Musical play and Motion Picture based on the Georges Bizet Opera, Carmen
. Bizet's music is used for the World War II
era update, which takes place somewhere in the American South
. Oscar Hammerstein II arranged Bizet's music and wrote new lyrics.
The 1954 motion picture was directed by Otto Preminger and featured an all-black cast, including Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte Jr. and Pearl Bailey. Dandridge stars as Carmen, an irrepressible woman who follows the whims of her heart, the consequences be damned. In the update, Carmen is working in a wartime parachute factory instead of manufacturing cigars.
Carmen enters the mess hall of a military base and mesmerizes every man in there, she sings a new version of the famous Habañera, and claims that "Love's a baby that grows up wild". She sets her eyes on the handsome Joe (Belafonte) and decides on the spot to go after him, despite his relationship with the sweet Cindy Lou. After a brawl with Frankie (portrayed by the marvelous Pearl Bailey), the sergeant orders that Carmen be taken to civilian jail and comamnds Joe to accompany her.
Carmen despises the idea of being locked up, and tries to escape, first by running away (which is unsuccesful), then by subterfuge. Carmen takes Joe to her Grandmother's house, cooks for him, seduces him then escapes while he sleeps. Carmen's escape lands Joe in the stockade and ruins his dreams of flight school.
Carmen shows up at Billy Pastor's Cafe, a roadhouse where the other girls from the parachute factory are already dancing and partying. Pearl Bailey gives a marvelous performance as she leads the Chanson Boheme. Carmen catches the eyes of famous boxer (instead of Toreador) Husky Miller. Miller asks his manager to convince Carmen to accompany him to Chicago, and the manager and Frankie paint a lovely image of luxury, but Carmen is still taken with Joe, and refuses to go with Miller, intending to wait for Joe.
Joe is realized from the stockade and tells Carmen that he still has a chance to go to flight school. Carmen, however has decided that she wants to leave the South and convinces Joe to go AWOL with her and journey to Chicago.
Carmen and Joe wind up in an unpleasant, dingy apartment next to elevated trains. Carmen is unhappy with her situation and decides to visit Husky Miller's gym to see if she can borrow money. She sees Frankie and Myr dressed elegantly and wearing jewels, and they tell Carmen that Miller still wants her. Carmen leaves Joe and falls in with Miller, who promises her luxury and comfort. Joe is driven mad by her betrayal; he was a fugitive of from the military, all his dreams and hopes have been taken from him leaving him with only his obsession with Carmen.
He begs Carmen to return to him, but she will not allow herself to be kept captive by anyone and spurns him. Driven mad with rage and anguish, Joe destroys the woman who he cannot have and has given up everything for and brings the movie to its tragic ending.