It was the story that gave rare opportunities to hundreds of African-American actors. It was a world renown opera by Georges Bizet, a successful Broadway musical, and finally, a long-awaited film. In 1954, the world was introduced to “Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones.”
Carmen is a beautiful woman, an unapologetic temptress, and a worker in a parachute factory in support of the war. For Carmen, love is a game, and she’s a pro. She breaks men’s hearts without a second thought and everyone around her is well aware of her reputation. Everyone except Joe. Joe, a pilot, is preparing for his weekend leave to marry his childhood sweetheart, Cindy Lou before he heads overseas. His plans are unexpectedly interrupted when Carmen spies the handsome man, and decides that she wants him. Initially, Carmen pursues Joe in vain. Despite her aggressive flirting and sexuality, Joe only has eyes for the innocent Cindy Lou, who is Carmen’s complete opposite.
No one says no to Carmen, and more determined than ever, she manages to end up alone with Joe on a long, hot drive. Eventually they end up being lost, and Joe is forced to rely on Carmen to find their way through a backwater town. As the hours pass, Joe slowly succumbs to Carmen’s charms and becomes smitten with her, just as she wanted all along.
Joe’s lust for Carmen soon becomes obsession, and he deserts his military post to be with her all of the time. Abandoning his career and fiancé, Joe is exactly where Carmen wants him, until she’s distracted by a famous boxer who wants nothing more than to have the gorgeous Carmen on his arm. Plying her with furs, jewelry, and other lavish gifts, Carmen ditches Joe for the arrogant young boxer, casually telling Joe that now that she’s done with him, he can go back to his sweet little girlfriend. Unfortunately for Carmen, Joe’s obsession with her is past the point of no return and he’s determined to win her back, no matter what the cost.
Otto Preminger, director of nearly fifty films throughout his career, had good reason for wanting his leading lady to succeed - he was in love with her. Although the Austrian native was married, he was also madly in love with the “Carmen” star, who Lena Horn once described as “Our [African-American] Marilyn Monroe.” As Carmen and Joe, Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte beautified and heated up the screen is this film. The legendary movie also starred Pearl Bailey, Joe Adams, Diahann Carroll, and Brock Peters.