlantic ocean liner that's boiler explodes and the ship is sinking. Stone actually obtained authorization to sink the ship and filmed on-board as his controlled sinking was happening.

James Mason portrayed "Captain Edwin 'Ed' Rummill". Mason had just been seen in 1958's, "Cry Terror", and would follow this feature film with director Alfred Hitchcock's, 1959, 'North By Northwest".

Above, James Mason and below the actual "Captain Edwin Rummil" of the four-masted schooner, the "Harry A. Berwind".

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed the cooks wife, a fictional Maori woman named "Maria". 

Broderick Crawford portrayed the fictional "Henry Scott". Crawford had just co-starred with Robert Wagner, and Terry Moore, in the Second World War movie, 1956's, "Between Heaven and Hell". Broderick Crawford was still appearing as "Dan Matthews" on the 1955 through 1959, television series, "Highway Patrol".

Stuart Whitman portrayed the fictional "Leroy Martin". Whitman had just been seen in the Victor Mature and Ward Bond, Second World War movie, 1958's, "China Doll". Between 1956 and 1957, the actor appeared in thirteen-episodes of televisions "Highway Patrol".

Left to right, Dorothy Dandridge, Stuart Whitman, and Broderick Crawford.

The Basic Plot:

Other than there is a potential mutiny on board, this version of the "Harry A. Berwind", has no real connection to the "True Story".

Off the coast of New Zealand, the captain of the American ship "Berwind" dies unexpectedly and both the ship's cook and steward desert what they consider to be an ill-fated ship. This immediately causes the owners to look for a new captain. Meanwhile, a luxury cruise ship docks in Los Angeles with a first officer who has been trying to find a command of his own. That officer, "Edwin Rummil" receives a phone call from his wife "Joan", portrayed by Katharine Bard, that the "Berwind's" owners want to speak to him. "Joan" is concerned that the stress of a command this fast after returning to Los Angeles may not be good for her husband, but he heads for New Zealand.

While, awaiting for one of the officers to be promoted ship's captain, boiler room technician "Henry Scott" plots with his partner "Leroy Martin" to cause the crew to mutiny, kill all the crew, and sell the freighter for scrap and share the money.

Arriving in New Zealand, "Ed" is met by one of the ships officers, "Alex Cole", portrayed by Jack Krushen, who warns the new captain that a majority of the crew are resentful for his appointment. Rather than first officer "Mr. Moody", portrayed by Hank Patterson, but "Moody" is too old for the appointment. Even though "Henry" and "Leroy" were expecting "Moody" to take command and seeing the much younger "Rummil", they go ahead with their planned mutiny.
"Rummil" hires a Maori cook named "Pete", portrayed by Joe Fluellen. However, the problem is "Pete" comes with his wife, "Mahia", who is very young and beautiful. 

Her presence immediately causes tension within the all-male crew and "Leroy" accosts "Mahia" in front of her husband who doesn't defend his wife. The two plotters had brought another crew member, "Mace", portrayed by David Cross, a former petty criminal, into their plot. However, after "Ed" comes on-board as captain, "Mace" now backs out after learning the "Henry" and "Leroy" want to murder the entire crew.

"Moody" dies in his sleep and the crew blames "Ed" for the other's death. While, "Pete" finally attacks "Leroy" for his unwanted attention to his wife, "Mahia", and "Ed" orders "Pete" locked in his room for the attack. 

"Mace" next disappears, to protect their plans, "Henry" and "Leroy" have tossed him into the ocean. "Henry" meets with several of the crew members to convince them that "Ed" is responsible and they should storm "Pete's" room, release him, and take command away from their new captain. However, the crew isn't interested and several accuse "Henry Scott" of murdering "Mace". 

The two plotters are frustrated by the lack of a mutiny by the crew, go into the radio room, and destroy the equipment. While, "Ed" and the ship's officers having expected a mutiny, find the crew in their rooms instead.

Realizing nothing is going as planned, "Henry Scott" and "Leroy Martin" take out several guns they have hidden and start their own two-man-mutiny. They go down to the engine room and murder the four engineers. Shortly afterwards, "Ed" and "Cole" discover the vandalized radio room, next, not receiving a response from the engine room, the two go below and find the four murdered men. "Ed" and "Cole" next bring the ship to a complete stop. "Ed" unlocks the door on "Pete's" room, orders the crew to the ship's mess and listens to members of the crew voicing their belief that "Henry Scott" and "Leroy Martin" murdered "Mace".

His officers advise "Captain Edwin Rummil" to evacuate the crew in the lifeboats, but "Rummil" hesitates at this point. He voices his concern that "Scott" and "Martin" might fire upon the crew either injuring, or killing them. After realizing "Mahia" is not in the mess, "Ed" goes to her cabin and the two are able to get around "Henry" and "Leroy" who are moving through the ship. 

However, ship's officers "Karl Pope", portrayed by Barney Phillips, and "Elliot", actor's name unknown, go topside, and "Leroy" kills "Pope" and wounds "Elliot". "Pete" grabs a machete, "Mahia" attempts to stop him, but he also goes topside and is shot by "Leroy". After "Elliot" crawls below decks and reports, "Mahia" is hysterical and wants to go and help her husband. Now "Ed" agrees to let the crew go to the lifeboats, unaware that "Mahia" left and went topside to find her husband. 

The men come on deck and "Henry Scott" yells to them that he has "Mahia" and will kill her unless everyone abandons ship. "Ed" agrees, planning to swim back to the ship and use a rope hanging over the side to get aboard. "Leroy" questions "Henry" about letting the crew go in the lifeboat, but is told "Henry" plans to ram them later with the ship.

Morning comes, and "Ed" accompanied by "Officer 'Bull' Pringle", portrayed by John Gallaudet. start to swim back to the "Berwind" in the extremely cold water. "Bull" drowns, but "Captain Edwin Rummil" makes it back to his ship, climbs the rope to the deck, and hears the engines restart and notes that it is heading for the lifeboat.  

Consumed with fear, "Mahia" almost attacks "Ed", realizes who he is, and the two go after "Henry" and "Leroy".

The two sneak down to the engine room, and "Mahia" districts "Leroy". While, "Ed" goes to restart the engines.

"Mahia" is able to get "Leroy's" own pistol and kills him with it.


When "Henry" gets no response from "Leroy" in the engine room. He goes down and a fight with "Ed" takes place and "Henry" is killed. "Ed" is able to get the "Berwind" turned, avoiding the lifeboat, and the remaining crew returns to the freighter and the ship heads for port.

Twelve-days after the release of "The Decks Ran Red", Dorothy Dandridge was in front of the camera shooting an American opera by composer George Gershwin, lyrics by his brother Ira, directed by Otto Preminger, with music rearranged for the motion picture by Andre Previn, and N. Richard Nash adapting the Gershwin's work for the screen

Little did Dorothy Dandridge and the rest of the cast and crew know the power of Ira Gershwin and his family, on that first day of shooting, October 22, 1958.

The following article appeared in "Jet Magazine", on January 22, 1959.

Six-months after the "Jet Magazine" articles release, two events took place. The first was the motion picture that would be critically lauded, but would start a war with the Gershwin's.

PORGY AND BESS premiered in "Todd-A-O", June 24, 1959 in New York City

Dorothy Dandridge portrayed "Bess", but again didn't sing. Her voice was dubbed by American lyric soprano Adele Addison.


Sidney Poitier portrayed "Porgy". The actor's singing voice was provided by American operatic Baritone Robert McFerrin.

Let me quote the noted "New York Times" film critic, Bosley Crowther, upon the motion picture. Crowther wrote on June 25, 1959 that the:
most haunting of American musical dramas has been transmitted on the screen in a way that does justice to its values and almost compensates for the long wait...N. Richard Nash has adapted and Otto Preminger has directed a script that fairly bursts with continuous melodrama and the pregnant pressure of human emotions at absolute peaks...Mr. Preminger, with close and taut direction, keeps you keyed up for disaster all the time. To this structure of pictorial color and dramatic vitality, there is added a musical expression that is possibly the best this fine folk opera has ever had. Under André Previn's direction, the score is magnificently played and sung, with some of the most beautiful communication coming from the choral group...To be sure, there are some flaws in this production...But, for the most part, this is a stunning, exciting and moving film, packed with human emotions and cheerful and mournful melodies. It bids fair to be as much a classic on the screen as it is on the stage.


On the other hand:

According to an article by Kim Masters in the Hollywood Reporter, February 23, 2017, "David Geffen, Samuel Goldwyn and the "Holy Grail" of Missing Movies". She states that Ira Gershwin and his wife Leonore considered the 1959 motion picture a:
Piece of Shit
This is backed up by the fact that Ira Gershwin ordered producer Samuel Goldwyn to have all copies of the motion picture destroyed. 

Countering the Gershwin's view, especially about Sammy Davis, Jr., read my article linked below, are Bosley Crowther's words:
But Sammy Davis Jr. does his own singing as the mischievous Sportin' Life and in every respect he is the sharpest and most insinuating figure in the show. His is the complete expression of the creeping corruption that imperils this little cluster of innocent people. There's nothing funny about him. He's sly and bad.
Adding a different perspective on the motion picture is the fact that it was nominated for four"Academy Awards" and won one, three "Golden Globes" and won for "Best Motion Picture - Musical Drama", won one "Grammy Award", and was nominated for the "Writer's Guild Award". 

The complete story of the making and what followed is in my article "George Gershwin's 'PORGY AND BESS': The Troubled 1959 Motion Pictures" at:


Two-days before the premier of "Porgy and Bess", the second event took place. Dorothy Dandridge married Hotel restaurant magnate Jack Dennison on June 22, 1959.

On January 26, 1960, Dorothy Dandridge's last released motion picture, "Moment of Danger" aka: "Malaga" premiered in London, England. This British film had the actress co-starring with Trevor Howard, and Edmund Purdom. The plot was a familiar and routine crime drama, a big heist takes place, one partner stabs the other, literally, in the back. That partner and the girl go after the other.

Between February 14, 1960 and February 5, 1961, Dorothy Dandridge appeared as a singer on the "Ed Sullivan Show", four times. The photo below is from February 14th.

On February 20, 1962, Dorothy Dandridge appeared in the episode, "Blues for a Junkman: Arthur Troy", on the long forgotten television series "Cain's Hundred", starring Peter Mark Richman. However, that episode was originally a 1961 motion picture from "MGM" entitled "The Murder Men", starring Dandridge portraying nightclub singer "Norma Sherman" and Richman portraying "Nick Cain", with  James Coburn portraying "Arthur Troy". 

Both stories center upon nightclub singer, "Norma Sherman", who has just been let out of jail, now an ex-drug addict. She wants "Nick Cain" help her win back her husband. I could not locate the running time of the 1961 motion picture, but it had to be cut down to fit a 60-minute time slot with commercials. However, both story lines appear to be the same, but who the character of "Arthur Troy" was in both is missing.

Below, the United Kingdom poster is the same for the United States except without the X-Cert on it.

Below, an autographed photo from 1961's, "The Murder Men".

I could not locate the exact date, but in 1962, Dorothy Dandridge divorced Jack Denison for domestic violence. Earlier in their marriage, Denison had convinced his wife to invest in a restaurant deal that failed and started her financial problems. 

After her divorce, Dorothy found out that her financial managers mishandled her income and she owed the Internal Revenue Service $139,000 ($1,423,759 as of this writing) in back taxes. Also, Dorothy Dandridge's financial managers had swindled her out of $150,000 ( $1,493, 637 as of this writing). 
The pressure on Dorothy Dandridge turned to drinking and the use of an antidepressant, as she found herself not getting film offers, and only singing engagements in what were second rate lounges and bars. Dorothy was swirling downward, sold her house, rented a apartment, and was forced to put her daughter in a state run mental facility, because she couldn't afford 24-hour nursing care for her.

I would like to remind my reader that I said the British movie "Moment of Danger" was the last Dorothy Dandridge motion picture "released". There was another motion picture made by a co-production of Afghanistan, Egypt, Yugoslavia, France, and Italy. The original title was "La Fabuleuse Aventure de Marco Polo (The Fabulous Adventure of Marco Polo)". Note the names of the international stars on the poster below.

Filming began on December 6, 1963 and the film was originally released in Yugoslavia and France on August 6, 1965. It would come to the United States as "Marco the Magnificent" on December 14, 1966. Dorothy Dandridge and French actor Alain Delon filmed their sequences, stills below, but all of their work were deleted from the Final Cut.

On Tuesday, September 7, 1965, "Hollywood Columnist", Dorothy Kilgallan, in the "New York Journal-American", had this bite of gossip:
Basin Street East Going to 'Names 
Broadway Bulletin Board BASIN STREET EAST, which closed Its doors two weeks ago after trying to make it with rock 'n' roll attrac- tions. will reopen this Friday with a "name" policy-as of old. The premier bill co-stars Dorothy Dandridge, Maynard Ferguson's big band and a comedian ...

On the night of September 7, 1965, while preparing to fly to New York City for her engagement at "Basin Street East"Dorothy Dandridge called from her apartment, her former sister-in-law and still friend, Geraldine "Geri" Brandon. According to Brandon in several interviews, Dorothy made a cryptic remark that has stayed with her:

Whatever happens, I know you will understand.

On the morning of September 8th, around 7:15 AM, manager Earl Mills received a phone call about rescheduling a hospital appointment for 10 AM. Dorothy Dandridge had a bone fracture from a fall on September 3rd. Minutes later, Mills received a second call asking to move the appointment a little later than 10 AM. Mills arrived to pick Dorothy Dandridge up for her appointment and received no response. He left not knowing if she had went to the hospital herself. Later that day, Earl Mills learned the hospital had not seen Dorothy Dandridge and several hours later, without no contact from her, Earl Mills broke down the door to the apartment and found her body.

The cause of her death depended upon who you believed. One reason given by a Los Angels pathology institute was an accidental overdose of the antidepressant imipramine. Another, cause of death came from the Los Angeles Coroner's Office that the bone fracture of her right foot caused a fat embolism.

On September 12, 1965, a private funeral service was held at the Little Chapel of the Flowers at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, and after Dorothy Jean Dandridge was cremated and her ashes interred in the Freedom Mausoleum.

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